Meditation alone is not attached to a religion or any particular practice. It is an exercise to change the way the mind is working consciously. Meditation is used as a way of self-development to gain control over one's acts. It also has therapeutic applications.
Buddhist practice uses meditation as the way to connect to our inner self to look for enlightenment and reach the Nirvana. For Buddhism, the Nirvana is the state of liberty where you reach the perfect freedom, happiness, quietude and realization.
Meditation and Buddhist practices are closed related. More and more meditation practices are taking Buddhism principles to improve their techniques and reach mindfulness. In the following lines, we will explore four different types of modern meditation techniques and how they are related to Buddhism in the contemporary world.
In Buddhist practices, reflective meditation is related to the temporariness and how everything is connected. It also is used as part of their improving practice of faith. For faith practices, the concentration is led towards Buddha's qualities. To try to emulate them is part of the meditation process.
For reflective meditation alone, the practice is diverse. At first, you should be concentrating on a particular theme, but as the experience continues, it can lead to other paths. The whole experience should be freely practiced, and the learning comes from the ground covered in the meditation state.
The Metta Bhavana practice is related to breathing techniques. The whole point of being receptive is to realize the right balance to guide the experience and still perceiving what is imposing through the process.
There is a tradition called Dzogchen which comes from Tibetan practitioners. It is the perfect example of receptive meditation. Unlike other meditation techniques, the person should sit with open eyes. The whole point is to set calm, while you are aware of what is happening around you. The challenge is to stay still, not just the body, but also the mind. A receptive meditation is about knowing all that happens around you but not judging or interferes, even in your thoughts.
The Tibetan technique is meant to get awareness of the present moment, and how the meditator is closely connected to it. It is supposed to understand the implication of just being.
Modern receptive meditations use these practices to gain awareness of the surroundings. Although most people generally chooses a peaceful and quiet landscape for receptive meditation to connect with nature, it can be practiced under any circumstances.
Tonglen, Metta Sutta, and Metta Bhavana are some examples of Generative Meditation on Buddhist tradition. They are all related to love, suffering, and compassion.
Tonglen practice is specifically intended to develop breathing techniques. Breathing in is related to feel the suffering of others. Breathing out is intended to purify the white light. It is a complete cycle to cultivate kindness and empathy with others. Tonglen techniques are mostly practiced in the Tibet area, but the principle has extended to other places recently.
The Metta Sutta is a meditation practice based on one of the Buddhist discourses contained in the Pali Canon. It refers to how a mother has a limitless heart to protect the life of her only child. As the loving mother, one should develop goodwill for everything. A great heart is an ultimate goal to emulate the mother of the story.
The Metta Bhavana uses the imagination to cultivate an attitude of affectionate compassion. To become aware of the body impressions is part of the process to gain compassion. It is a process that contains five phases. During the first phase, you have to pick an image or phrase. It should be a positive statement to repeat like a mantra. The Metta is repeated towards yourself. Then, it is the turn to share good feelings with a friend. Again, a loving phrase or image should be repeated towards that friend. Up to here, it is an easy and straightforward process.
The third phase of Metta Bhavana requires further efforts. You are mean to think of some random people you have no particular feelings. Again, you have to think of a phrase or image to send towards this person. After successfully sending good will to a neutral person, you have to think of someone you dislike for the fourth phase. As harsh as it looks at first, you have to send him good will. It has to come honestly from the bottom of your heart. On the fifth and last phase, you close up the cycle thinking of good feelings for the four people you've to think of before. First are you, then your friend, then the neutral people and at last the person you dislike.
The whole process of Metta Bhavana will help to develop a kind attitude. The generation of good feelings for everyone is the base of this sort of meditation. Modern practitioners use Generative Meditation to heal psychological pains. The process of forgiveness is endured through meditation until people can honestly get peace of mind.
Concentrative meditation is the most common meditation type. Tantric Buddhist practices around the world can be classified as concentrative meditation.
For purely Buddhist practices, concentration is meant to see Buddha images. The forms get more complex as the practiceer advances. While viewing the images, there are mantras and other sacred sounds to repeat continuously.
Buddhists give a deep and special meaning to the combination of Buddha's images and mantras. They are beyond an object of concentration. Depending on the purpose, meditation can lead to different states of mind. The objective is to reach Dhyana.
The non-Buddhist practitioners use concentrative meditation to calm down and get a concentrated state. The most common object to focus is breath. By concentrating on our breathing process, it is easier to relax and get control of the body and mind. After becoming conscious of the breathing process, you have to focus on everything surrounding your breathing. The sensations of the air filling your lungs and leaving your body are next. To focus your attention can lead to deep concentration states.