How to Meditate: Different Styles

There are numerous meditation styles, and it would be impossible to draw an exhaustive list. So here we are going to look at two of the most common, both of which can be easily picked up without any prior training or formal instruction. Both of these approaches are known by many different names, depending on the school and philosophy surrounding them but in all of these the core principles are the same:

Focused attention meditation

A focused attention meditation is exactly what it sounds like; the aim is to stay focused on your chosen thing. It doesn’t matter what you choose to focus on, as long as it is consistent. Common items chosen are; your breath, a mantra or the flame of a candle.

You might find it helpful to choose something which matches up with your natural modality (preferred though and communication style). So if you are someone who thinks mainly in visual terms you would choose the flame, as that way most of your thought process and mental activity would be absorbed by focusing on something you can see. If you are more auditory (sound and hearing) based you will probably find a mantra easiest to focus on, and if you are more kinaesthetic (feeling) biased, then a good choice would be focusing on the rhythm and feeling of your breath.

Whatever you choose, the process is exactly the same. Start by sitting on a cushion or chair with your back straight and your hands in your lap (if you are focusing on your breathing or repeating a mantra you may find it helpful to close your eyes). Then concentrate your mind on your chosen object and try to maintain a relaxed focus on this object.

Don’t get stressed or beat yourself up if your mind drifts off your focus and other thoughts enter your head. Particularly at first this may happen easily and frequently, when it does just return to your focus as soon as you notice your thought have wandered.

In time this will train the mind in three essential skills: to watch out for distractions, to "let go" of them once the mind has wandered, and to re-engage with the object of meditation.

With practice, you should find it becomes increasingly easy to stay focused.

Mindfulness meditation

Practitioners of mindfulness meditation try to become aware of everything that comes into their moment-by-moment experience without reacting to it.

As with the focused attention meditation, start by sitting on a cushion or chair with your back straight and your hands in your lap, this time it will definitely be easier with your eyes closed. Now take a step back in your mind and monitor all the various experiences; your thoughts, emotions, the sensations your body feels sitting against the floor, the feel of your clothes against your skin, anything and everything that is being presented to your mind.

Instead of grasping at whatever comes into mind or trying to focus on just one of the sensations, which is what most of us do naturally most of the time, the idea is to maintain a detached awareness.

As before, this may seem tricky at first and you may try to convince yourself that you are not doing the technique right, you will naturally want to focus on one sensation and will get absorbed in a particular thought. But don’t worry, this is exactly what happens to anyone when they first begin to practice meditation. So when you notice this happening simply take a step back in your mind again and return to a state of detached awareness.

Those who develop this skill find it easier to be aware of their own reactions and to manage emotions in day-to-day life.

With both techniques the more you practise, the deeper the state you will be able to reach and the greater the changes will be.


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