WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF MEDITATION?
Meditation is an ancient method of employing the mind-body connection to achieve specific developmental goals. Over the four thousand years since the beginning of Yoga, the developmental goals have shifted, and so have the methods.
All meditation methods are effective in reducing stress, but they do so in different ways. For example, the earliest methods meant to explore the field of consciousness beyond the physical universe, as the material world was seen as illusory and limiting. As a by-product, these methods eliminate stress by creating detachment. In contrast, modern methods of meditation honor the physical world as the final step in spirituality, and honor the problems of life as the stimuli of growth. They do not create detachment; they create creativity.
The defining characteristic of meditation is conscious breathing. Here's what Dr. Andrew Weil says about conscious breathing:
The single most effective relaxation technique I know is conscious regulation of breath.
In many languages - the words for spirit and breath are one and the same (Sanskrit prana, Hebrew ruach, Greek pneuma, Latin spiritus). Breathing is the bridge between mind and body, the connection between consciousness and unconsciousness, the movement of spirit in matter. Breath is the key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Breathing is special in several respects: it is the only function you can perform consciously as well as unconsciously, and it can be a completely voluntary act or a completely involuntary act, as it is controlled by two sets of nerves, one belonging to the voluntary nervous system, the other to the involuntary (autonomic) system. Breath is the bridge between these two systems.
Most people do not know how to breathe so as to take full advantage of the nourishing, health-giving properties of the act of breathing. Knowing how to perform simple breathing techniques can help lower your blood pressure, calm a racing heart, or help your digestive system without taking drugs. Breathing has direct connections to emotional states and moods - observe someone who is angry, afraid or otherwise upset, and you will see a person breathing rapidly, shallowly, noisily and irregularly. You cannot be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular.
You cannot always center yourself emotionally by an act of will, but you can use your voluntary nerves to make your breathing slow, deep, quiet and regular, and the rest will follow.
Beyond conscious breathing, which all meditation methods share, there is a wide variety of intentions and corresponding techniques. In the following table, several of the distinguishing characteristics of meditation are contrasted. Heart Rhythm Meditation, a form of heart-centered meditation which focuses on the heart, has all the characteristics on the right, in rose color:
Relief From Life
Quiet stillness with conscious breath can give relief from the stresses of life. It is most pleasant to retire to a place within where one can control one's rhythm and quiet one's mind and emotions. Everything looks different with the detachment of separating yourself from regular life, like taking a vacation.
Rehearsal for Life
As you enter into your heart, you find the whole world is there within. In love, there is no wish to escape and no objectivity. You bring your issues and concerns into your meditation instead of shutting them out. Realizing your connection to every heart, you can practice how to affect the world by tuning yourself.
The aim of upward meditation is to lift consciousness out of the body, an imperfect container for the pure light of consciousness. To reverse the "gravity pull of consciousness" a powerful upward force in the spine, called "Kundalini", is used. By triggering Kundalini, Samadhi may be attained, which is an awareness of non-physical reality at the cost of physical consciousness. Detachment and dissociation results.
The aim of Heart Rhythm Meditation is to pull the richness of the universe into the person, and anchor it in the heart. The downward flow of energy, called "Love", collects in the heart and causes an expansion of the heart faculty. This results in massive creativity, courage and compassion. It fosters the descent of blessing and grace upon the person.
This type of meditation does not use emotion. The goal is sometimes described as having no thought.
Heart-centered meditation is emotion-rich. The goal is to experience all emotion, simultaneously, which requires and causes an expanded emotional capacity (heart).
The motivation for these meditations is to explore the great mystery of death, before death, so as to overcome all fear of death and suffering. These meditations were developed in monasteries or ashrams, for solitary use. They can make living in the world more difficult, as sensitivity is increased.
These meditations can be done in life and pertain to life. They come from the desire to explore what it is to be human, and what is the purpose of life. They overcome the fear of being fully alive. While they increase compassion, they also increase the power and creativity to solve problems.
"Watch your thoughts, watch your emotions, watch your consciousness." -- this is a Buddhist precept. Becoming adept at this causes an observer attitude toward yourself and life in general.
The first stage of practice, called "Concentration" is focused attention on the heart, while the second through fifth stages are performed through direct experience of physical sensation, emotion and vision. The goal is to be a fully-engaged lover, not a detached observer.
The meditator tries to do nothing. The mind is unfocused, neutral, making no judgments. Most beginning meditators assume this is the objective and the method. This is a difficult method that usually lapses into daydreaming or sleep.
Example: Listening to scientifically-produced tones to induce brain waves that mimic meditation. (This does not have the same effect as when the brain produces these waves within itself.)
The Heart Rhythm Meditator is actively pursuing a goal in the meditation. The mind is used as a lens to focus the infinite into the finite. The objective is to be able to be in a self-produced meditation state all the time, everywhere. What comes out of you is more important than what goes into you. Peace is not to be found; it is to be made. The meditator generates waves of peace that bring situations and other people into harmony.
Turning on the heart is much easier than turning off the mind.
In fantasy, you imagine you are in some other place, or are a different type of person or being. This is done to make the conditions for meditation more auspicious, although it deprecates one's actual situation.
Imagination is limited to what can be verified as true, but cannot be sensed directly, like the magnetic field and the light of the stars in daytime. The goal of this meditation is the discovery of reality, so no fantasy is used.
An altered state of consciousness in which sensory awareness, alertness or memory are diminished can be induced by very rhythmic chanting, suggestions of deep sleep, or demands of submission. This can be a dramatic shift from ordinary consciousness, demonstrating that different states exist and producing a calm emotion.
Examples: Hypnosis, long sessions of mindless chanting.
Sensory awareness, alertness and memory are heightened as inspiration and revelation spring from the heart. When chanting, the rhythm is frequently changed, with the aim to constantly improve the sound and the coordination with others. Submission is never demanded. Sleepiness is overcome by increased oxygenation.
Denial or Dualistic
"My body is not me." "My true being is not suffering." "I battle with my ego." "I want relief from my mind." "The good in me overwhelms the bad." "I want to stop my negative emotions." Divisions are made within the one universe to create contrast, but the divisions distort the unified nature of reality.
There is only one reality, and that reality is unified. "There is nothing I am not. All parts of me have a purpose and a contribution. My mind is a wonderful servant. Without my ego I could not take responsibility. My distortions push me forward while my ideal pulls me forward. My objective is to be fully human, not angelic." The heart contains all joy and all sorrow -- hide one and both disappear.
Specific religious leaders -- masters, saints and prophets -- are used for inspiration and devotion.
Loved ones and all inspired and devoted human beings are used for inspiration and devotion in Heart Rhythm Meditation.