The idea of meditation is vast. It is so broad that it is like using the word “flower” to describe every type of blossom in the world.
There are various types of meditation and multiple ways of practicing this mind and soul revitalizing technique. Let’s begin with an overview of the three most fundamental meditation techniques.
The three main types are:
- Open Awareness
What is Concentrative Meditation?
In this type of mediation, the practitioner is asked to place his or her attention on an object- a single subject of focus. Most of the time, the subject of focus is a sound or mantra, the breath, or a physical object, such as a candle. This meditation is done in a conscious and unhurried manner. All unnecessary thoughts and emotions are filtered away. The concentration is entirely fixed on the object of focus.
This type of meditation helps form mental sharpness, focus, and application. It also aids in overcoming distractions and builds patience.
Examples of types of concentrative meditation are the Maharishi’s transcendental meditation and the Buddhist Samadhi meditation.
The Maharishi’s transcendental meditation:
Transcendental Meditation is a practice to avoid disrupting thoughts and to stimulate a state of relaxed awareness. The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s.
While meditating, the practitioner sits in a comfortable position with his or her eyes closed and silently repeats a mantra. The mantra is used to focus your concentration.
“The goal of the Transcendental Meditation technique is the state of enlightenment. This means we experience that inner calmness, that quiet state of least excitation, even when we are dynamically busy.” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a simple and effortless way of letting your mind enter an extremely calm state of rest. Its best effects are produced with a regular practice of twenty minutes, two times a day.
TM is proven to have a positive effect on one’s blood pressure, immune system, eating habits, sleep and so much more. Our mind will naturally become more open, clear and thoughtful. For example, with TM, artists will become more creative, students will become sharper, businessmen will make better decisions and sportsmen will be able to reach their full potential.
The Buddhist’s Samadhi meditation:
The word Samadhi means “to bring together.” It can sometimes be and has been translated to “concentration”. However, it is a more specific type of concentration. It is about concentrating the mind on a single feeling or thought or an object to the point of immersion.
It is said that Samadhi unties the grasp of projected reality; it shows us that the world we normally perceive, is not as “real” as we think it is. It also silences the mind and simplifies mental processes.
There are two kinds of Samadhi:
- One is after a person leaves this world; the state of mind of that person is forever in trance and in bliss.
- The other type is a slighter state of trance that a person can experience every day through meditation.
What Is Open Awareness Meditation?
This type of meditation can also be called “non-directive” meditation. In this meditation, the practitioner is encouraged to observe and be present.
Open-awareness meditation is usually linked with the metaphor of the mind being an open sky. The practitioner is to observe the thoughts that pass along his or her field of awareness.
An example of open awareness meditation is the Zen meditation also known as Zazen.
What is Zazen Meditation?
Zazen is an approach to spiritual awakening, which when practiced, can become the foundation from which all the actions of daily life flow – eating, sleeping, walking, working, and so on.
Zazen has proven to have various benefits such as:
- It reduces stress and anxiety
- Better sleep and rest periods
- It improves the immune system
- Reduces sensitivity to pain
- Slows the aging process
- Improves blood flow
- Lowers blood pressure
Zazen is practiced by sitting on a thick and round cushion, in the full lotus or half-lotus position. The purpose of this cushion is to lift the hips, thus forcing the knees to be deep-rooted to the floor. This way, you will be a lot more stable and also comfortable. Then pull your chin in a little to straighten the neck. Do not be too tensed or too relaxed while you do this.
Traditionally in Zen, the eyes are kept open during meditation. This prevents the meditator from daydreaming. For example, the meditator can sit facing a wall.
“Zazen is like water in a glass. Leave the water to sit quietly and soon the dirt will sink down” – Taisen Deshimaru
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness is the perfect mixture of concentrative and open-awareness meditations. It is the balanced reunion of the two.
With mindfulness, techniques from both concentrative and open-awareness meditations are used. An object of focus is chosen and the practitioner’s focus is on this object with the same non-judgment and acceptance of open-awareness meditation. The person remains focus but also remains aware, that is, aware of sensations, emotions and thoughts. Without being carried away by our thoughts or emotions, we can remain alert of our object of focus and compliant to our entire experience.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of becoming aware: aware of thoughts, aware of bodily sensations and aware of sensory perception. It is a way of seeing and experiencing all that is happening in the present moment, without being judgmental.
It is the reduction of reactivity as sometimes we fall into habits of spontaneously reacting to difficult situations. We respond emotions that we later regret.
Mindfulness is a way of stepping back and observing, of allowing ourselves to have the experience we are having without judging it, or ourselves. It is simply moment to moment awareness.
One of the most popular methods is observation of the breath. It focuses on being aware of each breath as it enters and exits the body. Thoughts will come and go. Your job is to simply notice them when they arise and then softly return your attention to your breath.
If you’re just starting out, 5 minutes is a good starting point. With consistent meditation, you will find that the practice becomes easier and that you want to sit longer. There is no limit—10 minutes, half an hour, or 40 minutes. Practice all day if it suits you! The key is to remain consistent. One day you may only be able to sit for 5 minutes, the next you may enjoy a 20 minute session.