Meditation Methods

What Are the Different Methods of Meditation?

What are the different kinds of meditation?Just what is meditation? What are the goals? What are the different methods of meditation?  Meditation has so many permutations worldwide; it is difficult to precisely define just what meditation is.  Although meditation has been widely researched by science in the past decades, the mechanism by which it works is still unknown. One of the earliest written records of meditation can be found in the Hindu culture, about 1500 BCE. Later, about 400 BCE, Taoism developed in China, and Buddhism in India. Religious meditation practices are found in many major religions, including Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Taoism, and Judaism. for the purpose of  Webster’s dictionary defines meditate as “to engage in contemplation or reflection; and 2) to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness”.

There may be a variety of purposes, depending on the origin of the meditation technique. Secular meditation may include ways to bring about a state of relaxation, or mental clarity. Meditation is recommended by many holistic medical practitioners as a method to promote health and treat issues such as anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.  In the more ancient traditional meditation practices such as Taoism or Buddhism, the purpose of meditation is to cultivate energy or life force – qi or chi in the traditional Chinese Medicine, or Prana in Ayurveda practices.  Ultimately, traditional meditation in the great religions is a way to train the mind and spirit in compassion, love, patience and forgiveness.

In an article in the Huffington Post, answering whether there is such a thing as secular meditation, that is, a practice apart from religious or spiritual context, the Hindu monastic Swami B.V. Tripurari answered,

“In the least, meditation is aimed at ego death, nothing less.  Therefore one might argue that employing meditative techniques for something less than this is not meditation at all.  And if ego death is objectively desirable, giving rise as it does to compassion and other universally sought qualities, why argue with the success arising out of a religious context? If light forms of religion have proven useful in helping to foster ego death and the deathless mystic experience, what is the need to discard them?”

My personal favorite contemplative exercise in awareness is creative work such as music, poetry, journaling, painting, drawing, photography and artisan crafts. While these activities don’t come under the classification as formal meditation, these activities seem to bring me out of the “busy mind” and into a deeper, more contemplative state of awareness. Walking in nature, dwelling in what I believe is the Cathedral of Creation, is another activity that helps me to clear my mind and open the door for experiencing a more spiritual consciousness.

Another practice that I love, is a “moving meditation” such as Tai Chi. In an article published in the Fall 2003 edition of The Journal of the American Society of Internal Arts, William C. Phillips defines meditation as “the process of conscious, controlled focus of the mind which may take place when the thinking process, both in pictures and in words, have been stopped.”  He further explains that “meditation is not a trance state, a sleep state, nor a state of nothingness. Meditators, if successful, are always alert, relaxed, and in control of their minds.”  Phillips explains that meditation has two aspects.  Yin meditation clears the mind of all thought, holding the mind in a clear and focused state.  Yang meditation then focuses the mind; examples include shapes, colors, affirmations, mantras, chakras, and prayers.

Phillips describes the Buddhist tradition of satipatthana, or foundation for mindfulness.  The purpose of a satipatthana exercise is to quiet the mind – to get it to stop output – but keep it busy with inputs until it develops a habit of becoming quiet, refraining from all thought during the exercise.  When this has been achieved, the mind is ready to begin to meditate.  Satipatthana has four elements:

  • Mindfulness of the body
  • Mindfulness of feelings and sensations
  • Mindfulness of the mind or consciousness
  • Mindfulness of mental phenomena or mental objects

Phillips explains that while many do not make any attempt to keep their minds empty during their practice of Tai Chi Chuan, and it is probably not really a meditation for them, it can be meditation with mental and spiritual value as well as a physical practice, if that is the intent.

For some of us, quieting the mind and practicing sitting meditation poses the greatest challenge.  Everything we have been taught encourages outer attention and goal-oriented activity. I have used guided meditation CD’s and mediation music in the past to help me develop the ability to sit with a quiet mind. I have used Dr. Anthony Weil’s CD’s and Marcy Hamm’s music CDs are two of my favorites.

Two good books on meditation come to mind, that I have found to be insightful and helpful. Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most beloved authors of works on mindful meditation. Sakyong Mipham has written a well-regarded book on meditation, “Turning the Mind into an Ally”. While I have not read any of Pema Chodron’s books, several of my friends have recommended her work.

Meditation practice helps us to develop spiritually, mentally and physically, and can be a combination of creative work, moving meditation and sitting meditation practice.  It is meant to be dynamic rather than simply “zoning out”.  No need to run off to live in an isolated monastery or mountain refuge; meditation is meant to enhance our daily life. While it may be easier to live the enlightened life as an aesthetic sitting on a mountaintop, in today’s troubled times our spiritual leaders are telling us that is not really doing anything useful; that we should become our very best and make a difference.

In the words by Maryanne Williamson, quoted by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inaugural speech:

“And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I would love to hear about your journey with meditation. What meditative practice works best for you?  What about your journey may be help and encouragement for others? Please write about your experience with meditation practice in the Comments section below.

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Meditation Methods

4 Ways to Get Control of Your MIND and Emotions

One of the 4 easy steps to meditate deeplyYou may have heard that to master your life, you must first master your inner state.

Life happens from the inside out.  Where you are coming from on the inside–your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and physical state–is the strongest determining factor in what happens around you and in how you experience and interpret whatever happens.

Because of that, many people have turned to meditation as a way to shift into a more relaxed, positive, clear, and focused inner state.  Let’s explore four simple steps that can help you discover the peace within.

Meditation is a way to practice using these four steps.  As you master these steps in your meditation practice, you can also use them at any moment in your life to bring you out of stress mode in relaxed clarity.

No matter which style of meditation you practice, you can use these 4 easy steps to meditate deeply, as well as more easily and effectively.

1. Relax and Align Your Posture:  Meditation begins with active relaxation.  Active relaxation means that you put your attention inside your body and use your mind to release muscular tension.  Maintaining a relaxed upright posture is an important key to actively releasing tension.

When you sit to meditate, notice and adjust your posture from your feet upward.  Sit on the front edge of a chair, couch, or bed with your feet flat on the floor and parallel to each other.  An ideal seat height is one in which your hips are level with or slightly above your knees.

Rest your hands palms down on your thighs.  Drop your shoulders and soften your hands to release any tension in your arms.  Imagine a string attached to the top of your head gently drawing your spine upright.  Tuck your chin slightly lengthening the back of your neck.  Close your lips lightly and place the tip of your tongue up to the roof of your mouth to relax your jaw.

Sitting upright like this is not mandatory, but it can be helpful.  If you are unable to sit without back support, you can sit with your back against the back of a chair or in any comfortable position, even lying down.  The bottom line is to actively relax yourself by becoming aware of your posture and making adjustments to release tension.

2. Feel your Inner Body: Adjusting your posture puts you in touch with what is happening in your body.  The next step is to feel inside your skin, to feel your inner space.  Notice what is happening inside your body without reacting to it–just become aware of it.

Observe your thoughts, feelings, and, most importantly, the sensations in your body.  Witness these without reacting to them, criticizing them, or trying to change them.  Just make note of what is going on.  Scan your body to find any areas of tension or pain and settle your attention there–again just observing and relaxing.

Inner body sensing is the gateway to self-knowledge, self-mastery, and discerning inner guidance.

3. Breathe Consciously: One of the best ways to begin to feel inside your body is to become aware of your breathing.  Imagine and feel as if your inhalation begins in your lower abdomen and expands upward into your upper abdomen and chest all the way up to your collarbones.

As you exhale, imagine and feel that whole space emptying from top to bottom.  Allow your breathing to slow down and settle into a deep rhythm. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing will balance your emotions and regulate your heart-rate and brainwaves so that your body comes into calm coherence.

If you notice any areas of tension in your body, you can imagine breathing into those areas to release pain or tightness.  As you inhale, imagine gently filling the area of pain or tension with your breath.  Imagine your breath easily expanding into that space.  As you exhale, imagine that same space emptying out.

4. Smile Inside: To assist you in releasing inner tension and shifting into a positive state, practice inner smiling.  Put a subtle smile on your lips.  Feel appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to relax and feel positive in this moment.  Smile with nurturing acceptance of whatever is happening inside.   Imagine that every cell is smiling.

Inner smiling instantly shifts your body and brain chemistry and makes you feel positive and function optimally.  This creates a positive cellular environment and grooves positive neural pathways in your body and brain.  Inner smiling embodies an accepting, non-judgmental attitude toward yourself and others.  It opens your heart and enables you to embrace what is good in your life.

For ease of memory, let’s shorten these four steps to: Relax, Feel, Breathe, and Smile.

>> Here’s a video that guides you through a short variation of this. I call it “The Core Energy Technique” and you can follow along here.

The next level is to connect the feeling of “Relax, Feel, Breathe, and Smile” through your 3 major energy centers. This gives you a feeling of integration you can feel more powerfully through Mind, Heart, Body and your Spiritual Connection. Learn more about the complete Core Energy Meditation program here.

So, how did you find “Relax, Feel, Breathe, and Smile”?

Practice this a little every day and watch your inner state shift and your life come into balance.  No matter what you want to do, you’ll do it better with a relaxed body, an open heart, and a clear and focused mind.  This sets the stage for a healthier, happier, more abundant, loving, and purposeful life–a life that flows effortlessly from inner guidance.

Enjoy your practice!

– Kevin Schoeninger

The Mind-Body Training Company

P.S. If you enjoyed this, you’ll love Core Energy Meditation.

Take the 3-minute meditation quiz and learn more here.