Despite Buddhism technically being a religion, it’s meditation practise is based firmly in reality.
Rather than trying to enter a mystical trance, contact angels or other supernatural entities, Buddhist meditation aims at gaining insights into the true nature of reality and the working of our minds.
Viewing the body and mind as a single entity, Buddhist try to avoid what they call ‘duality’ by incorporating both qualities into their practice.
In its simplest form, Buddhist meditation aims to take control of both the mind and body, to become focused and at peace to point where they can awaken their awareness.
The purpose of this is to stop the erratic and uncontrolled stream of consciousness that we generally experience in our day to day life.
Once we can properly observe and become aware of our thoughts, we can exert some control over them, rather than allowing them to control us.
To get an idea of the way Buddhist meditate, here are three techniques with examples from MindEasy, so you can try for yourself.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Metta, or ‘lovingkindness meditation’ is a popular technique within Buddhism.
To get the mind settled and receptive, the practice typically begins with Mindfulness of Breathing.
The meditation then uses sets of phrases to wish for lovingkindness, compassion, joy or equanimity towards ourselves and then others.
Traditionally the aim is to include yourself, somebody you love, somebody you feel neutral towards, somebody you have some feeling of animosity towards and then all living creatures and beings.
Some commonly used phrases would be;
“May I cherish myself and others freely.” Or “May all living creatures be secure, happy and peaceful.”
The effect of this meditation will leave you radiating love and kindness and is a great compassionate exercise for people looking to create a deeper connection themselves and those around them.
Shamatha (Mindfulness of Breathing) is a popular Buddhist exercise that concentrates on developing equanimity, calmness, and clarity.
With the right direction and commitment, these qualities’ development can eventually lead to profound inner peace.
Traditionally practised in conjuncture to vipassana (sometimes referred to as insight meditation) it aims to help us understand the nature of impermanence and how to react to it.
Anybody can practice Mindfulness of Breathing, and it is not faith-based in any way.
The foundation of shamatha, or mindfulness meditation, is as follows:
- Find a comfortable position that allows you to keep you back straight and is easy to breathe in.
- Be aware of your natural breath, as it comes in and out of your nose, trying not forming it anyway. Observe the place where it makes contact with your inner or outer nose.
- Take notice of the thoughts that enter your mind. Once you realise that you’ve become engaged with a thought, note it and let it go.
Vipassana is one of the oldest forms of meditation, supposedly taught by the Buddha himself.
Vipassana uses a body scan to focus on bodily sensation and then uses those arising and disappearing sensations to gain insight into the nature of impermanence.
By observing the impermanence of both positive and negative sensations within our bodies, we can teach ourselves how to react to the world around us without craving or aversion.
Vipassana has become extremely popular in the west since SN Goenka, a Burmese businessman whose life was changed after learning the technique endeavoured to open Vipassana centres worldwide.