Types of meditation

Meditation is generally considered to be one of the key aspects of spiritual practice, and I've made extensive use of it over the years.  It's one of the first practices I'd recommend someone explore when they first become interested in spirituality.  So no doubt I'll be rambling on about it here a fair amount.  A lot of people have a lot of different ideas about meditation, so I thought I'd start out by defining my terms – what exactly *I* mean when I talk about meditation.

For the time being I'll be dividing meditation into four categories.  This is my system for thinking about meditation and not anyone else's – I don't think of it as being the 'right' use of these terms, just how I like to think about them and how I'll write about them here.

  • Contemplation meditation – in some ways you could consider this as 'sitting down and having a good think about something' and many people don't consider this 'real' meditation.  However, I think it's a useful practice – by this term I don't just mean sitting down and having your thoughts drift, but rather taking some time to sit, relax, and focus your thoughts on a chosen topic.  I sometimes call it 'thinking with intent' – that is being fully aware of your thoughts and choosing their direction rather than letting the mind wander where it wants to.  It's a relaxing practice, with time often leads to shifts in consciousness, and can also bring about excellent new insights into the issues one is contemplating.
  • Concentration meditation – this is what most people mean when they talk about meditation, or 'real' meditation.  Concentration meditation involves choosing a single thing (an image, a phrase, a physical sensation or some such) and thinking about it to the exclusion of all else.  The goal is to stabillise one's attention on this one thing so that the mind doesn't wander.  Doing it successfully tends to induce a shift of consciousness before too long, but it is quite tricky to achieve.
  • Insight meditation – this is a Buddhist term for a particular practice that involves turning your attention to the basic nature of reality as you are experiencing it in a given moment.  This form of meditation requires good concentration skills to perform effectively, but doing it on a regular basis begins to shift ones understanding of the nature of reality.  Practiced regularly for a long period it will, apparently, lead to enlightenment.
  • Meditation for a purpose – this is just a way of grouping together a large collection of practices where meditation-like actions are used as a means to an ends.  So within this category I'd include things like scrying, astral journeying, opening the chakras, moving energy around the system, and various magickal practices.  It's a broad category, but the techniques used and the effects induced are recognisably distinct from those used in the above categories.

I'll write at greater length about the techniques I use and what benefit I've gained from them in later posts, but for now I'll just say that over the years I've found great benefits in each of the above categories of practice.

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