1. Types of Meditation
2. Elements of Vipassana
3. Meditation Posture
1. WHAT TYPE OF MEDITATION DO WE TEACH?
There are many styles and types of meditation. They can be classified on a continuum
of concentration and open awareness. At one extreme are forms of meditation in which
attention is one-pointedly focused on something, such as a visualization or a sound.
At the other extreme are forms of meditation in which the mind is wide open and there is
no specific object of concentration. Most forms of meditation fall somewhere between these
two extremes. Generally, a meditator begins by learning a degree of concentration and then
gradually begins to relax into open awareness.
Our group classes emphasize Vipassana, which involves a balance between concentration
and open awareness. We also teach Metta, which is a meditation on loving-kindness, and
the Body Scan, which is an exercise taught at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
Stress Reduction Clinic.
As we teach Vipassana, it combines two elements, concentration and open-awareness.
For beginners the focus initially is on concentration, in order to ground and stabilize
the attention. Concentration involves narrowing the focus of attention and maintaining
it on an object. The object can be a sound, a mental image, an external object, or
a physical sensation.
The most common object of concentration is the breath. There are several advantages
to concentrating on the breath:
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON MEDITATION:
Meditation is a method to train the mind and open the heart. Individuals with different motivations and character types, who are at various stages
of their life quest, can use meditation for a variety of purposes, from simple relaxation,
to developing concentration, to seeing the truth of their interdependence with all things. Meditation can be used within the context of a specific religious belief, if that is the
propensity of the individual. Or it can be adopted without any specific religious
orientation. Meditation supports the development of a good heart and an authentic and truthful life.
Therefore, it supports the development of an inner quality of kindness, but does not
encourage the superficial adoption of a false "niceness." It does not prescribe any
commandments to choose a particular lifestyle around diet, sexuality, politics, etc.
Meditation does not mean having to give up television, swear off junk food, lose weight, or quit smoking, even though those actions may be desirable for other reasons.
It does not encourage nor discourage tattoos, piercings, coloring your hair, or
any of a myriad of signifiers. It doesn't encourage mindless conformity nor mindless
non-conformity It is not something just for young people or older people. It goes much
deeper than this. Meditation does encourage individuals to be conscious of their choices and to honor
the intention to "do no harm," recognizing the limitations of the human situation.
Vipassanâ (Pâli) or vipaúyanâ (विपश्यना) in (Sanskrit) means "insight" and is often referred to by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as simply "insight meditation". While it is a type of Buddhist meditation as taught by the Buddha, it is essentially non-sectarian in character and has universal application. One need not convert to Buddhism to practice vipassanâ meditation. While the meditation practices themselves vary from school to school, the underlying principle is the investigation of phenomena as they manifest in the four Foundations of Mindfulness highlighted in the Satipatthana sutta; namely: Kaya - Body (or breath), Vedana feeling, Citta - Mind, and Dhamma - Mind objects. These phenomena differ from the Khandas — aggregates — because the Citta factor is not connected to any aggregate, as it is the basic mood of the Mind-Body aggregate, while the Dhamma encompasses all mind objects, i.e., the Vinnana, Sanna and Sankhara aggregates, and also all mind objects that are not a fruit of kamma such as, for example, the Four Noble Truths.
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