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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tips for Choosing Between Meditation Techniques


Meditation techniques are not all the same!

The first step is to recognize that not all meditation techniques are the same. The various meditation practices engage the mind in different ways. Vipassna, also commonly (and perhaps loosely) known as mindfulness meditation, emphasizes dispassionate observation and, in its more philosophical form, the contemplation of impermanence, sometimes focusing on the interconnection between mind and body. Zen Buddhist practices are likely to use concentration, whether directed at one’s breath or at trying to grasp a Zen koan. The Transcendental Meditation technique uses effortless attention to experience subtle states of thought and ‘transcend’ by use of a specialized mantra. Christian Centering Prayer uses a word of worship to stimulate receptiveness to God. And this is only a small sampling of the variety of practices commonly lumped together as ‘meditation.’
Different techniques have different aims, employ a variety of procedures and naturally produce different results. In determining which technique among this wide variety of practices might best suit your purposes, start by asking yourself what you want out of meditation, and how much time you’re willing to give it. Some meditation programs emphasize regular or twice-daily practice over time to gain maximum benefit and evolve to higher stages of personal growth, while other practices are intended for an occasional inspirational boost or to chill when you’re stressed.
Another question to ask yourself: do you want a meditation practice that comes with a religion, philosophy or way of life? Many practices, such as Buddhist and Taoist practices, are interwoven into a conceptual world view that’s an intricate part of the practice-whether it’s an approach that contemplates the cosmos and human mind as inseparable elements of a single order, or a world view that strives to get beyond all dogma and see the world as it truly is, it’s still another mentally conceived world view. Other practices, such as the form of mindfulness meditation now popular in the West, or the Transcendental Meditation technique, are secular in nature and can be practiced without embracing any particular philosophy, religion or way of life.
Are you seeking to achieve inspiration and insights during the meditation experience? Meditations that fall into this category are contemplative techniques. They promise greater depth of understanding about the topic being contemplated and help the intellect fathom various avenues of thought. These types of meditations can be pleasant and emotionally uplifting, especially if there is no straining or mind control involved. Often these practices are performed with the guidance of a CD, instructor or derived from a book.
How much time do you have?

Another consideration is how much time it takes to master a particular meditation technique. Some meditation practices require many years to master and to achieve their stated purpose-or even get a glimpse of the goal-while other practices may take only a few months or even a few minutes to produce intended results. For example, relaxation CDs can have an immediate, soothing effect-it may not be nirvana, but in some cases relaxation is all that’s promised. If you don’t have the patience to persist in a practice that takes many years to attain success, it makes sense to choose a technique that requires less or no effort.



Meditate for Relaxation


If it’s relaxation you want, research shows that the body’s relaxation response can be induced in many ways-even by just sitting with your eyes closed and listening to soothing music. Because of the intimate connection between mind and body, the deeper you go in meditation and the more settled your mind becomes, the deeper is the state of rest for the body.  Easy listening meditation CDs that don’t require much active engagement on the part of the mind-especially ones that do not use guided voice instructions that keep the mind engaged in the realm of meaning and contemplation-may be your best bet if you want some mild relaxation and a little emotional fulfillment.

If you want really deep relaxation, you need a meditation practice that takes you to the deepest, most transcendental level of your Self. 
I could never sit like that!

A practical consideration: do you need to sit in a prescribed position to do a particular meditation practice? The popular image of a meditator in leotards sitting cross-legged in full lotus position may have you thinking, “I could never do that.” Don’t be discouraged. Even if you are unable to sit like a pretzel or for an extended period without back support, there are meditation practices that do not require any particular position and are best practiced in your most comfortable easy chair. Some forms of Zen and mindfulness are even practiced while walking!



Selecting a teacher

Do you need a meditation instructor or guru? That may depend on the depth-or height-to which you aspire. The higher meditative states are not so readily achieved by instruction techniques learned from a book or CD. The very act of reading and self-instructing can interfere with your innocence and ability to get beyond the active, surface levels of the mind. This requirement for innocence during meditation is beautifully underscored in the classic little book entitled, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” by Shunryu Suzuki. It can be a challenge to be innocent when you’re simultaneously playing the roles of expert teacher and diligent student.



Deliberate and Jump within!

The bottom line: assess your personal needs and strength of intention to incorporate meditation into your life. Be realistic about your abilities and the requirements of the practice. Do your homework-most meditation programs have a Website. And if you know someone practicing a type of meditation that interests you, ask for a personal testimonial. Evaluate the claims and the scientific proof behind those claims if there is any. Check the track record of the teacher and the organization. Then join the millions who are turning within to change themselves and the world.




2 comments:

  1. Thanks sharing. agree that meditation not only help us be mindful all day while also increase our wisdom. Recently, I met a guru who practice for over 30years, he is Venerable Vimokkha and did share his teaching in MP3 files in my blog. Feel free download this free Vipassana meditation MP3 at:
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  2. Thanks for sharing this information. It is a useable information. This is a nice and good blog.
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