How to Choose a Meditation

Of course, the true “leben positiv verändern mind” finds reason to smile from within and is said to be unfazed by such spacetime frivolities as cultural trends, but surely the “enlightened” among us, whoever they are, must be encouraged that meditative practices are being taken up in boardrooms of corporate America, taught at YMCAs, introduced to schoolchildren around the world and even advocated within the military.

Mindfulness, Zen, the Transcendental achtsamkeit für anfänger technique and many other practices have become household words. Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific research studies have demonstrated the efficacy of meditation for improving health, preventing disease, accelerating personal growth and even reversal of aging.

But with so many different methods of achtsamkeit kurs available, how does one choose a suitable, effective meditation technique for oneself or one’s family? Here are some timesaving tips from a longtime meditator and 35-year meditation teacher to help you evaluate which meditation might be best for you.

Meditation techniques are not all the same!
The first step is to recognize that not all meditation techniques are the same. The various meditation practices engage the mind in different ways. Vipassna, also commonly (and perhaps loosely) known as mindfulness meditation, emphasizes dispassionate observation and, in its more philosophical form, the contemplation of impermanence, sometimes focusing on the interconnection between mind and body. Zen Buddhist practices are likely to use concentration, whether directed at one’s breath or at trying to grasp a Zen koan. The Transcendental Meditation technique uses effortless attention to experience subtle states of thought and ‘transcend’ by use of a specialized mantra. Christian Centering Prayer uses a word of worship to stimulate receptiveness to God. And this is only a small sampling of the variety of practices commonly lumped together as ‘meditation.’

Different techniques have different aims, employ a variety of procedures and naturally produce different results. In determining which technique among this wide variety of practices might best suit your purposes, start by asking yourself what you want out of meditation, and how much time you’re willing to give it. Some meditation programs emphasize regular or twice-daily practice over time to gain maximum benefit and evolve to higher stages of personal growth, while other practices are intended for an occasional inspirational boost or to chill when you’re stressed.

Another question to ask yourself: do you want a meditation practice that comes with a religion, philosophy or way of life? Many practices, such as Buddhist and Taoist practices, are interwoven into a conceptual world view that’s an intricate part of the practice-whether it’s an approach that contemplates the cosmos and human mind as inseparable elements of a single order, or a world view that strives to get beyond all dogma and see the world as it truly is, it’s still another mentally conceived world view. Other practices, such as the form of mindfulness meditation now popular in the West, or the Transcendental Meditation technique, are secular in nature and can be practiced without embracing any particular philosophy, religion or way of life.

Are you seeking to achieve inspiration and insights during the meditation experience? Meditations that fall into this category are contemplative techniques. They promise greater depth of understanding about the topic being contemplated and help the intellect fathom various avenues of thought. These types of meditations can be pleasant and emotionally uplifting, especially if there is no straining or mind control involved. Often these practices are performed with the guidance of a CD, instructor or derived from a book.

A scientific approach:
Are you looking for a certain health benefit, such as decreased anxiety or lower blood pressure? Though proponents of most meditation practices claim health benefits, frequently these claims of benefit cite scientific research that was actually conducted on other forms of meditation, and not on the practice being promoted. Yet research has clearly shown that not all meditations give the same results.[1] If you’re choosing a meditation for a specific health benefit, check the research being used and verify that a particular benefit was actually done on that specific meditation technique and not on some other practice. While you are looking into the research, be sure the study was peer-reviewed and published in a reputable scientific or academic journal. If a study showing a specific benefit-such as deep relaxation or reduced anxiety-was replicated by several other research studies on that same practice, then the science is more compelling.

When it comes to reducing stress and anxiety, scientists have again found that all meditation practices are not equally effective. Practices that employ concentration have been found to actually increase anxiety, and the same meta-study found that most meditation techniques are no more effective than a placebo at reducing anxiety.[2]

Need meditation to lower your blood pressure? The Transcendental Meditation technique is the only mind/body practice that has been shown both in independent clinical trials and meta-analyses to significantly lower high blood pressure in hypertensive patients.[3] To determine if a particular form of meditation has scientific evidence supporting a specific benefit, you can do a search at PubMed or through Google’s academic search engine, Google Scholar. There are over a thousand peer-reviewed studies on the various forms of meditation, with the Transcendental Meditation technique and mindfulness meditation being the most extensively researched practices,

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