By Michael Abramsky
There are three basic types of meditation,
- Single Point.
In single-point meditation, we focus on one thing and give it our complete attention. The object is to tune out everything else, so the mind does not wander but stays fixed on one “object .” There are a variety of objects we can fixate upon.
The Breath. The most common form of Buddhist meditation is to focus on the breath. The meditator observes their breath as it enters through the nose on the inhale and travels down through the body. When the lungs are full, there is a brief pause, and the exhale begins. Commonly, the mind will wander, and when it does, the meditator notices the movement of the mind and then gently returns to the breath. It is often the case that the meditator may label the wandering, for example, “thinking .” This effectively stops the wandering and facilitates a return to the breath.
Mantra Meditation. In Mantra meditations, the meditator repeatedly repasts a sound, phrase, or word, excluding extraneous thoughts. The exact sound generally has meaning within that system of practice. In Transcendental Meditation, a word is given to the meditator with a special significance that captures his essence. In Tantric tradition, the sound, a biga, activates and balances a particular Chakra or energy center. In Jewish traditions, meditators may focus on the multiple names of God, to Cleve to God (devekut).
Pranayama. Prana is the life force in Hindu culture. The breath is the igniting force of the deity. (In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God breaths into the earth to create man, signifying that man is of the earth and the spirit) As a practice, it is associated with breath—formal practice in the various Hindu traditions generally supersets Pranayama from formal meditation.
2) Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation is thought to be Buddhism’s contribution to meditation. Rather than focusing on a single object in Mindfulness Meditation, we take the role of an observer and watch the flow of our thoughts, feelings, and sensation which emanate. The writer Jack Kornfield has used the analogy of a screen door, meaning that everything passes through, but nothing sticks. Rather than stop the flow of the mind, we just observe it.
The Enemy in mindfulness meditation is attachment or fixation. A thought comes to mind, and we cannot “let it go” We either fixate on it or let I lead to other thoughts in a free association or memories or future predictions. In mindfulness, we stay in the “here and now. Another version of mindfulness is “the observational mind,” meaning that we observe rather than judge or categorize.
Imagine your mind like a blank screen. Everything that passes through internal and external -crosses that screen without interruption by other mental farces like judging, categorization, or affective response.
Mindfulness meditation keeps us in the here and now. It eschews judgment, attachments, and aversions, which create pain. To the extent that we stay in the present, there is no pain or joy; there is pure being and the calmness or equanimity.
In interpersonal communication, the suspension of all judgment leads to complete openness to our partner’s communication. By simple observing and removing reactive barriers, we experience the Atman or soul of the other.
Mindfulness develops the observational mind, which leads to openness to self and others. The affective or bodily state is one of equanimity or peacefulness.
3) Goal-Directed Meditations. Goal-directed meditations are those where the purpose of the meditation is to achieve a specific psychological state. Two of the most popular are:
Archetypal meditation. Archetypes are universal forms. They are the qualities-humility, achievement, patience- which are embodied in figures. For example, in Judaism, Abraham is an archetype of compassion, the Buddha an archetype of awakening, and Athena is the Greek archetype of a warrior.
In these meditations, the Mediator focuses on a picture or -image, usually with the intent of capturing the essence of that picture or the person represented in the picture. Christian meditation may focus on Christ or a saint, “absorbing” the desired quality manifested by that figure. In some Buddhist traditions, various cards with images of deities, or archetypal qualities, like compassion, love, and transcendence, are viewed. In Jewish Kabala, Moses is seen as an archetype of persistence, Isaac of justice In Hindu traditions. Hindu deities represent qualities like wisdom, compassion, and sexuality.
Loving-kindness meditation. In loving kindness meditations (metta) phrases, which engage the heart, are repeated. The meditator sends warmth, kindness, and love by repleting a mantra such as “May I be well, may I be happy, may I be peaceful. “While doing so, the meditator places their hand over their heart, and repeats the phrase with sincerity, and feels it. You may also direct loving sentiment to lovers, friends, the community, and the world. With regular practice, we deepen our ability to feel love and kindness and direct it.