Meditation is a discipline that is intended to quiet the thinking mind in order to develop relaxation and awareness. It has been practiced worldwide for thousands of years, with many of its roots in Eastern religions and philosophy. Buddhism and Hinduism have many teachings that incorporate meditation to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Judaism, Christianity and Catholicism also use different types of meditation through prayer. There are many different types of meditation instruction, such as breathing techniques, guided imagery, mantra meditation, chakra meditation and focusing on objects.
Breathing meditation instruction techniques usually are considered the most simple and easy for beginning practitioners. They focus on the awareness of breathing as a way to silence the chattering thoughts in the mind. This can be done by counting the inhalations and exhalations or by focusing on the movement of the breath. Examples of the moving breath technique are inhaling into the left nostril and exhaling through the right nostril or focusing the breath on a specific area of the body, which also can be used in healing meditations.
Guided imagery meditation instruction typically utilizes a script read by a person other than the meditating practitioner. It takes the practitioner on an internal journey using relaxation and creative visualization. This type is sometimes used in hypnosis and pain management techniques. It can be practiced in different ways, such as by visualizing a peaceful location to aid in stress relief or by revisiting a traumatic experience in order to heal emotional wounds.
Mantra meditation instruction usually refers to using a repetitive sound vibration to quiet the mind and open the heart to achieve a higher level of consciousness. Sometimes bells and prayer bowls are used along with a verbal mantra such as “love” or “Om.” The belief behind this type of meditation practice is that certain tone vibrations can have a physically, mentally and spiritually healing effect.
Concentrating on the different chakras is another form of meditation instruction. There are seven main chakras, or subtle energy centers, in the body, and many forms of yoga use them during the physical and meditation, or savasana, parts of the practice. They usually are guided meditations, and practitioners focus the breath and mind on the corresponding chakra areas using their specific color properties and visualization. For example, when a person is meditating on the heart chakra, he or she would focus energy in the center of the chest and visualize a green spinning wheel over the area.
More advanced meditation instruction sometimes uses an open-eyed focus on objects. Candles commonly are used, and the practitioner tries to clear the mind while gazing into the flame of a candle for an extended period of time. The goal is to follow the fire but keep the focus on the quality of the observation, not allowing the mind to wander. It usually does not matter what the object is, because the practice is simply meant to build awareness and alertness.