What are the four meditation techniques?

Each of these practices takes a slightly different approach to awareness, and they can even be used to complement each other, Mindfulness Meditation. University of Arkansas, Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP) of the United States, Germany Brain Institute, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Brazil The affiliations of the editor and reviewer are the last ones included in their Loop research profiles and may not reflect their situation at the time of the review.

What are the four meditation techniques?

Each of these practices takes a slightly different approach to awareness, and they can even be used to complement each other, Mindfulness Meditation. University of Arkansas, Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP) of the United States, Germany Brain Institute, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Brazil The affiliations of the editor and reviewer are the last ones included in their Loop research profiles and may not reflect their situation at the time of the review. Therefore, in an attempt to clarify and simplify these issues, we chose to develop a new bottom-up classification system, based on the judgments of experienced meditators. A similar approach has already been successfully employed in a study that deduced a practical definition of meditation by repeatedly asking a panel of seven experts in meditation research (Bond et al.

In the present study, we asked a large sample of experienced meditators to compare a set of diverse, but frequently practiced meditation techniques, according to the similarity of their overall effects expected on practitioners. This approach was based on recent findings that demonstrate how different meditation techniques produce different effects: phenomenologically, neuroscientifically and psychologically. Therefore, we concluded that this diversity of effects could provide a valuable means of detecting the underlying dimensions that could help structure the immense variety of meditation techniques. Next, we will give a brief description of the current state of the art.

When people talk about meditation, they're often referring to someone sitting silently with their legs crossed with their eyes closed and looking for some inner silence or truth. This may be due to the historical development of meditation and meditation research in the West (see above), but it cannot explain the immense variety of meditation practices found in different spiritual traditions.

Interestingly, especially those approaches that come from our own Western Christian context, or from related Abrahamic traditions, such as Sufi mysticism and the Jewish Merkabah, have received less attention.

. Only now, there is growing interest in a broader scientific exploration of meditation in its many forms, including rather atypical practices such as Osho's dynamic meditation (Bansal et al.

However, this broadening of the scope makes it even more difficult to find a general definition of what is actually meant by meditation. Some voices even rule out the idea of finding a definition that “fits all types of meditation” (Schmidt, 2011.Next, we will give some examples of the astonishing variety of definitions that have been presented so far). These six definitions are representative of opposing criteria of inclusion and exclusion that are considered important for labeling a meditation practice or not. Some definitions are very specific (1, 3), while others are quite broad (2, 4,.

Specific definitions may be appropriate to investigate clear research questions; however, they may not take into account the diversity of practices called “meditation”. Let's consider the Sufi whirl technique (that is,. This practice is generally considered a meditation technique aimed at “obtaining greater spiritual or experiential vision” (it is believed to train consciousness) and is a self-induced state of suspension of logical thinking processes that takes place in the context of a spiritual tradition (. However, it does not necessarily involve psychophysiological relaxation (and it does not necessarily focus on subjecting mental processes to greater voluntary control) and cannot be considered to focus on a single object or experience (.

On the other hand, very broad definitions could include various meditation techniques, but they could expand the scope too much by including practices that are not generally considered meditation techniques. However, this turns out to be a difficult question. Can dancing, prayer, CrossFit or doing the dishes with full attention be considered meditation techniques or not? Where do we draw the line? According to the definitions (, (,) and (,), almost all of the practices mentioned above would be considered meditation. However, inducing “changes” in the neurophysiology and neurochemistry of the brain (resulting in an alteration of neurocognition and behavior in the practitioner) would also be valid for experiences that involve taking hallucinatory drugs or practicing any type of sport.

It could well be that the only thing that all meditation practices have in common is the fact that they are called “meditation”. The second preparatory study (Matko et al. In an extensive online survey, 637 experienced meditators from diverse meditative backgrounds provided data on their experience with each of these 50 techniques. We found that all of the techniques were commonly used and could be grouped into seven factors.

These factors represent groups of techniques that are commonly practiced together and are correlated with the respective traditions from which they are derived, but that also encompass different traditions. In addition, we identified the 20 most popular meditation techniques that are widely practiced in many traditions (see the “Materials” section, Table. This final selection of 20 techniques formed the basis of the current study, which focused on examining the structure underlying these various techniques. These structural investigations were based on intuitive ratings of similarity of the general effects that could be expected when meditators practice these meditation techniques.

We decided to focus on general effects, because we were interested in the more general intuitions associated with these techniques. So that similarity judgments weren't too difficult (and to avoid activating textbook knowledge on meditation), we no longer discriminated against phenomenological, psychological, or behavioral effects in our research. We chose to follow a purely statistical approach in this company, rather than referring to pre-existing concepts based on traditions or theoretical approaches. On the one hand, we were interested in identifying the dimensions along which these 20 techniques could be classified and differentiated.

On the other hand, we are interested in possible groups of similar meditation techniques that could be identified within these dimensions. Dimensions and groups should form the basis of a new empirically based classification system for meditation techniques. The current study used the multidimensional scale (MDS) as a tool to discover the latent dimensions of various meditation techniques (Borg et al. In addition, the techniques of the MDS allow the researcher to produce a typology or, in our case, groups of similar techniques using the judgments of a diverse group of people who do not know the purpose of the study.

Therefore, typologies based on MDS are less prone to researcher biases than typologies developed using other methods (Robinson and Bennett, 199). Consequently, we used the MDS in our study for both media, detecting implicit dimensions and deriving groups of similar techniques. The great advantage of this method is that we can use the intuitive knowledge of experienced meditators without additional rationalizations that could occur if we ask them directly about the underlying dimensions when classifying meditation techniques. The procedures followed in this study and the results are discussed below.

The data were collected in accordance with ethical guidelines related to the use of human subjects. We designed an online survey to evaluate the 20 most popular meditation techniques identified in the two preliminary studies mentioned above (see the “Materials” section), based on their similarity as perceived by experienced meditators. The participants viewed the upper half of a matrix that listed the 20 horizontal and vertical meditation techniques. They were asked to rate the similarity of each technique on a scale from 0 (no similarity) to 10 (very high similarity).

The instruction read: “Please indicate for each of the following meditation techniques how similar they are to each other in terms of their general effects. The instruction was deliberately written in a very general way and was left open to interpretation by the participants because we were interested in detecting the general structures and intuitive typologies associated with these 20 meditation techniques. If participants didn't know a specific technique well enough to qualify it, they could enter —1 as a missing value. To control the possible effects of sequencing, the order of presentation of the 20 meditation techniques was randomly determined for a first questionnaire.

A second questionnaire was constructed with the order reversed. Each participant was randomly assigned one of the two questionnaires. Of all participants, 55.0% reported having a university degree, 18.0% had finished higher education, 8.0% had completed their doctorate and 11.0% had acquired a professional qualification. Regarding their occupation, 37.6% of the participants were employed, 28.7% were self-employed and 16.8% were retired.

Several participants had been practicing in different spiritual traditions, so the total number of traditions assigned (N %3D 24) exceeds the total number of participants (N %3D 100). These traditions could belong to a similar context, for example,. Participants were asked to rate the similarity of the 20 basic meditation techniques listed below. Table 1 shows the full description of each technique (as used in the survey), as well as the abbreviations used in the following text.

The statistical method of multidimensional scaling returns a dimensional result with potentially significant clusters, which are open to interpretation by the researcher. Therefore, we thoroughly inspected Figure 1 and arrived at the following interpretation that is described below. Dimension 1 consists of cultivating compassion and other brahmaviharas (see the footnote), contemplating a spiritual question, focusing on a contradiction or paradox, and singing sutras or mantras at one extreme. At the other extreme, they scan the body, observe the abdomen or nostrils while breathing, lying down, meditating and manipulating the breath.

Meditation techniques with a more abstract or conceptual approach received lower scores, while those with greater body orientation received higher scores. Therefore, we decided to label this dimension as “amount of body orientation”. Dimension 2 consists of sitting in silence, focusing on a contradiction or paradox, meditating while lying down and observing thoughts or emotions at one end of the spectrum, while meditation with movement, walking and observing the senses and manipulating breathing are at the other end of the spectrum. Lower scores reflect a more passive, calm and contemplative type of meditation practice, while higher scores reflect more active (corporeal) types of meditation practices.

We identified seven groups of meditation techniques through visual inspection (Figure. The largest group includes five techniques that focus primarily on observing the body, breathing, or sensory perceptions, and was called “body-centered techniques” (center on the right). It also includes focusing on places in the body or “energy centers”. Another group comprises practices that focus on consciously observing oneself in stillness and were therefore called “conscious observation”.

It includes lying down, meditating, sitting in silence, and watching your thoughts and emotions. These meditation techniques are relatively similar to the so-called “open monitoring” techniques (see the respective descriptions in the Table). Manipulating breathing, walking and observing the senses, and meditation with movement could be grouped into a larger group of “meditation with movement”. Four smaller groups were identified on the other side of the diagram, towards the more conceptual or object-oriented end.

A group comprises focusing on a contradiction or paradox and contemplating a spiritual question, and it was called “contemplation”. The second group includes visualizations and concentration on an object or a visualized object, and was called “visual concentration”. The third group includes being open to blessings and cultivating compassion, loving-kindness, compassionate joy, or equanimity, and can be seen as a set of “affection-centered techniques.”. The fourth of the smaller groups included the repetition of syllables, words or phrases, the singing of sutras or mantras, and meditation with sound, and was called “meditation with mantras”.

These two dimensions, plus the seven groups of meditation techniques, constitute our proposal for a new classification system for meditation techniques. This study arrives at a novel system for classifying meditation techniques and seems to be the first attempt conceived empirically and systematically from the bottom up. Based on the results of extensive preparatory studies (Matko et al. Therefore, our approach is unique not only in its methodology, but also in the variety of meditation techniques that were included in the analyses.

However, it is surprising that meditators implicitly classify meditation techniques according to body dimensions, although we had asked them to judge the similarity of the general effects of these techniques. We do not know if the participants judged the techniques according to similar phenomenological experiences that could occur during the practice of the specific technique or according to similar psychological outcomes after prolonged practice of the technique. It could well be that they considered one or the other, or both, or something completely different. However, we can probably assume that these diverse interpretations of the question were balanced by grouping the judgments of 100 participants.

In general, it seems that the similarity or dissimilarity of meditation techniques seems to be implicitly attributed to differences in the two incarnated dimensions mentioned above, that is,. The distinction that is commonly made between FA and OM practices could not be replicated in the present study, which confirms the considerations expressed above (Amihai and Kozhevnikov, 2011). In addition, if we look at Buddhist practices, the same meditation objects can be used both for concentrative meditation techniques (shamata) and for insightful meditation techniques (vipassana) (p. In addition, it could be said that some commonly used techniques, such as body scanning, are a mix of focused attention (in sequential movement) and open awareness.

Therefore, it may not be surprising that both OM and FA practices are shown in our model in a much more differentiated way. In addition, watching breathing can be considered a concentrating activity for novice meditators, but it can switch to a more passive and observational mode as the experience increases, or even change from concentration to receptive during the same meditation session. This would also be valid for other practices grouped together in our solution such as “body-centered meditation”, that is,. The only identifiable group of techniques with a strong concentrating focus is the group of “visual concentration” techniques.

Rather, they have a very specific visual focus (they focus on an object, such as an image or disc, or on visualization techniques). Therefore, they can be considered a very specific form of FA. In conclusion, we suggest that it might eventually be useful to discard the rather unspecific category of FA meditation and replace it with the more specific categories presented in our empirically obtained MDS solution. However, this notion needs more empirical research.

Future experimental intervention studies should assess whether the supposed differences between groups can be replicated in empirical findings. According to our model, meditation techniques that are closer to each other in the MDS solution should produce more similar effects than techniques that are further away from each other. It could be argued that the 20 techniques, which were investigated in this study, were constructed artificially and taken out of context. Traditionally, meditation techniques are practiced in a specific order, within the framework of a specific tradition, or in combination with other practices.

Observe breathing, p. ex. On the contrary, little is known about the effects of combined meditation techniques compared to simple techniques. Therefore, it seems promising to investigate and compare both techniques, simple and combined, and to see if there really are additive or interactive effects.

Another argument could be that some of the 20 meditation techniques used in this study are not simple techniques, but are already broad categories in and of themselves. For example, voluntary manipulation of breathing, visualizations or meditation with movement are conglomerates that encompass a large number of different techniques. This was our conscious choice for the sake of brevity. During our preparatory studies, we discovered a wide variety of techniques (N %3D 309, list available on request) that we had to shorten considerably for the current study, for pragmatic reasons.

This way, we ensured that the participant load during similarity ratings remained manageable. At the same time, it allowed the comparisons to be detailed enough for our analysis, incorporating a wide variety of meditation techniques. The remaining variety far exceeds the range of meditation techniques examined in previous studies. The other two broad categories mentioned above can also be very diverse.

Visualizations can focus on imagining light or fire in different parts of the body, imagining the body expanding in all directions, or merging with a visual representation of a deity (a practice typical of Tibetan Buddhism, see, p. Movement meditation includes techniques from yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, Osho meditation, and other movement-based meditation traditions. These traditions are incredibly rich in the variety of techniques they offer (Ospina et al. Like seated meditation techniques, the variety of meditation with movement seems limitless.

A complete description of meditation techniques that use movement is still lacking in the literature. Therefore, it seems that it is worth taking a closer look at these techniques and unraveling their specificities and working mechanisms. Subsequently, the researchers were able to compare movement-based meditation techniques with other basic techniques. The novel classification system presented in this article effectively described a wide range of diverse meditation techniques.

This classification system is the first to be empirically obtained when requesting expert evaluations. The dimensions represented in our classification system shed new light on previous categorizations and shift the focus from cognitive variables of interest to those incorporated. We hope that our classification system will be useful for future studies and the development of one or more profound theories of meditation. KM designed and executed the studies, analyzed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript.

PS conceptualized the studies and supervised the data analyses. Both authors worked on the final version of the manuscript. The authors state that the research was carried out in the absence of commercial or financial relationships that could be interpreted as a possible conflict of interest. A poster published at the European Summer Research Institute of the Mind %26 Life Europe, Fraueninsel.

The role of intention in a breathing-centered attention practice. Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way physical conditioning is an approach to training the body. But there are many meditation techniques, so how do you learn to meditate?. The idea here is that the subtle vibrations associated with repeating the mantra can encourage positive change, perhaps an increase in self-confidence or greater compassion for others, and help you enter an even deeper state of meditation.

In addition, the diversity of meditation techniques makes it difficult to find a comprehensive definition of meditation and to properly differentiate meditation from other mind-body practices. Mantra meditations involve repeating a word or phrase, known as a mantra, to increase focus or clarity. In guided meditation, a teacher guides you through the basic steps of the practice, either in person or through a meditation application such as Headspace. Everyone would say that their meditation style was the most effective, the easiest to maintain, and the most scientifically proven.

We suggest that all meditation techniques have a somatic component and that meditation is inherently incarnated. Guided meditations involve the use of images and visualizations, and can be very useful for those who find typical meditation techniques challenging. Mindfulness meditation is about being present in the here and now and not being distracted by thoughts about the past or focusing on the future. In unguided meditation, also called silent meditation, you meditate alone, without anyone else explaining the process to you.

However, little is known about the differential effects of specific meditation techniques, not to mention their interaction with context factors. Mantra based meditation includes Transcendental Meditation (TM), Siddha yoga, and other methods from the Vedantic tradition. .