We Humans have explored a wide variety of ideas over Millennia to craft Meditation practices. What’s interesting it that right from primitive awareness techniques to highly fine-tuned methodologies, each ‘Meditator’ has attempted to reach a similar state. A state of Silence, Focus, and profound Clarity and Joy. Isn’t that Why we Meditate?
So let’s explore the broad categories into which we can divide the multitudes of Meditation practices. Of course there will be many that don’t fit into these categories; but even those ones will be close to one of these four. Over the course of our lives we would have experimented with each of these 4 categories. Some of them in the form of Prayer and some as Mind training. Slowly, we come to realise that one of these suits us best, and then we work on it. Once exploration matures, then comes the hard work of daily practice, often over years to keep improving the experience.
Mindfulness practices are all the rage nowadays. And they are some of the world’s oldest Meditation techniques. One of the most important techniques here would be ‘Watching your Breath’. Every time you tune in to a body rhythm, you become more Meditative, Grounded and very much in the ‘here and now‘. It’s a simple technique that has huge benefits in terms of your Health and Mental well-being. Similarly you could tune in to the rhythm of your heart beat.
Since our Mind ‘thinks’ in words, and is always engaged in an inner conversation – using Words as a Meditative practice becomes very effective. Chanting or ‘Mantra’ repetition is the most common Meditation practice used by all major Religions and Spiritual training courses. Repetition of Prayers or certain syllables like Om, trains the mind to become one-pointed. From the Christian Rosary, to the Islamic Tasbeeh to the Hindu Mala – every system also employs beads to aid in staying focused while chanting.
As our Mind also operates in Images – our subconscious and unconscious content being predominantly Imagery – using an Image as a Visualisation is an effective Meditation technique. The Image you chose could be something you Aspire to, such as a healthier Body, a Relationship or career Success. Or it could be an image that will conserve your focus and energy such as a Geometric pattern or ‘Yantra’ (from the Indian energy sciences). It could even be a simple Natural phenomenon you connect to – like the Sun, Moon and so on. Even in Religious practice, Visualising the face of your personal God is a form of Visualisation training.
In the Zen tradition, we bring our Awareness to watch our Thoughts. As Life passes by in a continuous stream of thoughts; we slow it down by becoming Aware of each distinct thought. Slowly we become Aware of the gaps between these thoughts. This is a doorway into Meditation. As our practice gets better, the gaps become larger and larger. Gradually, we are able to experience the Silence that exists in us – and that is usually clouded by the myriad thoughts running through our heads.
That’s in a nutshell the different categories of Meditations. Do think if your own practice fits within one of these practices, and if not then please let me know. I’ll be curious to learn from you!
yogi, coach, wellness speaker & author, co-founder of Total Yoga. bio >>
Yogi, Mindfulness Coach, Blogger & Speaker Manish Pole has taught Yoga for 15 years. He lived and trained with Himalayan Yoga Master Bharat Thakur from 2003-2010, eventually working as the CEO of Artistic Yoga.