Meditation is defined as a sustained and uninterrupted
concentration leading to a highly focused mind. Meditation begins with
concentration, which makes the mind steady. When prolonged concentration
leads to the continuous flow of the mind towards one object, this becomes
meditation. To maintain and deepen meditation, the mind must have
something on which to focus.
In ancient India meditation was a subject of deep study, research and experiment. The followers of the Samkhya philosophy developed it into an independent science of mental life. When properly concentrated on an object, the mind undergoes certain changes. These changes are the same for a particular degree of concentration whatever be the object chosen. In other words, concentration follows certain universal laws. These laws were discovered by the great yogis of ancient India. Patanjali codified and compiled them in his famous Yoga Aphorisms. These laws form the basis of upasana also.
So Shankaracharya defines meditation as "a process of unwavering application of the same thought on some object, such as a deity prescribed by the scriptures, without being interrupted by any alien thought."
Traditionally meditation was and it is still used for spiritual growth, like becoming more conscious, unfolding our inner light, love, & wisdom, becoming more aware of the guiding presence in our lives and knowing more about our true self... our Spirit.
More recently, meditation has become a valuable tool for finding a peaceful oasis of relaxation and stress relief from the demanding and fast-paced world.
Objective meditation is also known as upasana. In objective meditation, we concentrate the mind on an object. The object may be the form of a deity, light, sky, etc. or some qualities like love, compassion, strength or one's own self objectified. Consciousness is focussed on the object by an effort of will.
Subjective meditation is called nididhyasana or atma-vicara. Here there is no focussing of consciousness or effort of will. It is rather an attempt to seek the source of consciousness, to trace one's "I" back to its roots. It is a process in which the ego, instead of rushing towards objects as it constantly does, withdraws into its own original source-the atman.
In simple terms meditation means concentrating your mind to
one point or at one place, where you feel detach from the worldly affairs.
This can be achieved by various methods that depend upon from person, time
and place. There are as many methods in which one can meditate as there
are waves in the ocean. Different forms of meditation are described from
both Eastern and Western perspectives.
Taoist Meditation Methods
Taoist meditation methods have many points in common with Hindu and Buddhist systems, but the Taoist way is less abstract and far more down-to-earth than the contemplative traditions which evolved in India. The primary hallmark of Taoist meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of internal energy.
Once the meditator has 'achieved energy' (deh-chee), it can be applied to promoting health and longevity, nurturing the 'spiritual embryo' of immortality, martial arts, healing, painting and poetry, sensual self-indulgence, or whatever else the adept wishes to do with it.
The two primary guidelines in Taoist meditation are jing ('quiet, stillness, calm') and ding ('concentration, focus'). The purpose of stillness, both mental and physical, is to turn attention inwards and cut off external sensory input, thereby muzzling the "Five Thieves". Within that silent stillness, one concentrates the mind and focuses attention, usually on the breath, in order to develop what is called 'one-pointed awareness', a totally undistracted, undisturbed, undifferentiated state of mind which permits intuitive insights to arise spontaneously.
Metta Bhavana Meditations - Developing Loving Kindness
"Bhavana" means "cultivation" or "development," and "Metta" is a word that means "love," "friendliness," or "loving kindness." So this is a meditation practice where we actively cultivate some very positive emotional states towards others, as well as to ourselves.
This practice helps us to bring more harmony into our relationships with others, so that we experience less conflicts, resolve existing difficulties, and deepen our connections with people we already get on with. It helps us to empathize more, and to be more considerate, kind, and forgiving. We can also learn to appreciate others more, concentrating more on their positive qualities and less on their faults.In this meditation practice, we also cultivate Metta towards ourselves, so that we experience less internal conflict, and learn to appreciate ourselves more.
This is a great exercise to practice proper breathing. All too many of us take short and improper breaths. This is a simple way to concentrate and regain the proper breathing techniques we had naturally as an infant. In this method we stand comfortably with our spine straight and feet about shoulder distance apart, open your left hand and place the thumb on your belly button so the palm of your hand is against our lower abdomen. Now place your open right hand over your left, also palm open and over the back of your left hand. Breathe in slowly and feel this part of your lower abdomen expand, which will naturally push your hands outward with your belly. Hold the breath for four seconds and then exhale slowly and feel your lower abdomen contracting inward as the air is released. Thoughts are recognized without judgment and concentration is brought back to breath.
Vipassana which is derived from a Sanskrit word Vipasyanam means " insight". It is an analytic method which involves constant mindfulness and awareness of all experiences, good and bad. It is not a withdrawal from life but an attempt to understand life and thus enlarge one's self-awareness. The most authoritative scripture for vipassana is the Satipatthana-Sutta included in the Buddhist Tripitaka.