We hear the phrases ‘zoning out’ or ‘chilling’ and pleas for someone to just ‘take me away from all this’ often not realizing that that’s exactly what meditation is and can do – without need from an outside party necessarily. In its inception, various types of meditation were centered around religious teachings, practices, and beliefs with the goal of altering everyday consciousness in effort become receptive to the goals of that particular tradition.
Today, there are literally countless forms of guided and self mediation practices that can be done in collectives or solo, and unless you choose a form specific to a religious practice, the experience can be wholly free of any pressure to find “God” per se. Western types of meditation often focus on form of body, awareness and acceptance in the mind, and some may sit still the entire session. These basic types of meditation offer a realm of options among them, so there is a style suited for most anyone of any age of physical condition. All meditations to some extent alter consciousness and help one be more open to receiving universal insights and information.
Often where meditation teachers will start beginners in Western practice, the goal of this meditation style is to cultivate and master a single-pointed attention span on a specific object such as a flame, an image, breathing, or a sound. Whatever technique of concentration meditation you are practicing, it’s essential to place your attention on solely the object of focus, holding it there without distraction.
Anytime the mind wanders, simply return it to the object of your meditation. In time, you’ll likely find that your mind will become calmer, more powerful, and able to complete tasks with more precision and understanding. With advanced practice, many individuals achieve states of bliss, and a popular form of this style is TM, or transcendental meditation.
Open Awareness Meditation
Without any object of specific focus, one aims to open the mind into a state of panoramic awareness of their surroundings, which can often be compared to a river with objects rushing by or a spacious sky filled with clouds. Open awareness meditation fosters the capacity for one to be present with whatever arises in life, better able to handle the unexpected that my rush or float by. Zen meditation in sitting practice is one of the more common forms offered in the West.
One of the most popular and widely adapted types of meditation is mindfulness mediation, which combines open and concentration awareness. Identifiable with the practice of insight meditation of the Theravadan Buddhist, practitioners focus on a specific object, but not with the narrow focus of concentrative methods. This style allows for an awareness of other phenomena and can be extended to daily action such as walking, eating, housework, etc. Devoid of the rigor and contemplation of other methods, mindfulness meditation’s goal is to help individuals achieve clarity of perception and develop a sense of equanimity.
If you prefer to sit in a room listening to a recording or participate in mediation classes, guided meditation is ideal. All forms can be guided in some way, and one form called guided imagery lets you follow vocal guidance from a recording or teacher to invoke specific images, states, affirmations, or imagined experiences. You’ve likely heard of people using this method to rehearse or envision successful outcomes of athletic performances or surgical health procedures – much like a ‘prayer’ of sorts.
If any of the types of meditation interest you then give it a shot, and don’t let the many variations and combinations of them intimidate you. Most studios will offer you a trial period free, allowing you to determine your comfort level before committing. However, commit to yourself to embrace the powerful conscious altering tools of meditation, even if you only try it at home.
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