Three Types of Mindfulness every Meditator Should Know!
Walking in the midst of 2019, I’m sure that, by now, you’ve become aware that meditation is becoming the next big thing. I bet that, according to the people you know (who do yoga), meditating is beneficial for all areas of life, and it’s making its way through the world in an increasingly fast pace.
If you’re someone who’s been skeptical about beginning, I’m sure you looked for information online or sifted through some mindfulness books, and undoubtedly, you must have realized that there are so many different ways of meditating. It’s clear that there are at least hundreds of meditation techniques, and from the beginner’s range to the advanced yogi lifestyle, there is definitely some conflicting instructions.
Maybe you thought you wanted to start, but due to the exceeding amounts of advice and opinions, you’re stuck wondering which way is best for you.
This short guided article will help you identify and navigate the different practices of meditation; briefly describing each of them, how they work, and they’re set of benefits. There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of types of meditation that exist, so let’s unveil the most important ones.
EXPERTS IN MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION TYPICALLY CLASSIFY MEDITATION IN THREE MAIN CATEGORIES: FOCUSED ATTENTION, OPEN EXPLORATION, AND EFFORTLESS PRESENCE.
Having learned those three things, you now have the absolute fundamental knowledge to put down your device, and begin your journey.
These three categories are all that you will need with you to understand the vital laws of meditation. Anything beyond this point is meant to guide you towards the detailed mastery of any kind of meditation you will try, over the course of your exploration.
FOCUSED ATTENTION MEDITATION
So, what is “focused attention meditation”? Surely, you’ll find the basic definition of it, in the title, itself. So, this simple, yet extremely difficult practice, requires the absolute concentration and full attention on a specific subject (or object) during the entire meditation session.
The focal point can easily be the breath, a mantra (phrase that you consciously recite), visualization, parts of the body, even an external object, or any topic of your choice.
At the very root (beginning) of your practice, focused attention meditation can be extremely difficult. We live in a high-pace and (very) low attention span world, where the average extent of focus, for children and adults between the ages of 12-35, lies within the 6-7 second range, before something new pops into their head.
Some of us can focus for a few minutes at a time, while others can even focus for a few hours; depending on how engaged they are in the activity.
As you will begin to advance, your ability to keep the flow of attention on a chosen subject will get stronger and more prolonged, and your capacity to be distracted will become less common and short-lived.
With practice, both, the depth and steadiness of your focus will develop. You will acquire the capacity to recognize and let go of any sensory or emotional distractions, and ultimately (with advanced practice) things that once seemed to trigger or bother you, will do so much less than they had when you started.
Examples of Focused Attention mediation are as such: Buddhist meditation, some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Breath-count Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others.
OPEN EXPLORATION MEDITATION
In another form of meditation, in which we call the “Open Exploration,” you will, instead of focusing the attention on one specific object, keep your meditation widely open, monitoring all aspects of your experience, without judgment or attachment.
This type of mediation can easily be called a state of “Mindfulness,” in which we practice watching our thoughts without clinging to them. It also goes under the names “open monitoring,” or “open awareness.” It serves to teach you, over time, how to allow the unending flow of thoughts pass through you, without getting stuck on specific ideas. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of your mind from moment to moment, without going into them.
This is a very powerful practice. It can start off as difficult for those who have overly active minds or who are prone to sticking to certain thoughts and idea patterns. But in an open exploration meditation, all perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memories, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are and not interfered by what we perceive them to be.
It is an ongoing process of witnessing and letting go. But in truth, some forms of contemplation are also beneficial in the “open-exploration” meditation. When one picks a certain topic and explores the idea without bonding their focus to the specific subject, it allows the total freedom of studying or examining a particular set of thoughts, without the rigidity of any expectations or judgments. You are entirely unrestricted to contemplate the topics you’re curious about and observe the answers you find.
Examples of the open-exploration meditation are as such: Mindfulness meditation, vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation.
Effortless Presence is the optimal state of being, where the attention is not focused on anything in particular, but reposes on itself – quiet and empty. It can also be called “Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”. Most of the types of meditation you hear of speak of this state.
This is actually the true purpose of meditation. It’s not even a meditation. It rests on the goal of complete inner stillness.
All other formal techniques of meditation are just a means to train the mind, so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be attained. Eventually, both the object of focus and the process itself are left behind, and there is only left the true state of being, known as “pure presence,” and/or “effortless awareness.”
In some techniques, this is the only focus. But ultimately, in all practices, this is the goal; to reach the highest state of effortless being, and sit completely and quietly in the distant seat of pure consciousness.
This type of meditation will strive for unconditional neutrality and the deepening of each space between consciousness and the rest of your being. We aim to feel the awareness behind whatever thoughts pass through our mind. And ultimately, as you progress, you will stop holding on those passing thoughts and, instead, rest in the awareness that is behind your internal chatter, your fundamental true nature. With enough practice, you will begin to settle into the state of simply being the awareness. This is the goal.
With that being said, although the techniques from the “effortless presence” stretch into each practice of meditation altogether, examples of the “pure awareness” meditation are: the Self- Enquiry (“I am” meditation); certain types of Tibetan tantric traditions, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, some forms of Taoist Meditation, and some advanced forms of advanced Raja Yoga.
We briefly described the three main types of meditations. The articles should have given you a broad idea of the true purpose of meditation, and how these three types are brought together to become the base for every meditation. We expressed the value of practicing focused meditation and the importance of working through our sensory distractions, with the goal of ultimately focusing our attention for prolonged periods of time. We also described the few examples and forms of open exploration meditation, in which we established that detachment and non-judgment are of the highest essence. The open awareness meditation ventures into the mind to witness, observe, and/or contemplate our thoughts without any form of clinging to the contents of the mind. This meditation goes hand-in-hand with the focused attention meditation, as we use the virtue of letting go of distractions and combining it with the practice of detachment from the open awareness meditation.
Lastly, we explored the concept of Effortless presence. We determined that this form of mindfulness is the ultimate goal of meditation. It aims to combine the ethics of, both, focused attention meditation and the open exploration. The goal of Pure Awareness is to completely detach the mind and its contents from the consciousness, and master the art of centered attention, with the result of reaching a state of internal emptiness and infinite space. The practice goes beyond the human condition of being, and dives deep into the consciousness, stripping the senses of all distractions, and attaining a state of unconditional awareness.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please stay tuned for the full e-book.
In this new series, we dive deeper into the specific practices of meditation; bringing awareness to the various techniques and traditions of meditation that are mastered across the globe. By breaking down the extensive details that make up each practice, we’ll also explain the origins, meanings, benefits, and steps to accomplish each form of meditation. With each practice we introduce, we’ll describe the how-tos and why-yous of each form – establishing the various ways of practicing and what types of people they work best for.