Today I am looking at methods of meditation or meditation techniques.
It is important to clarify that the method is not the goal.The doing of the method is not the point, of course we can excitedly say we practice X technique but it is not the goal, we are looking for a specific result.
In the past each method traditionally was very good at recording results to look out for from practice. As each technique or method is a cause, and each cause creates a specific effect.
We are not going go too deep into this…at least at first…as our first goal is to achieve a sense of stillness and stability from which ever technique or method is used.
I have my own preferences but I list here many different techniques/methods from which you can test and experiment for yourself.
One thing to remember is that you will find many if not all of what is listed here explained and defined in a 101 different ways by others. This does not mean that they are wrong or that what is present here is wrong it simply is a different understanding of a method for the same goal or a different application of a method for a different goal.
So keep this in mind and as always work with what you find beneficial and leave the rest.
This article is for information purposes and you should consult a doctor before trying any new activity.
Qigong (Qi gong, Chi Gung)
This isn’t meditation though for some people it can be useful if introduced in the right way. It doesn’t need to be complicated either it can be done in a very simple way giving you a clear sensation of energy. This sensation is also allowing you to tune your mind and develop focus, attention and concentration, all qualities required to have mastery over our minds.
What I present here is a video from one of my teachers Sifu Mark Rasmus. He is one of the most generous teachers you will find who is truly aiming to help his students progress with nothing held back.
This isn’t your classical Qigong, I will write more on traditional systems in the future. But for our purposes today this is perfect.
This has a natural overlap with Qigong as often one practice would lead to the other depending upon the tradition you are practicing.
It is a really good alternative for who find sitting too painful due too injuries.
Now to keep this simple I will detail here a basic approach to get started with. If you have read this or this article then you will know attention is something we want to cultivate. Our ability to have attention, to focus and to concentrate has a correlation to our will power.
So to build these qualities we can work on our will power.
With Standing Meditation there will be a tendency to get very bored and uncomfortable. This wanting to move to fidget to change position should be resisted. If you set the timer for 5 minutes then complete those 5 minutes and resist the monkey mind.
This will build your will power and in turn the other qualities. It will also highlight very clearly that no matter the fact that we decided to do this meditation, our mind did nothing but travel between the past and future distracting us at every point. Thoughts and memories we have not had in years suddenly arose. What does this mean?
We are addicted to distraction…this is something which becomes more apparent the more we use attention as a method.
Now standing can be as simple as stand > close your eyes! But we will add some other details today so that even if you do not want to include them at least you know of them.
- Stand Shoulder width apart, hands naturally hanging at your side.
- Have a sensation of pushing off the ground all the way up into the groin and up into the torso.
- Let the head be propped up by the torso, lift the rib cage, not through pulling the top of the head up. The result is the same but the method is different.
- Close and lift upwards ‘gently’ the point between the sex organs and the anus. This lins to the point 2 inches below the belly button. This should not be taught, not tense creating a support for the uplifting of the torso.
- Finally there should be a hollowing of the arm pits…play with his. The sensation should match the sensation in the groin.
This is a wonderful description of the process thanks to Brisbane Tai Chi:
Now you have the position we will practice an exercise of the Taoist (Water) Tradition.
Aim to spend at least 15 minutes on this exercise, if you do less time then you will not reach the ‘aha’ moements where you understand why you are doing this and actually experience the effects.
So follow this process.
- Begin with your feet. Focus on one, now imagine it to be made of ice, feel it as ice, feel the solidity and the temperature.
- Now see the ice beginning to melt and turn into water. Feel; the effects of this in your foot as its relaxes and softens.
- Finally feel this water turn into gas and the last bit of tension leaving your foot. This whole process should have taken as long as it takes. For you to feel a difference in sensation.
- Do this body part by body part as you work your way up the body. If you feel an area is particularly stiff or injured then spend more time here.
- Do not move as you do this spend all the time remaining still and focusing upon the process of ICE>WATER>GAS.
This exercise shakes up your body, bringing emotions and thoughts to the surface to be ‘boiled’ off and left as sweat on the ground.
You should do this every day for 10 days at least to get some benefit. Doing it once is like never doing it. This is a powerful gateway to discovering the mind body relationship.
Walking Meditation is used everywhere as it is so natural. I know for me growing up every Sunday my parents would go out for an afternoon walk. It would be a time of contemplation and bringing about a different state of mind from which different conversations came about, a different quality of communication.
So Walking Meditation is natural we all do it, a quiet walk to clear our head. Walking amongst nature and beautiful surroundings allows us to focus inwardly more than usual. It is a reflective practice.
The natural practice of this I think is powerful enough, you go for a walk on your own in nature and whether you like it or not your mind will start to quiet down and begin to look inwards, contemplation will then arise. So this is a good option for those who are not too keen of the idea of sitting on a cushion navel gazing but certainly can become interested about walking in nature and letting the mind naturally raise in its vibration due to the surroundings.
A more formalized use of walking meditation is found in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, kinhin is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. The practice is common in Chan Buddhism and its extra-Chinese forms, Zen, Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thiền
The idea in these more formalized versions is that we are trying to maintain a certain state of mind. Instead of getting up and loosing ourselves again. This awareness of self is important to develop so the ancient traditions made use of everything to develop, maintain and improve this quality.
So you can practice on your own, follow a formal approach, or follow a less formal but still structured approach from someone like Jack Kornfield for example.
The main point is that you do it with awareness, try and see how far you can go, here is an example from my own practice.
- From a standing position bring yourself back to the present. Feel yourself, be aware of your breathing, the air on your skin, the temperature everything.
- Now feel as you push off of the ground the weight transference, feel where you foot lands, the heel? Mid foot? Ball of foot? (This might explain any knee/hip problems you have)
- Feel on each step what you are walking with, meaning are you moving from the foot? From the knee? From the hip (In Chinese traditions we would say Kwua, the inaugural groove). Is this connected to the torso? Can you feel the soft tissue connection? If not go deeper and you will.
- These connections provide years of mental practice in themselves outside traditional mental practice.
- Feel the force from the ground, as explained in the standing meditation above, feel where it goes, what stops it, what increases it.
- Feel what your arms are doing, feel the weight.
- Where is your chest? In, out, neutral?
- Head position? Eye movement…….and on it goes with many details.
The great thing about this is that it trains your mind and your body, you become more aware of how your body wants to move as opposed to how you accustomed to moving.
Your mind also becomes used to tracking every micro movement rather than only noticing A to B with no recollection of the journey between A and B.
A natural development from Walking Meditation is the Chinese Martial Art of Bagua. This is known for it sophistication but also known for its mental and physical benefits as a moving meditation. here you see practitioners and Master Han Yanwu performing Bagua maintaining awareness on multiple control points in the body and mind.
We will now move onto to more standard ideas of meditation. I wanted to include this aspect of bodily involvement as it is a very real aspect of development. We should be able to feel and ‘go into’ any part of our body. Now to be become aware of a point on our body we first have to feel it.
So a mapping of the body occurs. Experiment with this then go back and look at disciplines like Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi, the prostrations of Tibetan Buddhism and the dances of ancient tribes. It begins to make a lot more sense or at least give us new avenues to explore. Its not all of the picture for sure but it is a part that we should know about.
Now we arrive at the known idea of meditation. But sitting meditation is not all the same as from the previous sections of this article you can see that though their is an important relationship between body and mind the real direction is coming from the mind in terms of the goal and method of the exercise.
This is a wonderful tradition and a great way to enter meditation practice.
Vipassana Bhavana basically means system of mental training in order to cultivate wisdom and concentration.
Within this tradition meditation is broken into two types.
Insight Meditation – Vipassana-Bhavana
Tranquility Meditation – Samatha-Bhavana
I personally love this system as it mirrors someof my favorite methods of Mouni Sadhu’s Concentration and some well known Hermetic methods.
It develops what so few of us are prepared to develop in the modern world. Concentration.
From concentration comes insight. So in this tradition tranquility meditation would be used to fix the attention upon single object or subject and the mind can then enter stillness.
Within this stillness you ride a fine balance between the force of concentration keeping you within the stillness and the distancing of your self from the emotions and thoughts wanting to express themselves on the mental screen of your mind.
Here the thing to remember is focus on what you want not on what you don’t want. Like attracts like.
The other side of this coin, Insight, cultivates wisdom. In practice what this means is that the thoughts and feelings are seen for what they, impressions upon the mind seeking expression.
Traditionally and I am sure opinions differ, but it is structured so that Insight Meditation and the wisdom it brings is the superior vehicle for enlightenment. Using the former concentration element as a stepping stone and lesser vehicle.
My own personal opinion is that immense degrees of concentration should be cultivated until we are truly the Master Mind as often Insight meditation or more complex forms of meditation are practiced before the mind is truly under control.
As I am a practitioner and not a super human Guru take what I say as just another opinion and experiment for your self. The details for this one are a little more involved so best to do this in a retreat environment to get the best out of it with proper guidance.
The added bonus with this practice is that you can go and do a 10 day course for free! The course, food and accommodation is all covered by donation. So if you can afford to donate then support this amazing opportunity.
For more information on this practice please visit here.
This strictly speaking is breathing exercise, a Pranayama method common in many Yoga traditions not a Meditation technique.
Remember at the start I mentioned that the purpose of Meditation is arguably to obtain some result.
So focusing on results this method gets us to a very still mind very quickly. It allows us to experience this state so we can gauge our progress.
Often people will say they never knew they could really get a silent mind…until finally they did and then they knew the difference.
So I include this method for this reason.
It will give you an experience of what you are looking for and what I believe is best achieved on your own without any outside assistance such as breathing, music, chanting etc.
- Sit in comfortable position.
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Draw in the air very, very slowly through the left nostril.
- Then close the left nostril also with little and ring fingers of the right hand. Retain the air as long as you can comfortably do.
- Then exhale very, very slowly through the nostril after removing the thumb.
- Now half the process is over. Then draw air through the right nostril. Retain the air as before and exhale it very, very slowly through the left nostril. All these six processes constitute one Pranayama.
Do 20 in the morning and 20 in the evening. Gradually increase the number.
This is the Sivananda method of easy breathing. I find a 1-4-2 ratio of breath is best for me, which is 4 seconds in, hold for 16, out for 8.
But go very gently and find your own level.
At the end of the session simply sit still, focusing on the point between the eyebrows. Sit and enjoy the state of stillness.
For more information on the Sivananda method you go here to the the online library.
Our final method is this Hermetic method.
This starts you from the very beginning, first letting you notice your mind. Then learning to direct the mind and develop focus and finally emptying the mind of all thoughts.
Stage 1: Observe
- Sit still and simply observe the mind. Do not try and control it, instead simply observe the thoughts that PASS through your mind.
- Do not forget yourself.
- Follow the thoughts. Let them pass by.
- Start with 5 minutes then go to 10 minutes of constant observation of your thoughts not engaging with your thoughts.
Stage 2: One single thought.
- Pick a subject like a local park or person etc.
- Now keep your thoughts focused upon that one subject. Do not forget yourself.
- Keep your thought on that subject, so if I choose the park I will think of what it looks like, where it is, what does it contain, who goes there, why they go there.
- All thoughts connected to the original subject with no forgetting of yourself.
- Start with 5 minutes then go to 10 minutes.
Stage 3: No thoughts
- You will now not allow any thoughts to appear in your mind. This is sometimes thought of as impossible but let me assure with the fuel you have built up in the previous steps you absolutely can do this.
- Put all your attention upon stillness. Do not stop thoughts instead focus on stillness.
- Do you see the difference?
- To stop your thoughts means you are focusing on thoughts. Like attracts like.
- So focus upon stillness.
- If it helps you imagine blackness surrounding you on all sides and that you are sat within it.
- Another tip is to remember the eyes movement affects the state of mind (hence candle staring etc and the previous exercises).
- So keep the eyes still and focused on the point between the eyebrows. If the eyes are still then so is the mind.
- Only use this as temporary crutch. As soon as you can maintain stillness through the power of your will power then do so.
- This Step is for life. You want to see how deep and how still you can get.
- Make this a daily exercise.
Other Sitting Methods/Traditions to Investigate:
Summing it all up
In this article we have covered three general approaches to Meditation.
Standing, Walking and Sitting.
Using these methods allows you to practice elements of your meditation in daily life. Though you might not be able to go as deep as solo practice you can still practice awareness when walking or standing waiting for a bus.
It is these moments in real life that let us make large leaps in our practice. The day is your practice and the meditaion time at home is the test to see how well you are doing.
Within each method there are hundreds of varieties and you should experiment to see which suits you best. As I stated at the beginning do not loose sight of the goal. Meditation is simply a means and a vehicle to reach a certain goal.
I really hope you have enjoyed this article and if so please say hello below in the comments.
Thank you for your time in reading this article.
Further Reading & Research
Sifu Mark Rasmus – One of the most generous teachers you will find. If you have an interest in Meditation and Energy development from a Martial or a Hermetic perspective then he is the man to see.
Sacred Journeys – This is run by Linhai. A resident of New York who spends half his time exploring Asia and guiding those fascinated by the East around some of the most Sacred regions. He can introduce you to real traditions for genuine practice.
Divine Life Society – A Free Library of online books covering the Yoga tradition.
Taoist Water Tradition – Bruce Frantzis has done a very good job of documenting the tradition and sharing it in an understandable way regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experience meditator.