There are many different types of meditation, and each utilizes a different method to accomplish different goals. Following is an overview of some of them.
All religions employ contemplative meditation in some way or another. Christians, Jews and Hindus listen to prayers or chants for a while, then go into the silence. In the silence, you focus on the names of God, or a picture of the God of your understanding, or maybe you focus your attention on the secret chamber behind your heart.
Contemplative meditation has been scientifically proven to bring about peace, not only to the individuals, but to those surrounding them.
Buddhists have different forms of contemplative meditation, such as walking. While at a Buddhist retreat, I had the opportunity to experience "walking meditation." It focused on being aware of every step and all that it took to put one foot in front of the other. This was called being in the "Present."
Loving Kindness Meditation
"Loving Kindness" is an unconditional, inclusive love; a love with wisdom. It has no conditions. It does not depend on whether the object of the love and kindness "deserves" it or not. It typically starts with friends and family, but it goes much further. It stretches out from personal categories to include all living beings.
In this meditation, there are no expectations of anything in return. This is ideal, pure love, which potentially everyone has. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who ar special to us and, ultimately, to all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience…the feeling of loving kindness.
In the western religions such as Christianity and Judaism, there is a call for a day of rest and contemplation. It can include many rituals, such as beginning just before sundown on FRiday and ending at the end of the day on Sunday. While these traditions are active, they all do require a time of contemplation wherein you sit in silence and acknowledge your activities, how they might have been helpful or where you could have done more. An important component is being grateful for everything you have.
The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj," which means to bind or to yoke, thus bringing into union. Yoga is meant to bring the mind, body and spirit into union. Thousands of years ago, sages (holy men) would sit in certain postures, breathing in a variety of ways and chant mantras (prayers) to bring their individualized soul (Jivatma) into union with God (Paramatma).
Today, yoga is mostly about the process of stretching and strengthening, which can be done more effectively when you are breathing properly. When meditation is done at the end, it is mostly experiencing the "Present," not the "Presence."
And speaking of which, next week I'll be writing about the difference between meditating on the Present and meditating on the Presence.
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