What is meant by meditation? Actually, there are many kinds of meditation.
From a practical standpoint, different kinds of meditation are used with different motivations in mind:
- Relaxation Meditation. As the name suggests, this is any meditation intended to settle the mind-body. It may be used as preparation for another meditation. It may also be used as a tool to help cope with trama or stress.
A common relaxation meditation is a Body Scan meditation - though it may also be practiced with another intent.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation. This is a practice to intentionally develop feelings of unconditional acceptance and kindness towards ourselves and others. Cultivating these qualities in a methodical and intentional way opens the door to greater tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.
It may help us to avoid creating those mental states we lack the wisdom to see skillfully (such as guilt or anger). Ultimately it brings us into a closer alignment with the essence of that which we seek.
- Breathing Meditation and 'Mindfulness' Practice. Watching the breath can teach us a lot about the mind, and develop a reflective clarity that we probably don't otherwise possess.
We intend to bring some of this clarity to our everyday activities and thought patterns to gain greater insight into our reality. A sharp mind is an essential instrument for contemplation.
- Contemplative Meditation. Also known as Analytical Meditation, is an active process wherein the mind is directed to logically analyse an experience.
Contemplation is often upon the sense of personal identity - the I. This analysis is technically the most precise action to realise Non-duality.
There are features common to most, if not all, meditation:
- Space. The choice and preparation of a suitable environment, time and space in which to practice. Ideally we don't want to be interrupted or distracted.
- Posture. A straight back, relaxed but stable body and upright position are key aspects of posture. We may be seated in a chair or in various cross-legged positions (eg. half-lotus or full-lotus) on the floor - whatever works for you.
Good posture minimises distractions and helps to maintain wakefulness.
Maintaining the body in a reasonably healthy state affects the mind, just as the mind affects the body.
Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can be useful to maintain physical health, support the mind and even for the direct cultivation of wisdom.
Eating whole, minimally processed foods will help the body maintain itself. Try adding a bit more of the healthy stuff, rather than trying too hard to keep a strict diet that may undermine your motivation.
Martial Arts, Walking, Running, Cycling and other physical activity can all contribute to a healthy body.
In the pursuit of other kinds of spiritual knowledge, there are other kinds of meditation and altered states of consciousness. Those are not covered here, because the objective of this material is to clearly articulate the most direct path to self-realisation, from my experience.
The ultimate meditation is perhaps Enlightenment - that to which it could be said self-realisation leads. This meditation is not a doing that is done by anyone. It is simply the nature of consciousness itself.