Meditation is a very ancient practice. It has been used by pretty much all cultures and traditions around the world. Given its history, there are literally hundreds of different types of meditation practices that are around.
But all of this variety falls under three basic broad categories. They are as follows.
2) Open Awareness
3) Positive Visualization
I will briefly discuss each of the categories here and later on devoting separate posts to address each category in depth.
This is the most simplest form of meditation. Here you practice concentration. What does it mean to practice concentration? Well, you begin with focusing or concentrating on an object.
You will find that it will be very difficult to maintain concentration and you will find yourself distracted by thoughts. In concentration practice, your mind periodically wanders away from the object of meditation and whenever you realize that you have wandered away, you bring yourself back to the object of meditation. This is the essential practice of concentration meditation.
It is also nothing else but attention training that we referred to in the earlier post.
An anchor is a key element of concentration meditation. Any object that is relatively stable can be used as an anchor. Some examples people use are, an image, a candle light or the breath. All that is needed in choice of anchor is that it should be relatively stable. Because one cannot begin to train concentration with something that in itself is not stable.
Breath is actually recommended purely for the reason of portability. It is always there with you. It is stable, with a fixed pattern of movement. Any physical object besides the breath will need to be carried with you.
You pick your preferred anchor and you focus your attention on that object. You invariably wander and start thinking about all different things. Eventually you realize that you have wandered away from the anchor and once you realize this, you just bring yourself back to the anchor. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend being lost. What’s more important is, you repeatedly bring yourself back to the object of attention when you realize that you are lost.
This meditation is all about maintaining awareness over the extended period of time. This type of meditation can be little hard to comprehend. It also involves concentration training, but in ways that may not be obvious initially.
In this type of meditation, you don’t focus on a single object or single anchor. But you maintain the awareness of whatever that arises in your perceptual field. When we hear a sound, an auditory perception is registered in the mind. We can also become aware of this auditory perception. In simple terms, when we hear something, we also know that we hear something.
We sit and close our eyes. There will different types of sounds, physical sensations, thoughts and emotions that we will go through. The aim is to maintain awareness as we experience physical and mental phenomena.
This meditation can be very effective and has been used by spiritual traditions to gain insight into the nature of the reality for hundreds of years.
This type of meditation is very different from previous two types. It is really not an attention training. It is a training for cultivating positive attitudes. Some meditation experts may object, but I tend to view this as a positive conditioning meditation.
Human mind learns best by conditioning. Just by repeatedly doing an activity we can cultivate expertise at that activity. The same idea is applied to develop positive emotions of love, kindness and open heart.
We sit and begin by artificially visualizing the positive emotions. And although it is artificial in a way to begin with. If you practice it frequently enough, you make those positive emotions part of your being. You become more loving, kind and open person over the period of time.
These are the three broad categories of meditation. In future posts we will cover details about each of these categories. Please feel free to comment or ask questions using the comment form below.