08 Dec 8: Concentrative Meditation
People ask me about the different kinds of meditation, and what they are actually supposed to do when they meditate.
There are many kinds of meditations. Broadly, they are categorized into:
1. Concentrative meditation, in which you build your single – pointed concentration.
2. Contemplative meditation, in which you contemplate on one line of thought for a very long period.
3. Witness meditation, where you simply play a spectator to your own life. You witness the coming and going of your own thoughts.
4. Spirited meditation, in which you may actually dance and drain out any negative energy stored in your body.
The focus of this article is Concentrative meditation. Concentrative meditation is the art of staying on one thought, and to help you settle your mind and still your body.
Remember that concentration can be of many types. Analytical concentration, which is what a chess player may have. Absorptive concentration, where you are deeply absorbed in some task, for example, watching a movie. A scientist working in a lab is also an example of this type of meditation. It is also called active meditation. The concentration here is one pointed.
Imagine a stream of water falling in one straight line from a height. It can even cut through the stone it is falling on, but if it is scattered like a waterfall, then it does not have the same impact.
Think of the sunlight. It is beautiful, warm and sunny, but it does not burn anything around you. If you were to pass a beam of sunlight through a little lens, and direct it at one particular point, it can create a spark, a fire. Similarly, scattered thoughts have no power. Most people are unable to accomplish what they want in their lives because they are too scattered in their minds. If you want to realize your goals and dreams, you have to attain one-pointed concentration, which would give a laser-like sharpness to your mind.
Concentrative meditation can be further divided into four types:
1. Meditating on your breath: When you meditate on your breathing, it is simply about listening to your inhalation and exhalation. Our breath is our first connection with life, with God, and with our world. So, if you just listen to your breathing, it is the best way to calm yourself down and hold a good session of meditation. For those who meditate before going to bed every night, this is one of the best meditations you can do.
2. Focusing on a sound:The sound may be a mantra, any word, sound, or even a song. When you concentrate on a sound, the key is not chanting that sound. Meditating on a mantra does not mean you chant the mantra aloud. This is because your mind gets habituated to the mantra quickly and starts thinking about a million things. At that moment, your chanting has no value whatsoever. Such chanting is useless. It is a very backward way of meditating. Do not bother with it.
Meditating with sound means you recall the sound mentally. Imagine your mind saying it or recalling it. You are not to chant it, whisper it, nor do you say it aloud in your mind. When you are feeling restless, slow down the chanting, and when you feel lazy, increase the speed. Basically, break the monotony. Remember, you are doing all this mentally.
If you are taking a break between the sessions, and you want to continue, but you cannot, feel free to speak the mantra verbally, audibly, and then go back to mental chanting. This is how you meditate on a sound.
3. Meditating on a form of your choice: Meditating on a form is not the same as gazing at a form. That is not meditation. There is a different word for it – Trataka. Trataka is when you maintain your external concentration on one object. This is a yogic exercise.
When you are meditating on a form, look at the form, visualize it, and behold the form. Then, close your eyes, and behold the same form in your inner eye. You will experience that the form in your mental eye fades away within a few seconds. You will lose the sharpness and clarity.
A good meditator will be able to hold that form for any length of time; between five to twenty five minutes. The longer you can behold the form, the superior the quality of your concentration. When the form fades away, do not worry, do not react, do not feel guilty or bad; simply, refresh your visualization. This may involve opening your eyes, looking at the form again, and closing your eyes or taking a deep breath. It may be any method that works for you.
4. Meditating on the formless: You may ask, how can one meditate on something that has no form? Meditation on the formless, leads to an expansion of the consciousness, because you are pretty much meditating on the whole universe. In this method, you do not have to visualize anything. You simply sit in a state of thoughtlessness. It comes with a great deal of practice. It is not easy. It is the hardest meditation of the four. That is not to say that you cannot start with this one; You can. All you have to do is not pursue a thought when it arises. It is not witness meditation, either. In witness meditation, you become a witness to your own thoughts. Here, you sit in your most natural state and achieve a perfect balance with a combination of exertion and relaxation. This is a supernatural state of ultimate bliss and thoughtlessness.
One way to build thoughtlessness is with mindfulness. To be mindful, ask yourself the questions, ” What am I doing right now? ” and “What should I be doing right now? “
When you are thoughtless, you will be smiling naturally. Try it any day!
This article is part 8 of Learn to Meditate series, and is transcribed from the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWdO1by3hf0&feature=emb_title
Read Part 7: Secret of Good Meditation – Black Lotus , Part 9: Contemplative Meditation – Black Lotus