A Quick Guide to Meditation

The practice of meditation to relieve human suffering has existed for over 2500 years in different parts of the world. Since the 1970s mindfulness has been applied to psychological health issues in a secular context. Meditation, in whichever form, can be beneficial for people. I encourage my patients to meditate if they want to. Below are some different approaches to meditation that may be a good fit for you.

Mindfulness meditation — Mindfulness has been defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Spiritual meditation — Many cultures and religions around the world include meditation in their religious practices.

Transcendental meditation — Transcendental meditation (TM) involves the use of a “mantra”, which a word or sound that is repeatedly stated. This is typically done while sitting comfortably. Practitioners meditate twice daily with eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes. The practice of TM is trying to move the mind away from the physical world to a focus on the universe and where to practitioner fits within it. Focusing on the sound of the mantra is supposed to help the person “transcend” (hence the name) into an unbounded field of pure being. The spiritual dimension of TM distinguishes it from secular forms of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation.

Qigong meditation — The ancient Chinese Qigong meditation integrates movement, breathing, and meditation into one multifaceted practice. The meditation should include breath awareness, mantra, chanting, sound, visualization, and focus on concepts such as qi (pronounced “chi”) circulation, aesthetics, and moral values. Qigong meditation should incorporate techniques that integrate body, breath, and mind adjustments into what they describe as a “Oneness.” Qigong meditation focuses on the flow of qi. Qi is defined as a universal, spiritual power that is a central force in all living things.

Devotional meditation — The Christian tradition of “devotional meditation” or “contemplative prayer, is prayer with an emphasis on meditation. The goal is to connect to God in an open and effortless way.

Centering prayer — Centering prayer is a modern approach, started in 1974, as a more accessible alternative to devotional meditation. Attention should be given to posture, breathing, and the space one is in. The practice is similar to mindfulness meditation in that the goal of centering prayer is be present oriented and except the current condition without reservations. Unlike mindfulness meditation, centering prayer is not secular because there should be an emphasis on the shared experience with God’s presence.

 

Resources:
Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Hyperion, New York 1994.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=21802619

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=16049627

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=19129338

Liu T. Qigong Study in Chinese Medicine. A Textbook for Colleges and Schools of Chinese Medicine, China Publisher of Chinese Medicine, Beijing 2005.

Leech K. Soul Friend: A Study of Spirituality, Sheldon Press, London 1977.

Keating T. Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York 1997.

Keating T. Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York 2009.

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