WHAT IS MEDITATION ?
Basic two approaches of meditation
There are various types of meditation - prayer is probably the best known, but there is also TM (Transcendental Meditation), mindfulness meditation, and from the Eastern tradition, Zen meditation, Buddhist meditation, and Taoist meditation.
The meditation encompasses such diverse methods as:
- Formal sitting in which the body is held immobile and the attention controlled. e.g., Zazen, Vipassana
- Expressive practices , in which the body is let free and anything can happen. e.g., Siddha Yoga, the Latihan, the chaotic meditation of Rajneesh.
- The practice of going about one's daily round of activities mindfully. e.g., Mahamudra, Shikan Taza, Gurdjieff's "self-remembering".
All these practices have one thing in common - they all focus on quietening the busy mind. The intention is not to remove stimulation but rather to direct your concentration to one healing element - one sound, one word, one image, or one's breath. When the mind is "filled" with the feeling of calm and peace, it cannot take off on its own and worry, stress out, or get depressed.
meditation can be broadly defined as any activity that keeps the attention pleasantly anchored in the present moment. When the mind is calm and focused in the present, it is neither reacting to memories from the past nor being preoccupied with plans for the future, two major sources of chronic stress known to impact health. "Meditation helps to keep us from identifying with the 'movies of the mind."
TWO BASIC APPROCHES
All the meditation techniques can be grouped into two basic approaches:
- Concentrative meditation and
- Mindfulness meditation.
Concentrative meditation focuses the attention on the breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field.
The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one's breath and one's state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware.
Mindfulness meditation, "involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them." The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field.