In the first part of this series, we have read about the very basics of meditation, and it was my attempt to show you that meditation as a practice, is not rocket science but a conscious building of self awareness. Moving on to the second part, it is time we look at some of the different forms of meditation that we can adopt, the how-to’s of each form, and their benefits.
Meditation has been around for ages and has a mention even in some of the most ancient literatures. Culturally and in practice as well, meditation also has different roots.
From considering it a medium to attain nirvana to using it as a tool to achieve the objectives and goals in life, meditation has been used over the ages to serve multiple purposes. Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the most acknowledged modern age saints, used meditation to convey his message to the masses and spread it in the West. Whereas a lot of us now use guided meditation from modern-age legends like José Silva to achieve something tangible, and to overcome unresolvable problems.
5 Most Significant Forms of Meditation:
1. Zen meditation
Zen is the form of meditation most commonly used by the monks. It originated in India and spread across to the east, from Tibet to China, Japan, and even Korea.
Zen gets the name from the way it is practiced, as Zazen means ‘seated meditation’ in Japanese. Though it is considered to be a technique of the highest order, it actually works on the basic and primary principles.
Zen is all about shutting off the constant chatter that goes on in the brain – or as they call it, the ‘monkey mind’ – and learning to cut oneself off from thinking about past events or dwelling on how the future would unfold.
How to do it?
Being a traditional practice, one sits in the lotus posture with eyes closed, back straight, chin tucked in. Focus on the breath entering your body and leaving it, this will help you break the chain of thoughts and whenever your mind drifts back to it, you should realize and turn back to focusing on your breath. This helps one stay in the present moment.
Though Zen sounds very basic, it has power like no other, since you look within yourself with this practice. Zen mediation has the power to help you grow like no other. As you practice it for longer, the mind starts getting into deeper states and the time during which you are not thinking about anything in particular keeps increasing.
2. Vipasana Meditation
This, again, is apt for beginners and will help you get a hang of meditation with relative ease.
Vipasana is a spiritual form of meditation that might or might not involve rituals as it is preference-based. It is a Buddhist form and thus involves sitting in a quiet place, usually on a cushion which positions your body in a forward tilt.
While in Zen you focus on your breath and enter a state of ‘thoughtlessness,’ with Vipasana you get into a deeper subliminal state, and then drive your consciousness towards the different sense perceptions and parts of the body. This helps one stay grounded, improves focus and the ability to concentrate selectively, and thus improves overall brain performance.
How to do it?
Sit with your back straight without any support, on a surface that is elevated under your hips and lowered around your legs (which are in the cross position). Keep your hands on your lap and eyes closed.
The brain is directed to first become aware of the surroundings – the sounds around you – and to accept them so that they are not a hurdle to your practice. Following this, all the senses like touch and sight, and even your feelings, are involved in taking you deeper.
3. Listening to silence
If you’ve never experienced this form of inner peace, it might sound weird but well, we’re exploring the unexplored!
It is believed that there is a constant sound inside you that can be heard when there is silence. Think of it and you will recall that you’ve heard many a times, a high pitch tune that originates inside your ear or your mind, and arises for no particular reason.
Meditation is about looking inside – something we don’t do very often – and eventually connecting with your inner self. The sound of silence helps you do that. While there are so many things going on in our overcrowded lives, what we fail to do is to be in unison with our own self. Thus, there is a disconnect where we often fail to understand where we are heading and what is it that we want to do in life. The entire objective of meditation is to bring our body and our consciousness into sync, so we find our most sought-after answers.
How to do it?
Initially you might want to use earplugs to cut out the external noise to start hearing the deeper hums and resonances constantly. Once you get a hang of it you don’t need earplugs anymore and will be able to focus on it even while there is noise around.
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and listen to the sound of silence. As you are able to divert your attention from everything else onto this one thing, you will increase the time spent thinking about nothing. It directly influences your mental calm and composure, and consistent practice will result in lowered stress and improved focus. You’ll feel fulfilled and complete at most times.
4. Guided meditation
While all the other forms are more or less stagnant – where you’re trying to go into that state of stillness which was traditionally believed to be the best method of meditation – modern age meditators prefer guided meditation. It is a more systematic and channelized way to approach meditation when one is looking for specific outcomes.
Modern meditation is directly linked with manifestation. Now you might believe or not in the concept that the universe gives you what you ask for, but when you meditate, you open up those levels of your subconscious mind that you’ve never inspected before. And over time, when you set something as a priority in that subconscious space, your subconscious is restructured to make the shift and ensure you do get that.
How to do it?
There are several guided meditation techniques available on the internet, and to know what works best for you, the only way is to experiment. Try out the various forms that are there – from affirmation to visualization. Try the ones suggested by some of the most renowned authors like José Silva and other spiritual gurus.
I personally use guided meditation over other forms because it is a dynamic form, where you ensure that your brain thinks about those areas you want it to work on, and it never gets boring. It requires no particular posture or position but ensure your back is straight and you sit upright, otherwise there is a good possibility that you might drift off to sleep.
5. Mantra meditation
India is the land where it all originated. The spiritual center of the world, our country has always known yoga and meditation but most of us never implemented it. Now that this knowledge has toured the west and has been repackaged as ‘cool,’ we’re starting to look at it with respect!
Mantra is a very spiritual approach to meditation where you chant specific mantras inside your head or out loud to enter the deeper states of mind.
It is also called the ‘Hindu meditation’ and thus the mantras or chants used are often based around the particular religion. Based on their beliefs and the deities they most relate to, the meditators determine the mantras they want to use.
How to do it?
The most commonly used mantras are – Om, Om namah shivay, Ram, and So–ham.
Sit in a silent place where you will not be disturbed, preferably get into the lotus position since that is considered the best posture to attain the spirit and body connection, and keep your eyes closed.
When one chants the mantra, the repetition of the sound creates a certain vibration in the body. As an effect of the vibration, the brain enters deeper states of consciousness. After a point, you will no longer need the mantra to create that vibration, and with persistent practice you can enter the various levels of your mind, experiencing the vibrations and recreating the eventual effect.
Like most things, the labour and fruits of meditation are also specific to different individuals. So while one may work well for me, another might be better for you. Give all of these techniques a try and figure out what works best for you. Do let us know with your feedback what experience works best for you!
In part 3, we will look at the various myths about meditation, and hunt for the grains of truth amidst all the chaff.
Article Credits – Ankit Mishra