April 11, 2011 5:12 AM Subscribe
How do I sort out the many different types of meditation?
posted by overeducated_alligator to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
So they say meditation has benefits. But which kind of meditation? I can think of several different types off the top of my head, all of which have different approaches:
- progressive relaxation or body-scanning: mentally moving across the body, deliberately releasing muscle tensions, or becoming aware of areas of pain in order to help relieve them
- mindfulness: observing with equanimity the progression of thoughts and physical sensations as they arise and pass away
- breath-based: placing awareness on breath, and returning focus to the breath when distractions come up
- mantra meditation (e.g., Transcendental Meditation): inner repetition of the mantra, transcending over distracting thoughts and returning to the mantra
- koan meditation: embracing a zen story, eventually to get past conditioned ways of thinking to a more fundamental form of awareness
- shikan taza: radically purposeless sitting meditation, eyes open, without mental preference for breath, body, mind or koan
- sitting with eyes closed without any additional instructions for attitude or concentration
Some of the various "goals" of meditation practices include:
- pain relief
- improved concentration or other cognitive abilities
- discovery of one's own true nature
- transcendence of mundane or conditioned thoughts
- devotion to God
- renouncing of all goals
- combinations of the above
So, are some methods of meditation "better" at achieving specific things than other methods? Are they all the same? If so, how can they be the same if they are intended to produce opposite effects? Are there downsides to each approach? Is the common denominator (sitting quietly) the only part that actually matters?
I used to practice zazen, but did not find any reasons to continue practicing after a year or so. Should I try a different style of meditation? Which one and why?