Meditation offers countless benefits, many of which have even been scientifically proven, and there is no shortage of meditation styles either. The problem, however, occurs when someone tries meditating for the first time. Because of the plethora of information available on the internet and elsewhere, it often becomes difficult to decide which style of meditation would be best suited. This article will attempt to examine four techniques of Buddhist meditation so that someone who is just starting out can understand which one will be ideal for them.
It is the shortened version of Zen meditation, and it is a Japanese word which means ‘seated meditation.’ It is done while sitting cross-legged on the bare floor, a cushion or a chair. You may sit anywhere you like, but you need to keep your back entirely straight from the pelvis right up to the neck. Most people do either one of two things after they assume the sitting position – they focus solely on their breath intake and outflow, or they try to attain effortless presence by thinking of nothing in particular but only focus on the present moment.
The meaning of this word is ‘clear seeing.’ This style of meditation gave rise to the practice of mindful breathing, which further became popular as mindfulness. The ideal posture is the same. You need to sit cross-legged on the floor or a chair, and keeping a straight back, but without any support to the spine. The first stage of this style is to focus successfully on your breathing. Once you achieve this, you must try to focus your mind on bodily sensations. This style teaches a very elegant way of doing away with the frequent distractions that most new practitioners of meditation complain about. It is about labeling any extraneous sensation such as sound and smell and making sure not to let the thoughts stay on it for too long.
It is a more evolved method compared to Vipassana. It involves spending time focusing on what is happening in the here and now, including thoughts, sights, sounds, smells and even emotions. This awareness begins with a simple requirement – being aware of your breathing. Once the focus can be successfully directed to the nostrils or to the abdomen to understand where each breath is, you can advance to the awareness of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. The world of Alan Watts has a lot to teach us about mindfulness and its philosophies.
This style involves conditioning one’s mind to think kind and compassionate thoughts towards self and others. These benevolent feelings need to be developed towards one’s own self, and then to a close friend, and then someone who is neither friend nor foe, and then a non-friendly person. After these thoughts have been developed successfully, the practitioner needs to develop kindly feelings towards the whole universe.
It is just one example of so many styles coming from the same source. Before you cancel any of these out, make sure to try all of them to see which one fits your taste and needs the best.