Exploring types of meditation
The rewards of regular meditation are well documented at universities and in scholastic and medical journals. Kings College in London is currently conducting research on neurobiology and the effectiveness of meditation. The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA does research to foster mindful awareness and promote well-being for a more compassionate society. University of North Carolina social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD recently published a paper on the benefits of meditation in improving cardiovascular health.With different types of meditation lets explore which one suits your needs.
The benefits of meditation are as personal and varied as methods of practice. Meditation can provide deep relaxation for better physical health, center emotions, aid in coping with stress, ease insomnia, or offer a spiritual shelter from the turmoil of daily life. Some writers and artists use meditation to stimulate their heuristic and creative side. Even in small doses of five to ten minutes, meditation nourishes the spirit.
Fundamental differences among the types of meditation matter when choosing a practice. Let’s take a person who enrolls in a Zen meditation class because he wants to deal with his insomnia problem while another person joins an Iyengar yoga class because he wants to deepen his spiritual practice. Most likely, both students will join a long list of drop-outs. But, switch them around and have the person who joined the Zen meditation class join the yoga class and the person who joined the yoga class enroll in the Zen meditation group and both will achieve their goals. Your choice of the types of meditation matters.
Your Choice of Practice Depends on Your Goals:
- Are you trying to reduce pain and stress, or do you want to deepen your spiritual practice?
- Do you want to be more aware of others and the world around you, or do you want to enhance your intellectual and creative abilities?
Types of meditation
Mindfulness (also called “Vipassana”) is one of the most popular forms of meditation from the Buddhist tradition. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR at Massachusetts Medical Center, defines Mindfulness Meditation as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Centering on the breath, the objective is conscious awareness and acceptance of random thoughts and conscious awareness of physical sensations. For example if you are walking, walk with purposeful awareness. Notice all the physical and emotional sensations and responses, always anchoring back to your breath. The idea of staying with the experience of breathing, an emotion or something as simple as walking, actively shapes the mind.
Zen meditation (also known as “Zazen”) is from the Japanese Buddhist tradition. A sitting meditation, its purpose is to suspend all judgmental thought and let go of ideas, images and thoughts without engaging them. Posture is important; practitioners sit in either full lotus or half lotus position with a straight back. The mediation is practiced in three ways: concentration, introspection or just sitting. The aim of all Zen practice is Satori, personal enlightenment sought through spiritual awakening or self-realization.
Guided Visualization is meditation to reduce stress and anxiety, employs visualization and is practiced either sitting with legs crossed or lying down. Deep slow breathing is accompanied by a calm soothing voice giving directions on how to relax both body and mind. Aroma of incense or a candle and soft music add to the ambiance. The least spiritual of meditations practices, Guided Visualization is an excellent way to de-stress and unwind from a hectic lifestyle, or aid in achieving personal and professional goals.
Transcendental meditation (derived from Vedantic meditation) was introduced to the US in the 1960’s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The practitioner sits in a traditional half lotus or full lotus position and silently repeats a mantra to “transcend” the thought process and achieve a state of stillness with an absence of boundaries. TM is taught as a religious and non-religious practice, as a path to create inner peace.
Kundalini yoga and meditation was practiced in secrecy until Yogi Bhajan introduced it to the US in 1969. Developed to create a total self of healthiness, happiness and holiness, Kundalini is rooted in ancient Hindu scripture dating back to the 5th century B.C. The most physical of all meditation practices, it combines meditation, prayer, physical practice and breathing. Kundalini is the rising energy, and the intention is to ride the stream of energy to infinity with a focus on the breath flowing from the energy centers and rising upwards toward the top of the head. Kundalini was designed for practitioners with families and jobs to balance the outer and inner world. Proponents view Kundalini as a vehicle for superior health, greater consciousness, and the as the ultimate principle for spiritual growth.
Ultimately, all meditations are interrelated and mutually enhancing. In meditation, we go beyond words and concepts toward an understanding of the actual reality of our environment and ourselves. Start slow and investigate different paths until you discover a form of practice that works for you. Let me know which types of meditation you have practiced and which one you find the most beneficial.