Meditation is an ancient method of bringing the mind under control and attaining insight. Originally developed in order to understand the true nature of the mind and reality, the benefits of meditation also include improved concentration and a feeling of inner contentment. Here is a simple explanation of four different meditation techniques from various tradition.
During meditation it is good to have a straight posture (the head, neck, and back aligned). Also important is consistency. Meditating every once in a while won’t do much. It is only through consistent practice that the fruits of these techniques have a chance to ripen.
Dhāraṇā is the meditation of concentration. Without the ability to concentrate even the most simple of task become impossible. Master this art and life abounds with serenity and insight.
The potential objects of concentration are infinite. However it is good to pick something stable. Concentrate on the sound of birds, and your concentration flies away are a few minutes. This is why the breath is a popular object of meditation. As long as you’re alive, you’ll be breathing.
To help focus on your breath you count from 1 – 10 along with your exhale and/or inhale. Another method is to observe your natural breath, and when your mind starts to wander, breath with force. This will bring your focus back to the breath. If your mind if extremely restless, hold your breath – this will quickly focus the mind.
Vipassanā is meditation on the bodily sensations. The aim of Vipassanā is an objective view of these sensation, before they become conditioned by judgement and associations. The two wings of this bird are awareness and equanimity.
Begin by focusing on the sensation on single point at the top of your head. Proceed to move down your body, from head to toe, piece by piece; the sensation of your forehead, left eyebrow, right eyebrow, etc. Once you have reached your toes, begin moving your awareness back upwards, piece by piece. Some sensations will be pleasant, others, unpleasant. What is important however, is to remain equanimous. All sensations have the same characteristic, Annica – they arise, and then they pass away. The pleasant sensations arise and pass away, as do the unpleasant. The more you hold this mind, the closer you become to the objective view experience.
To see powerful results, you can combine Vipassanā with the technique of Adhiṭṭhāna – strong determination. Sit for one hour practising Vipassanā without moving your legs, hands, or opening your eyes. Before the hour is up you will feel strong feeling of pain, making it more difficult, but also more necessary, for you to remain equanimous in the face of the sensations. Succeed, and you will begin to see past the judgement of pleasure and pain that shape our everyday reality.
Mettā meditation is the meditation of love and compassion. All beings are connected. Feelings of hatred or selfishness obscure this truth and lead one into ignorance. The meditation of love and compassion helps dispel these kind of ignorance.
Mettā meditation begins with focusing on the love you have for your family and close friends. Focus on this feeling for a few minutes. If at any time a feeling of ill will toward your family or friends arises (perhaps they let you down in some way, or did something to hurt you) remember that they are only humans, they also suffer, and, like you, their actions are a result of cause and effect – karma. With this knowledge, use to power of compassion to forgive them.
Next bring to mind everyone in your society. Most of them you don’t know, but this is a simply matter of circumstance. If you were born to someone else, you would have the same love for them that you have for your own family. Recall the feeling of love you have for your family and friends, and expand this feeling to include everyone in your society. Perhaps you harvest ill will toward some people in your society (those who further inequality for example), but remember that they are only humans, they also suffer, and, like you, their actions are a result of cause and effect – karma. With this knowledge, use to power of compassion to forgive them.
Next bring to mind all people of all cultures across the world. Perhaps some of these people seem strange, with customs that you aren’t used to, but this is simply a matter of circumstance. If you were born somewhere else, you would have the same love for this culture, these people, that you have for your own family. Recall the feeling of love you have for your family and friends, and expand this feeling to include all people of all cultures. Perhaps you harvest ill will toward some people of some cultures (perhaps they have some practices that you see as oppressive, for example), but remember that they are only humans, they also suffer, and, like you, their actions are a result of cause and effect – karma. With this knowledge, use to power of compassion to forgive them. Meditation on this feeling of love and compassion for all people for a few minutes.
Finally extend this feeling of love and compassion to all living beings (including yourself). All living beings suffer, all being strive toward joy and a release from suffering. Wish all beings well on their journey.
The Vedic understanding is that all of existence is contained with the OM, and by performing it, you become absorbed in the universal cosmic consciousness. This meditation is a powerful method of stilling even the most restless of minds, bringing you back to your physical body, and beyond, to your cosmic body.
To perform the OM, use your voice to send vibrations from the bottom of your torso to the top of your head. Although often written as OM, it is actually more like AUM as the vocal vibrations begin in the belly with A. Moving this vibration of A upward, you will find it turns into a U as it reaches your chest. Moving into your throat and head, this vibration becomes an M. All the while these vibrations go from broad to concentrated. Repeat this process, moving vibrations from the lowest possible point to the highest. What is important is to concentration on the vibrations rather than the tones.