Five Types of Meditation
May 31, 2016 10:41PM
● By Erin Floresca
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) pairs mindfulness meditation and yoga to improve one’s overall well-being and help cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the here and now.
According to local practitioner Craig Schollenberger (CraigSchollenberger.com), who offers an eight-week MBSR training several times per year, a regular mindfulness practice improves overall immune function and sleep quality, lowers the stress response and reduces chronic pain. In addition, he says, “A regular mindfulness practice can slow cognitive decline. It is used in the treatment of addictions, eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Mindfulness has also been demonstrated to improve the quality of life in cancer patients. All these benefits come from paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future.”
Zen meditation—or zazen (sitting meditation), as it is referred to in Zen Buddhism—is a simple form of meditation that relies on good posture, correct breathing and the right state of mind to achieve inner bliss. The point is to empty the mind of distracting thoughts while observing what is around us. Zen meditation focuses on the importance of stillness in one’s daily life while practicing non-attachment to thoughts, letting them pass through the mind without judgment or attachment.
Vipassana, an ancient technique taught since the time of Buddha, literally means to see things as they really are. This method of cultivating self-awareness focuses on the mind-body connection and allows one to face the challenges of daily life in a more balanced, healthy manner. Through self-observation, practitioners discover how to dissolve negative thoughts, feelings and judgments and replace them with inner peace and increased awareness. According to the current teacher of the chain, S.N. Goenka, once we experience life as it actually is, we become liberated from misery and experience true happiness, resulting in a life filled with more love and compassion.
Loving-kindness meditation uses thoughts, images and feelings to arouse a loving acceptance of ourselves and others. The practitioner sits comfortably, eyes closed, and imagines what they hope for their own life. After formulating their wishes into a few key phrases—for example, May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I discover my joy—the practitioner repeats the phrases. Then the phrases are directed at others—including someone they are thankful for, someone they feel neutral about and someone they are having challenges with. Finally, the phrases are directed universally: May all beings be happy, healthy and discover their joy.
Contemplative prayer is a form of meditation aimed at clearing and quieting one’s mind in order to connect with one’s higher power. Centering prayer, popularized by Thomas Keating, is a method of contemplative prayer. By relaxing and emptying the mind, often by repeating a sacred word to stay centered, the practitioner is more able to experience the God presence within.
Marlin Good, program director at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation, in Lancaster (KairosJourney.org), shares, “A prayer is letting go of the attachments to our thoughts. We realize that while we have thoughts and feelings, we are not them. Through centering prayer, we can come back to the center inside of ourselves that is connected to God.” The school recommends two, 20-minute periods of practice per day to achieve the best results.
Erin Lehn Floresca is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.