The four types of meditationA useful way of understanding the diversity of meditation practices is to think of the different types of meditation.
These practices are known as:
ConcentrationIf you focus your attention on an object it gradually becomes
calmer and more concentrated.
In principle, any object will do - a sound, a visual image such
as a candle flame, or a physical sensation.
In the tantric Buddhism of Tibet and elsewhere, meditators
visualise complex images of Buddha forms and recite sacred
sounds or mantras (in fact these images and sounds have
significance beyond simply being objects of concentration).
But the most common and basic object of concentrative
meditation is to focus on the naturally calming physical process of the breath.
GenerativeAn example of a 'generative' practice is the 'development
of loving kindness' meditation (metta bhavana). This helps
the person meditating to develop an attitude of loving kindness
using memory, imagination and awareness of bodily sensations.
In the first stage you feel metta for yourself with the help of an
image like golden light or phrases such as 'may I be well and happy
, may I progress.'
In the second stage you think of a good friend and, using an image,
a phrase, or simply the feeling of love, you develop metta towards them.
In the third stage metta is directed towards someone you do not
particularly like or dislike.
In the mindfulness of breathing or the metta bhavana meditation practice
, a balance needs to be struck between consciously guiding attention and
This attitude of open receptive attention is the emphasis of the receptive type
of meditation practice.
Sometimes such practices are simply concerned with being mindful.
In zazen or 'just sitting' practice from the Japanese Zen tradition,
one sits calmly, aware of what is happening in one's experience
without judging, fantasising or trying to change things.
Reflective meditation involves repeatedly turning your
attention to a theme but being open to whatever arises
from the experience.
Reflective practices in Buddhism include meditations
on impermanence and interconnectedness as well as
faith enhancing practices such as meditation on the qualities of the Buddha.