What is meditation?

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Meditation is a state of awareness in which you recognise your own essential nature. In this state of awareness, our perception and sense of being is no longer limited by the veil of separation our normal waking experience creates. Meditation is a state of awareness and meditation techniques are used to reach this state.

In Modern times, meditation techniques are specifically being used to relieve stress, awaken creativity, improve sleep, balance the mind and emotions, lower blood pressure and solve other psychosomatic issues. These benefits are a natural outcome as the practice of meditation deepens. However, meditation is an ancient practice to assist in process of self discovery. There are many different practices of meditation, but the essence of meditation is the awareness of one’s true nature.

Meditation practices are used like tools to bring our attention back onto ourselves, which naturally leads to greater self-awareness and insight.  In this process many layers of bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, identities and mental processes are seen as they are, in each moment. Meditation is something simple, subtle, something which is ever-present, in the here and now. Letting our attention rest into our essence, is the essence of meditation. Awareness is the essence of meditation

Different Meditation Techniques

There are many different meditation techniques which can be used, coming from a variety of different religious and spiritual traditions. However, meditation can be taken out of its religious/spiritual context and be used as a universal tool for us humans to discover the depths of who we are.

Different meditation techniques may have different objects of attention and may be used for a variety of purposes. Here are some examples:

Meditation for relaxation

Many different techniques come under this category. Meditation can be used just for the initial relief of physical and mental tensions and not for any other purpose. Techniques which use the breath, mantra, relaxation of the body and visualisation could be used for this purpose, amongst many others.

Meditation for concentration

These techniques involve focusing on a specific object of meditation exclusively. The object could be the breath, a mantra, a physical object (e.g candle, geometric shape, colour), a deity or another object. The purpose is to focus the attention on the object of meditation and refocus the attention whenever it has wandered. Ultimately, the attention is able to stay concentrated on the object and becomes one with the object. The sense of meditator (subject) and object disappear into the experience of one’s ever-present awareness.

Meditation and Visualisation

These include techniques which use the faculty of imagination to fulfil the intention of the meditation. The purpose could be to induce bodily relaxation, to create a certain state of positive mind or emotions, to empower certain qualities, to focus on the energy body and or chakras. Techniques such as visualising your body full of white light, being filled with compassion and love, journeying to a place in nature, visualising different colours or points in the body, communicating with spirit guides, visualising energy move along the energy channels, and many other techniques.

Active and Dynamic Meditation

Active techniques include movement such as dance mixed with moments of stillness and breath awareness. Through movements a lot of excess energy is released and acts as a catharsis. Ultimately, one recognises the inner silence and stillness of consciousness whilst they are still physically active. This could be useful for entry to meditation for people who find it difficult to sit or be in silence. This has been popularised by Osho’s Dynamic meditation. Sufi Whirling is also an ancient example of this.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is paying attention to a specific present moment experience and being aware of it in a non-judgemental way. This could be paying attention to the breath, a sound, sensations in the body, taste of food, or movements of the physical body (e.g walking meditation). We become aware of our present moment experience as it is, aware of it in a neutral space of awareness. This form of meditation has become very popular and is widely recommended. It also allow users to access meditation in a secular way (as shown by Jon Kabat Zinn). However, it does have its roots in Buddhism.

Open Awareness Meditation

Open awareness meditation is to allow experiences to naturally arise, be present and pass in their own time. There is no focus on a particular object of meditation, instead the perspective shifts to the sense of awareness in which experience come and go. This is a very subtle technique but allows one to come to the essential recognition of oneself very quickly.

Self Inquiry Meditation

Self inquiry is a technique of questioning “who am I?” , or searching for the sense of “I” , in any experience . We come to recognise that the “I” sense of our personal identity is nothing more than a thought. Through deeper contemplation we experience the Universal sense of “ I amness” or presence/existence which is before thought. This leads to the recognition that our inner core is just pure awareness, in which all experiences arise and pass within. This technique has its roots in Hindu Vedanta and was popularised by saint Ramana Maharishi. It is widely being popularised by modern non-duality teachers such as Mooji, Adyashanti, and many others.

Contemplative Meditation

This could include focusing on a particular scriptural verse and meditating on it deeper meaning. This type of practice is seen in many religions. We contemplate on spiritual truths until we realise that inner truth as our own experience.

Sound Meditation

Sound meditation includes listening to meditative sounds or instruments such as gongs, singing bowl, drums, flutes and
other instruments. Our attention easily becomes absorbed into the vibration of the sound and we experience this vibration thought the body-mind. This has the power to heal energetic imbalances within us. Ultimately, we experience that everything is nothing but sound or
vibration. Our sense of oneness with existence is unveiled.

Mantra Meditation

Mantra is the repetition of a specific sound vibration this could be a single word or a combination of words. These mantras are usually in Sanskrit language. Popular mantras are “AUM”, “Aum Namah Shivaya”, “Ram”, amongst many other mantra for specific deities, powers of creation and chakras. Different mantras may be used to fulfil different purposes. It is also possible to have a mantra in English, such as “I am Love and Compassion”. However, it is said that ancient Sanskrit mantras hold an inherent power within the sound. This is usually imparted to the student by a competent guru, who has personal experience with that mantra. Mantras slow down the mind from constant thoughts and lead to concentrative absorption into the sound vibration. This lead to many changes on a energetic level as the sound is awakened and leads to insight into the existential essence of the mantra.

Kriya & Kundalini Meditation

Kriya and Kundalini Meditation involves using the body posture ,breath, colours, mantra, visualisation of energy mchannels and chakras to awaken the kundalini (spiritual energy) within the energy body. This awakening of spiritual energy clears imbalances within the body,mind, emotions and subtle layers. Ultimately leading to the realisation of one’s true nature.

Compassion & Loving Kindness

This technique involves directing our feeling of loving kindness to ourselves and others. This technique involves using visualisation, reflection and positive affirmations to develop compassion.

Prayer & Devotional Meditations

Prayer in its highest purpose is surrendering one’s limited sense of self into their own existential truth. This could be by using the name or form of a religious deity or saint. Devotional Meditation involves focusing our love and service to certain name or form and ultimately to become one with this form. As our meditation practice becomes more subtle and intuitive, we discover many aspects of our relative and absolute nature through insight.

You may use whatever technique you find beneficial, depending on what you wish to achieve from meditation. You may use relaxation techniques to relax the body-mind, concentration techniques to make the mind one pointed or just naturally be aware. Ultimately, meditation is used to go beyond just relaxation and concentration of the mind and to developing greater self awareness and insight.

Meditation should be used to bring us back to naturally seeing our present moment experience with clarity, penetrating concentration and insight. This is the process of developing wisdom in each moment.