Mantra Meditation (OM meditation)
Origin and Meaning:
A mantra is a combination of characters without any particular meanings. It is used for the sole purpose of sharpening and focusing the mind on vibrations and sounds of the mantra. It is not an affirmation used to convince yourself something. Some experts believe the choice of words and correct pronunciations are critical to this practice, for purposes of achieving ideal vibrations. Other experts dismiss this notion and believe that a mantra is only a tool for focusing the mind, the word itself is irrelevant.
Mantras are used by variety of groups/practices including Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions (mostly Tibetian and “Pure Land” Buddhism), Jainism, Sikhism and Daoism (Taoism). Some people prefer to call mantra meditation as “om meditation”, this is just one of many mantras that can be utilized. A more devotion oriented practice of mantras is called Japa, this consists of repeating sacred words (such as the names of gods) with love and kindness.
How To Do It:
“As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe.” (Deepak Chopra)
As with most types of meditation, this practice is also done with an erect spine and eyes closed. The practitioner repeats the mantra in ones mind, over and over for the entirety of the session. The mantra is sometimes coupled with breath awareness by certain practices.
Some well know mantras from the Hindu tradition include:
There is no objective amount of time that one should count the mantra for but traditionally it is counted to 108 or 1008. A necklace of beads are used to keep count of the mantra. As one delves deeper into the mantra, the mantra continues by itself, like the humming of the mind. The mantra many even disappear and leave you in a state of deep inner peace.
Is It For Me? :
People often find it easier to focus on a mantra, rather than breathing. It is useful when the mind is racing with thoughts and emotions. The steadfast repetition of the mantra keep all mental sensations at bay.
Meditation with a mantra can also be simple to integrate into meditative states in your daily life. It is as simple as repeating the mantra over and over again.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Origin and Meaning:
Transcendental Meditation is a very specific form of Mantra Meditation produced by Maharishi MaheshYogi in 1955 in India and the West. Maharishi gained notoriety because he was a guru for the Beatles, The Beach Boys and other famous celebrities.
This famous meditation form has over 5 million practitioners worldwide. There are many scientific papers written on this form of meditation, many sponsored by the TM organization. There are 600 peer-review papers in circulation regarding this popular form. There are however many critics of Maharishi and his organization, these accusation range from cultish behaviour to doubtful research practices.
How To Do It:
TM is not taught freely. The only way to learn more about this form is to pay one of the licensed instructors. The support and professionalism from the instructors are top notch.
In general TM involves the use of a mantra and is generally practiced for 15-20 minutes twice per day. This practice is done with the eyes closed. The mantra itself is not unique and is specifically chosen for the practitioner based on ones gender and age. The mantras are not merely tools in TM, rather they are Tantric names of Hindu deities.
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There are many spiritual initiations that one must take before delving deep into the practice. The initiation “puja” and the yogic flying initiation are common among TM practitioners.
Is It For Me? :
TM is very commercialized and requires one to pay. Due to this reason, this form of meditation is not recommended. If you wish to try something similar, try Mantra Meditation for free.
Origin & Meaning:
There are many forms to “Yogic Meditation”. Yoga means “union”. The tradition traces back to 1700 BC, its goals are for one to achieve the highest spiritual purification and self-knowledge. Classical yoga can be divided into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical posture (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi). There are numerous benefits to doing yoga.
How To Do It:
Here are some types of meditation practiced in Yoga. The most common and universal one is the “third eye meditation”.
Third Eye Meditation – This is done by focusing ones attentions towards the spot in-between the eyebrows. This point between the brows can be called the “the third eye” or “ajna chakra”. The main object in question is the the ajna chakra. If the mind loses attention to this spot, one must redirect his attention back at the third eye. Eventually the silent gaps between thoughts widen, this gives you a state of extreme peace. Often times practitioners physically point their eyes toward the third eye while keeping their eyes closed.
Chakra Meditation — The practitioner focuses his attention on different different energy centres in the body. These energy centres are often call chakras, in total there are 7 main nodes in the human body. Visualization and chanting of a specific mantra for each chakra (lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om) can energize these centres. This meditation practice usually is done to the heart, third eye and crown chakra.
Gazing Meditation (Trataka) — This practice is completed by focusing on an external object, typically a flame on a candle, an image or a symbol (yantras). It is done with eyes open and closed, this is done to train the minds power of concentration and visualization. When closing your eyes you must focus on the image or object in the minds eye.
Kundalini Meditation — This is an expert level Yogic Art. The primary goal of this practice is to awaken the “kundalini energy” which lies dormant in the base chakra. The awakening of the kundalini will energize psychic centres of the body and will lead to enlightenment. There are many pitfalls novice practitioners can face, so it is recommended that this practice be done with a qualified yogi.
Kriya Yoga — This practice emphasis energization, breathing and meditation exercises taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda. This is well suited for people seeking a devotional aspect to meditation. The spiritual aspects of this yogic art makes it truly original. To learn it, you can apply to receive seal-realization lessons, free of charge.
Sound Meditation (Nada Yoga) — This meditation focuses primarily on sounds. The practice initially starts will an external stimuli in the form of sounds. Soothing sounds like a flute are recommended. This is done to quieten the mind of thoughts and focus primarily on the sounds. The practice then evolves as one hears more internal sounds within the body and mind. The goal of this art is to hear the ultimate sound (para nada), which is a sound without vibrations.
Tantra — Unlike the popular view in the West, most Tantra practices have nothing to do with ritualized sex (this was practiced by a minority of lineages). Tantra is a very rich tradition, with dozens of different contemplative practices. The text Vijnanabhairava Tantra, for instance, lists 108 “meditations”, most of them more advanced (already requiring a certain degree of stillness and mind control). Here are some examples from that text:
- Merge the mind and the senses in the interior space in the spiritual heart.
- When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
- Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
- Fix attention on the inside of the skull. Close eyes.
- Meditate on the occasion of any great delight.
- Meditate on the feeling of pain.
- Dwell on the reality which exists between pain and pleasure.
- Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
- Concentrate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
- Listen to the Anahata (heart chakra) sound.
- Listen to the sound of a musical instrument as it dies away.
- Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
- Concentrate intensely on the idea that the universe is completely void.
- Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.
Pranayama — Breathing regulation. It is not exactly meditation, but an excellent practice to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation. There are several different types of Pranayama, but the simplest and most commonly taught one is the 4-4-4-4. This means breathing in counting up to 4, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and holding empty for 4 seconds. Breathe through your nose, and let the abdomen (and not the chest) be the one that moves. Go through a few cycles like this. This regulation of breathing balances the moods and pacifies the body, and can be done anywhere.
Is It For Me? :
With all the yogic types of meditation available, you will likely find one that resonates with you. If you are a musical person Nada Yoga might appeal to you. If you like faith and spirituality, Kriya Yoga might be the best option. Kundalini and Chakra meditations should only be done with a certified yogi. The third eye meditation is one of the simplest and yields high results. Pranayama can be done by anyone and has extensive benefits.
Self-Enquiry and “I Am” Meditation
Origin and Meaning:
Self enquiry in Sanskrit means “atma vichara”. It means to investigate ones true nature and find answers to questions like, “who am i ?”. This leads to more intimate knowledge of our higher self and the state of our true being. This method was popularized the 20th-century Indian sage Ramana Maharishi (1879-1950). The modern non-duality movement (neo-advaita) is greatly inspired by this form. Many contemporary teaches employ this technique, including Mooji, Adyashanti and Eckhart Tolle.
How To Do It:
The practice itself is very simple and subtle, explaining it however may sound very abstract. Your ego (the “I”) is the centre of YOUR universe. This “I” encompasses all your thoughts, emotions, memories and perceptions. We as humans have very little understanding of this “I”. In life we often confuse the “I” with our body, mind, roles and labels. This meditation helps to strip away layers to find the higher truth of self. The object of focus is the mental thought, “Who am I?”. You must reject all verbal answers that come from asking this question and you must simply use this question as a means of focusing attention purely on the “I” or “I am”. Through practice you can find the real “I”. Your real self is pure consciousness, beyond all limitations.
Whenever thoughts/feelings arise, you ask yourself, “To whom does this arise?” or “Who is aware of _____ (anger, fear, pain, or whatever)?” The answer will be “It’s me!”. From then you ask “Who am I?”, to bring the attention back to the subjective feeling of self, of presence. It is pure existence, objectless and choice-less awareness.
Another way of explaining this practice is to just focus the mind on your feeling of being, the non-verbal “I am” that shines inside of you. Keep it pure, without association with anything you perceive.
On all other types of meditation, the “I” (yourself) is focusing on some object, internal or external, physical or mental. In self-enquiry, the “I” is focusing on itself, the subject. It is the attention turned towards its source.
There is no special position to practice, although the general suggestions about posture and environment are helpful for beginners.
Is It For me? :
This meditation is very powerful in bringing inner peace and understanding about oneself. If you have no previous experiences with meditation it may be hard to follow through with. It is recommended that you do a few guided meditations for the self-enquiry meditation.