When you ask a group of meditation experts what meditation is, you will get a different answer from each person. Some will tell you that the goal is to empty your mind of thoughts. While others will tell you that there is no goal at all. Sorting through all the literature on the subject can be quite overwhelming.
The article, “An Interview with Ken Wilber: Stages of Meditation,” published by The Integral Post on November 9, 2011 tells us that there are two very broad types of meditation; concentration or closed meditation vs awareness or open meditation. This gave me a very basic framework to categorize the types of meditation.
Each type of meditation was developed to strengthen the weaker aspects of the personality. The goal was to create a balanced or whole personality. They are prescriptions, so to speak. Before you start any spiritual practice, be honest with yourself and understand what particular problem the selected practice was created to solve. There is not a single practice that works for every person. Beware of any spiritual teacher that recommends the same practices to everyone! Spiritual practice requires that each student be evaluated and given an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Concentration meditation means exactly what it says. These practices are used to focus the mind. Concentration practice brings relaxation, calmness and emotional balance. They are beneficial for people who have busy lives that include many interruptions or are just creative scatterbrained types, like me. Concentration practice narrows the focus helping you experience a sense of peace within a whirlwind of activity. Calmness brings clarity to a storm of emotions. Can you stay focused and calm in a busy office where the phones are continuously ringing and people are rushing to and fro? Can you calmly handle the continuous disruptions of a toddler and still get your To Do list accomplished? Can you easily navigate that monkey wrench that got thrown into today’s planned schedule? Oh yeah! That is what concentration practice can do for you.
Awareness meditation is also self-explanatory. These practices are used to open the mind to everything that is going on around you. Awareness practices dissolve judgment and bring caring into our lives. How much can you be aware of in one moment? Are you aware of the size of the room you are in, the bird singing outside your window, the washing machine humming downstairs, and the negative thought that just passed through your mind? Can you stay open to all these events going on at the same time without being drawn into or judging any single one of them? Oh yeah! That is what awareness practice can do for you.
So, who are you?
Knowing your tendencies and knowing what challenges you face throughout the day will determine which style of practice is the best for you.