meditation techniques

In our previous articles, we delved into the wide-ranging benefits of meditation. Now, we shift our focus to explore various meditation techniques practiced worldwide across different religions and regions. This article aims to guide you in discovering the meditation method that resonates best with you, offering insights into how each technique can yield positive results in your life.

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 In this  comprehensive three-part series, we embark on a journey of self-discovery and tranquility through the exploration of various meditation techniques.

What is the Best Meditation Technique? 

There are 3 types of meditation based on the way we focus attention: 

Focused Attention Meditation

Focused attention meditation involves focusing on a single object during meditation. This object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. Regular practice of such meditation on an object becomes stronger, and the practitioner becomes less distracted and develops steadiness and attention.

Examples of these are: Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others.

Open Monitoring Meditation

In this method instead of focusing the attention on any one object, we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without going into them. Examples are: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana.

Effortless Presence

Effortless presence is not focused on anything in particular, but reposes on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted. We can also call it “Choice less Awareness” or “Pure Being”. 

All traditional techniques of meditation is just a means to train the mind, so that effortless inner silence and consciousness can be discovered and there is only left the true self as “pure presence”.

Some techniques focus on this from the beginning. The Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some forms of Taoist Meditation; and some advanced forms of Raja Yoga

Let’s dive into each of these meditation techniques in detail.

1. Buddhist Meditation –  zen Meditation 

Origin & Meaning

Zazen  means “seated Zen”, or “seated meditation”, in Japanese. It has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition, tracing back to Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century CE). In the West, it’s most popular forms comes from DogenZenji (1200~1253), the founder of the Soto Zen movement in Japan. Similar modalities are practiced in the Rinzai school of Zen, in Japan and Korea.

How to do Padmasana

You can practice this meditation by sitting on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. Traditionally it was done in half or full padmasana.

How to do Padmasana

Or on a chair:

Just  keep your back completely straight, from the pelvis to the neck, the backbone should be comfortably straight, without any stain. Mouth should be kept close and eyes are kept lowered, gaze at ground about two or three feet in front of you.

 It’s usually practiced in two ways:

Is it suitable for you?

It is a very sober meditation. It is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers (Sangha), with strong community support.

In many of them you will find it coupled with other elements of Buddhist practice: prostrations, a bit of ritualism, chanting, and group readings of the Buddha teachings.

2. Vipassana Meditation

 Origin & Meaning

“Vipassana” means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Vipassana-meditation, comes from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and was popularized by  S. N. Goenka and the Vipassana movement.

Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation,  It is popular as the “mindfulness of breathing.

How to do Vipassana

 This is more like focused attention meditation.

One is to sit on a cushion on the floor, cross-legged, with your spine erect; alternatively, a chair may be used, but the back should not be supported.

The first aspect is to develop concentration, through samatha practice. This is typically done through breathing awareness.

Focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Alternatively, one can focus on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the upper lips skin – though this requires a bit more practice, and is more advanced.

meditation techniques

As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention is kept in the object of concentration (the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise”.

The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, the movement of the abdomen) is called the “primary object”. And a “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.). If a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note, like “thinking”,  “memory”, “hearing”, “desiring”. This practice is often called “noting”.

When you’re aware of a sound, for example, label it “hearing” instead of “motorcycle,” “voices” or “barking dog.” 

If an unpleasant sensation arises, note “pain” or “feeling” instead of “knee pain” or “my back pain.” 

Then return your attention to the primary meditation object. When aware of a fragrance, say the mental note “smelling” for a moment or two. You don’t have to identify the scent.

When one has thus gained “access concentration”, the attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. One observes the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise and pass away of their own accord. Mental labeling (explained above) is often use as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

As a result one develops the clear seeing that the observed phenomena is pervaded by the three “marks of existence”: impermanence (annica), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and emptiness of self (annata). As a result, equanimity, peace and inner freedom is developed in relation to these inputs.

Is it for you?

Vipassana is an excellent meditation to help you ground yourself in your body, and understand how the processes of your mind work. 

3. Mindfulness Meditation 

Origin & Meaning

Mindfulness Meditation is adaptive from VIPASSANA, but it also has strong influence from others (such as the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness Meditation is adaptive from VIPASSANA, but it also has strong influence from others (such as the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism from ThichNhatHanh). “Mindfulness” is the common western translation for the Buddhist term satiAnapanasati, “mindfulness of breathing”, is part of the Buddhist practice of Vipassana or insight meditation, and other Buddhist meditational practices, such as zazen (source from: Wikipedia).

One of the main influencers for Mindfulness in the West is John Kabat-Zinn. His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) – which he developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – has been used in several hospitals and health clinic on the past decades.

How to do Mindfulness Meditation 

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise.

Sit on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair, with a straight and unsupported back. Your attention should be on your breathing. While it is going in and coming out. Or pay attention to the sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise.

Just be aware of what is going on, without losing ourselves in anything that arises.

Whenever your mind gets distracted by sounds, sensations, and thoughts, gently bring the attention back to the breathing, or to the objective noticing of that thought or sensation. There is a big difference between being inside the thought/sensation, and simply being aware of its presence.

This mindful activity can be done while eating, walking, and talking. For “daily life” meditation, the practice is to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening..

Your daily sitting practice and life practice is very important.

Is it for you?

 It is the type of meditation that is most taught at schools and hospitals. The “mindfulness movement” as practiced nowadays in society at large, is not Buddhism, but an adaptation of Buddhist practices due to their benefits in good physical and mental health and general wellbeing.

For most people, Mindfulness Meditation may be the only type of meditation they will like, especially if their focus is only the physical and mental benefits of meditation.

If your focus is a deeper transformation and spiritual development, however, then mindfulness meditation may be just an initial step for you. From here you can then move into Vipassana, Zazen, or other types of meditation.

Read more

4. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

meditation techniques

Origin & Meaning

Metta  -This practice comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially the Theravada and Tibetan lineages. “Compassion meditation” is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of mettaand related meditative practices.

Its benefits include: boosting one’s ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feeling of competence about one’s life; and increased feeling of purpose in life .

How to do it

One sits down in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generates in his mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence. Start by developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings. Usually this progression is advised:

  1. Oneself
  2. A Good Friend
  3. A “Neutral” Person
  4. A Difficult Person
  5. All Four Of The Above
  6. And Then Gradually The Entire Universe

The feeling to be developed is that of wishing happiness and well-being for all. This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the “boundless warm-hearted feeling”, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love; or by imagining the state of another being, and wishing him happiness and peace.

Is it for you?

Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves or to others. Or we feel that we need to improve our relationship. It is beneficial both for selfless and self-centered people, and it will help in your general level of happiness. You cannot feel loving-kindness and depression (or any other negative feeling) at the same time.

It is also often recommended, by Buddhist teachers, as an antidote to insomnia, nightmares, or anger issues.

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