Meditation has a history that seems to be as long as the history of humans looking for ways to better deal with life's problems. Meditation is a way to find peace almost anywhere, this peace then allows the meditator to look at his life with a calmer and often different sense. Actually, there are as many different forms of meditation as there are people who follow a practice, for each of us makes the practice we use our own by subtle changes in the way we do it, even though we think we are following the way we were taught or learned.
“Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or as an end in itself.
“The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports) that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force (qi, ki, prana, etc.) and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.” ( see Wikipedia, "Meditation")
In an article in Huffington Post, Jeanne Ball finds that scientific study of mediation has divided meditation in three categories:
• Controlled focus: Classic examples of concentration or controlled focus are found in the revered traditions of Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Qiqong, Yoga and Vedanta, though many methods involve attempts to control or direct the mind. Attention is focused on an object of meditation--such as one's breath, an idea or image, or an emotion. Brain waves recorded during these practices are typically in the gamma frequency (20-50 Hz), seen whenever you concentrate or during "active" cognitive processing.
• Open monitoring: These mindfulness type practices, common in Vipassana and Zazen, involve watching or actively paying attention to experiences--without judging, reacting or holding on. Open monitoring gives rise to frontal theta (4-8 Hz), an
EEG pattern commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts.
• Automatic self-transcending: This category describes practices designed to go beyond their own mental activity--enabling the mind to spontaneously transcend the process of meditation itself. Whereas concentration and open monitoring require degrees of effort or directed focus to sustain the activity of meditation, this approach is effortless because there is no attempt to direct attention--no controlled cognitive processing. An example is the Transcendental Meditation technique. The EEG pattern of this category is frontal alpha coherence, associated
( see: Huffington Post )
Presented below only a few methods are mentioned, a search of the web will find many many more:
(The intention here is to give a short introduction to some types of meditation and not to provide detailed instructions.)
Object focused meditation:
If using a physical object;
To start, the meditator selects a small personal object to be the focus of the meditation. Having done so the person examines the object with all suitable senses. As ones mind wanders, as it will when starting, one gently brings the focus back to the object.
For a non-physical object focus;
This would be using a word, a mantra, or simple the flow of the breath.
Find interesting articles on the form by doing a web search for “meditation on an object’.
This is simply an exercise of paying full and singular attention to our own thoughts and feelings. But describing mindfulness mediation in that way, while accurate, hides the challenge such a practice entails. Thought and feelings that come to mind are not to be judged, each is only to be observed.
This form of meditation has, in recent times often, been taught in place of business, with the goal of reducing mental and physical tension of the practitioner. There many many studies that have shown the mental and physical benefits of this practice. It is even possible to apply mindfulness in ones daily life. Doing this will enrich ones daily life.
Some resources are:
Here is a 3 step method to mindfulness. (There are further links within & following the article.)
Thich Nhat Hanh gives a very pleasant description of what he sees as the way to do such a meditation.
Finally, here is a paper that is very detailed as what what happens to the person doing a walking meditation, but also explains some of the “The Benefits of Walking Meditation“.
There is one form of walking meditation that has a long history in the west, that is walking a labyrinth. A labyrinth is not the same as a maze which is meant to confuse the person in the maze. A labyrinth has a single path, though circuitous, it does end in the center. Here is a short introduction to labyrinths:
“One might ask, "What is a labyrinth?" A labyrinth is an interfaith, universal meditation and prayer tool. It is a single path that leads to the center. To exit, one simply retraces one's steps back to the entrance. This can be a metaphor for one's own spiritual journey. Going in represents a retreat from the physical world, the center symbolizes solitude with God, and the outward journey is a recommitment to action. It can be a simple walking meditation, or unspoken body prayer that uses body, mind and spirit. Unlike traditional meditation (immobile) the physical act of of walking helps to still the mind.
"Why walk the labyrinth?"
One can walk the labyrinth in times of joy, in times of sorrow, for healing, for when one is seeking hope.
One can seek release of cares and concerns.
One can walk it to receive clarity about one's life, to help make a decision.
It can be a tool for celebration and thanks.
One can make it personal to one's unique situation.” (Thea Sagen)
To dig deeper into labyrinths see;
"The Sacred Labyrinth Walk; Illuminating the Inner Path"
Dr George Sheehan of fitness.running, a YouTube talk.
Here are two links that give information of research that has been done to find the benefits of mediation:
Does Short-Term Meditation Work? Here's What New Research Found
Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice
Owen Roberts has a different view of "The Many Benefits of Meditation"