I want you to imagine someone sitting with their legs neatly folded in some way, with their eyes closed, and their hands out to their sides, perhaps even chanting something. Now imagine someone crocheting. Their gaze is focused, and they aren’t easily distracted. If I were to now ask you which one was meditating, I’m sure that the (nearly) unanimous answer would be the first. And now that I’m bringing this into question, I’m sure that you’re starting to have doubts. Well, if you are, then that’s good!
Meditation is not something that is set in stone and has a certain appearance. You can’t simply look at someone and know that they are meditating. Meditation is an internal thing. It can take on a variety of external appearances. For all yogis and the yoga-informed out there, the meditation referred here is not the sixth limb of yoga, dhyana, often translated as meditation. I am talking about a much broader definition than yogic dhyana. Dhyana is a state of uninterrupted focus on an object beyond the need of the previous limb, concentration.
Did you know that you don’t even have to sit to meditate? There’s standing meditation forms (useful if you fall asleep too easily), and there’s even a form of meditative exercise (called qigong). So what is meditation then, if you can’t tell by looking, when it’s being done?
Meditation is simply intentional use of mental focus. Some people think that it is spiritually unhealthy, some people think that it definitely dangerously exposes you to spiritual influences, and some others believe that it’s simply a mental exercise that can help keep the brain young. The truth is, they’re all at least a bit true. Yes, I’m saying meditation can possibly open you up to demonic influence. But that depends on what kind of meditation you’re messing with and if you’ve taken precautions or not. It has many forms, many purposes/uses, and many benefits. In this article, I’ll give an overview of the various types of meditation, what they’re for, and how they can benefit you. I’ll also be sure to include what is safe to practice.
Here’s an overview in case you want to skip to any one in particular. 🙂
This form of meditation is easily unrecognizable considering that it can be done anytime, anywhere. All it requires is that you keep your mind focused on an idea/small set of ideas. This is also called reflection. Whatever you choose to focus on, contemplation can help bring about a shift in mental perception, which in turn would affect the way you act towards the object of change. This happens because the focus is held when the mind is being relaxed. This mental relaxation helps facilitate any shift that may come about.
For example, Maranasati is a powerful contemplative meditation on death. There’s a western equivalent called Momento Mori. The purpose of this is to help make life brighter, and perhaps put priorities into perspective. This is similar to the trick to help see better in the dark. You shut your eyes as tight as you can for several seconds and then open them as wide as you can and what was hard to see previously is suddenly much clearer.
I’d say that most uses of contemplative meditation is safe for everyone. Maranasati/Momento Mori is definitely an exception, though, as it should be avoided by those with depression or existential anxiety. Other contemplative practices are encouraged though, such as reflecting on truths or pieces of scripture. They are still quite impactful and are “safer”.
As you can guess by the sound of it, this involves visualizing different things. This can have a small variety of uses. These uses include healing, attracting, and helping build up an esp skill.
To use visualization for healing, one typically imagines light, or some other healing medium, enter into their body. This is thought to help instruct the body where to send it’s self-healing resources.
To use visualization for attraction, simply imagine what you are wanting to attract. Try to visualize as much detail as possible when doing this. I believe one way in which this works is it helps move the subconscious to initiating actions/more actions to better achieve the goal you are attracting. And the more effort you put into the detail, the deeper into the subconscious it may go.
Finally, visualization is sometimes thought to be a tool to help build the skill of remote viewing. I will go ahead and state here, as well as later on, that I do not have any experience with this. This is simply coming from what I have read, and I can’t even remember where I read it. But trying to visualize an adjacent room, or something that you were just looking at, is supposed to increase your chances of success with remote viewing. The key to this exercise here is to keep trying to incorporate more and more accurate detail.
This form of meditation is focused on sound. I enjoy Sadhguru’s analogy of mantra meditation being similar to a lock and key. Certain mantras affect certain mechanisms within oneself, and bring about certain results. A key point to be made here is the role of the mind. Remember that this is a form of meditation, meaning that it is mind-centric. The majority of cases when using a mantra out loud, it is so that you can eventually focus on the mantra on the inside. When you’re able to do that, you can drop the external mantra.
There’s another kind of sound meditation called the 6 Healing Sounds. Each sound is supposed to stimulate certain meridians in the body. Really, it’s not even the sounds themselves, but the breathing patterns used to produce the sounds. The sounds are really just training wheels. When the practitioner gets the hang of the breathing pattern, they can drop the sound and still use the 6 Healing Sounds system in adjunct to their energetic practices.
Yet another example are scripted prayers such as the Hail Mary. But this is more of a fusion between Chanting and Devotional meditation types, so more on that later.
Mindfulness is arguable the most well known form of meditation nowadays. It has many many benefits such as improvements on numerous health markers, and improvement of mental health. I believe it’s this form of meditation that also leads to the growth of gray matter on the brain in long-term meditators. My hypothesis on how this happens is that the the energy that would normally be allocated to do mental work, is instead used for healing and growth due to the burden of work being alleviated by the relaxation.
All mindfulness is, is the steady intentional focus of the mind on one or more objects. The simplest mindfulness meditation that I can think of is called mindful breathing. That is mindful meditation on the breath. In order to do this, simply pay attention to your breathing. Try to be fully aware of all the aspects of your breathing, and nothing else. When a thought pops up, just acknowledge the thought and let it be. Excessive effort in blocking thoughts only hinders the process. This is also a good time to practice self-forgiveness. That’s quite vital to the practice, because messing up is inevitable, and you have to be able to forgive yourself for messing up in order to move on. As your breathing becomes longer and more relaxed, your mind will become more relaxed too.
Mindful breathing can take you fairly deep if you allow it. There are also other forms of mindfulness. Vipassana is another step further, it’s a larger process but still pretty simplistic. It really just depends on what you are choosing to be fully aware of. It could be a single thing, a small group of things/events, or everything that you can behold at once. This type of mediation is possibly the safest to practice, and an excellent starting point in growing mental skill needed in other forms of meditation. Mindfulness is a skill that is acquired, and it can be quite difficult to gain proficiency at (especially with the commonly over-stimulated mind)!
This is an advanced form of meditation. This state of emptiness is what you would experience if all your senses were nullified. Mindfulness might be able to eventually take you to this place, and it is a stage that alchemical meditation eventually reaches (and I believe moves beyond).
In yoga practice, it’s called the fourth limb of yoga, pratyahara (sense withdrawal). In daoist practice, this is called experiencing Wuji, and it can come in stages. I’ve had a glimpse of it in a standing meditation practice called Wuji stance. I could still feel (at least parts of) my body, but the floor disappeared and it felt like all of my surrounding was yanked away. It feels like you’re floating in a vast void.
Even though other forms of meditation lead to this, the reason why it’s advanced is because people who can practice it are able to skip/jump past the previous steps.
This form of meditation takes a very technical approach. The practitioner becomes an engineer of the Self. It requires patience, diligence, and good instruction. The actual name for the kind of meditation that I’m referring to is Nei Dan (which is commonly in the west referred to Internal Alchemy). It actually translates as Internal Elixir. It’s actually seen as the pinnacle of the daoist arts.
Alchemical meditation focusing on manipulating the various energetic substances/frequencies in the body. The gist of it is that by using different parts of the body as “cauldrons” in which to cook these energies, they transform into closer versions of our original nature. It’s actually quite confusing without understanding the Chinese metaphysics, so I apologize for that. The goal is to combine the core components of our very existence to form what’s considered the Elixir Pill, which is then circulated through the body in order to free oneself from being bound to the physical plane. There are images involved in this art, but it’s important to note that they are not “imagined”. Visualization is not a part of Nei Dan, any images that appear in the mind’s eye is not a result of using the imagination.
This practice is not for the weak-willed, or the faint of heart. Some of it’s intermediate stages can be very transformative in regards to how you are as a person. It also awakens your “spiritual antennae”, which brings about increased spiritual contact. This can be a bad thing if you’re not on a solid, positive spiritual path. If you have an imbalance in the heart-mind, or you don’t have very good morals, you can end up opening yourself up to demonic influence, or even possession. Needless to say, use extreme caution when approaching this practice. Make sure you have a quality teacher.
Nei Dan is a keen interest of mine, but it’s worth mentioning that there are other forms of energetic meditation, where the main focus is manipulating the body’s energies. An example of this is meditation involving the chakras. There can be risks for various energetic practices, so make sure you do your research and find quality instruction. You generally don’t have to worry about demonic influence. The best safeguard against this is to keep your heart-mind balanced and live a moral (internally more than externally) life. It’s safe to use practices such as qigong, so long as it’s a form that has an emphasis on health, or even martial qigong. Those practices are more energetic, and less spiritual (there is a distinction between the two). Even safer still are yoga asanas, as those tend to be more physical and is generally harder to make into an energetic practice. Once again, I do encourage energetic practices, but it should be understood sufficiently before diving in.
Devotional meditation would be meditation focused on the Divine. This is what arguably gives the juice behind prayer. I would say prayer is the most common form of devotional meditation, whether they person is aware of it or not. One does not have to formally dive into a meditative state in order to be in a meditative state. This is not to say that all prayer is a meditative practice, but I will say that prayer without meditation is empty. You could even say that meditation and prayer share a similar relationship between spirituality and religion, respectively.
Prayer isn’t the only form of devotional meditation though. I’d be willing to say that devotional meditation may be the most diverse type. Any time you focus on your preferred form of the Divine (whether theistic or a-theistic), that can be considered devotional. Devotional meditation directly strengthens your connection/relationship to/with the Divine, and therefore is the most spiritually beneficial.
How to Get Started
Well, this depends on what experience you have with meditation, or how you view it. Mindfulness and contemplation are the best practices for beginners. Devotional meditation is almost a must if you want to bolster your divine relationship. If you’re open to exploration, I encourage branching out. I do recommend however that you find reliable sources of information and do your homework before looking into the more energetic practices. These practices are geared towards the inner mechanisms of our being, and should be approached with respect and a little bit of caution.
Meditation is an essential tool for developing spiritually, and it can be easy to implement. Even if there’s no time to set apart, you can still practice mindfulness and devotional meditation. So who’s for it? Why not set apart a few minutes right now and practice mindful breathing? Or perhaps contemplate on the status of our divine relationship? Or if you have to get up and do something, find some way to make it an act of service to the Divine. It’s easy to do, so why wait? Feel free to comment!