Monday, June 28, 2010

Meditation Styles for Personal Development

"At the moment of waking up, before getting out of bed, get in touch with your breath, feel the various sensations in your body, not any thoughts and feeling that maybe present, let mindfulness touch this moment. Can you feel your breath? Can you perceive the dawning of each in breath? Can you enjoy the feeling of the breath freely entering your body in this moment?" "Breathe in I smile, breathe out I calm my body, dwelling in the present moment, it is a wonderful moment."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Many styles of meditation practice exist today. They generally involve focusing on energy centers in the body, concentrating on an image, chanting, or breathing exercises. Regardless of the style, they all share a common goal – to silence thought. When thought ceases a connection to the world of light, wisdom and pure consciousness occurs.

In the last decade meditation has become an important, although still minor, healing modality used by psychotherapists and rehabilitation institutions. It is being studied at the world’s largest universities. Science is finally confirming what was known to yogis for millennia: meditation helps us to heal emotionally, has a calming effect on our nerves, balances blood pressure, has excellent stress reduction properties, helps us to relax and to control pain. But whatever the ‘worldly’ benefits of meditation, its most important application is spiritual growth, which is impossible without contemplative practice.

The term "meditation" is often used both to denote the process or technique of meditation, as well as the state "elicited" by meditation practice. Usually during meditation there is concentration on a particular object or idea, such as a flower, a candle flame, a sound, a word (mantra), an image of a deity, or the act of breathing.

The state "elicited" by meditation depends on the nature of the person, on the method of meditation and on the experience of the meditator. Relaxation and the experience of inner peace, an improvement in relationships with relatives and friends, as well as an increase in the ability to concentrate and a clarification of the reasoning faculty, are natural signs that the practice of meditation is working. So with so many different types of meditation how is one to pick the right one? Let us examine some different types of meditation starting with Outer Path Meditation.

There is yoga meditation, holistic meditation for health, and Divine Light meditation. In Asia there is Confucian, Taoist, and Hindu forms of meditation. All these types of practices are Outer Path Meditation. This type of practice is attached to an object, or state of being. The outcome that is desired is a good feeling or feeling of tranquility. However, as with all things, states of being are in constant flux. And once the desired affect wears off or is more difficult to attain the individual becomes less enchanted with the practice. In the practice of this meditation one creates some happiness, but once this is achieved there is also its counterbalance unhappiness. This will always happen when your practice is based on an object or a feeling that you are attached too. When the person looses the object, or cannot keep it, they will loose their feelings of happiness as well. Meditation that is attached to some object or idea is called Outer Path Meditation.

Another form meditation is Common People’s Meditation this is any method of meditation that is used to improve performance. People who do this meditation are looking to get something. It is sometimes called concentration meditation. There are people who do meditation as part of their marital arts practice. Thinking ‘if I do this in this manner I will obtain greater results.’ It is also a popular method to teach writing, drawing, and painting. Some people use this type of meditation as they work with their therapist. Some use it to relieve mental and physical stress. All of these activities can be helped with the use of this form of meditation, but it cannot help you completely attain your true nature. The reasoning behind this statement is because performance meditation has its concentration on the I, me, my states of being. This is not the way to become free of suffering. That is because, by its very nature, want-something meditation always makes subject and object, good and bad. If you practice with this state of mind you are practicing Common People’s Meditation.

Mahayana Meditation is based on the six fundamental insights of Mahayana teachings: insight into the existence and nonexistence of the Dharmas; insight into the nature of form and emptiness; insight into existence and the Middle Way; insight into the nature of phenomena; insight into the interpenetration of all phenomena; and insight which sees that phenomena themselves are the Absolute. The practice of these six insights can be expressed by the teaching of the Avatamsaka-sutra: "If you wish to thoroughly understand all the Buddha of the past, present, and future, then you should view the nature of the whole universe as being created by the mind alone."

"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom."

Mindfulness is another form of meditation. It is meditation in action, and it is how we integrate meditation into all aspects of our daily lives until our whole life itself has become meditation. It is based on the Buddhist principle that whatever you focus on, you become. Buddhist believe that the mind is fluid. Whatever thought forms you hold in your mind will determine its shape.

"Do you think that you can clear your mind by sitting constantly in silent meditation? This makes your mind narrow, not clear. Integral awareness is fluid and adaptable, present in all places and at all times. That is true meditation… The Tao is clear and simple, and it doesn’t avoid the world."

Lao Tzu (c.604-531 B.C.E) from The Hua Hu Ching, (52)Chakra Meditation involves concentration on energy centers that are found in the astral (subtle-physical) body. These energy centers are located along a nonphysical energy tube called the sushumna. The sushumna in the astral body corresponds to the spinal column in the physical body, starting at the base of the spine and ending at the ‘third eye,’ between the eyebrows and a little above. Seven primary chakras are found at different points along the sushumna. Chi (energy) sits at the base of the spine in the first chakra.

During chakra meditation, chi is pulled from the first chakra up through the sushumna to the third eye. The desired affect of chakra meditation is to reach a point called Samadhi, or an enlightened state of being. Once a person has reached Samadhi a number of time the practitioner is well on their way to becoming enlightenment itself. When first learning this form of meditation it is best to focus at least 5 minutes on each chakra. The more advanced you become the longer you can stay at each point.

"It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix, but it is the frequency and earnestness with which you meditate on these things till the truth in them becomes your own and part of your being, that ensures your growth."

Frederick William Robertson (1816-1883) English American clergyman

The last mediation that I will discuss is Mantra meditation. Mantras were sacred words or phrases which, when repeated in meditation, bring the individual into a higher state of consciousness. The sounds that are produced during mantra meditation are a form of energy, which creates a connection to the worlds of light and spirituality. You can chant a mantra our loud, in a whisper, or just mentally let it vibrate within your mind. Perhaps the most famous mantra is OM MANI PADME HUM which translates as "the jewel in the heart of the lotus" or "Enlightenment is within everything." Chanting a mantra repeatedly for the duration of your meditation session will, over time, develop your abilities of meditation and concentration.

In closing, meditation is a powerful tool, one that not only provides us the opportunity to view life more closely, but also to slow it down and return to center. It helps us to remember what is really important, understanding our true calling in life. Through regular and persistent meditation we gradually become calm, centered and eventually we become free.

"When we talk about gaining the perfect wisdom of Buddha, we should not think that we need to create qualities in ourselves that are not there already, and acquire them from somewhere outside of us. Rather, we should see perfect Buddha wisdom as a potential that is being realized.
--H.H. The Dali Lama from "The Four Noble Truths" (Thorsons 1977)

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