By Amy Underdown, London, UK
A lot of Buddhist learning and teaching is achieved through meditation. The Buddha himself reached the state of enlightenment via the practice of meditation, which is why he is so popularly depicted in a meditative state and why the practice is so crucial to Buddhism as a whole. The ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation is to overcome afflictions (kleshas) and clinging and craving to the material world (Upādāna). The liberation from these things is often referred to as ‘awakening’, whereby an individual reaches Nirvana.
There are different meditation techniques to overcome these obstacles and thus reach a state of Nirvana. There are many diverse opinions on the ‘right’ way to meditate across different schools of thought, but all techniques are united by their aims which are to achieve tranquillity, insight and mindfulness. We’ve put together a few different techniques to get you started in your meditation journey.
- Focused meditation
As the name might suggest, focused meditation involves focusing intently on something, using any of the five senses. This ‘something’ could be your own breathing, the sounds around you, or something physical in your meditation space.
Don’t be put off if you struggle at first – it can be challenging for beginners to focus on something for long stretches of time. But practice makes perfect!
- Mindfulness meditation
This type of meditation originates from Buddhist teachings – it's the technique and style that we most readily associate with the practice of meditation. Mindfulness meditation centres around the idea that we are trying to find clarity in our minds, by taking a step back and looking at our own thoughts from a distance.
It’s said that it can be useful to have an object to focus on during mindfulness meditation, such as a Buddha statue or artefact, in order to create that distance, whilst simultaneously remaining focused.
- Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation revolves around the repetitive chanting of mantras which, over time, can allow you to experience deep levels of awareness of your surroundings. This technique is a good choice for those who struggle with keeping focused in silence.
- Loving-kindness meditation
This kind of meditation is ideal for those holding onto grudges, or feelings or resentment as it is about channelling more positive thoughts onto others, which in turn encourages feelings of acceptance to oneself. This is practiced by giving love and thought to all living things.
- Movement meditation
It’s easy to think that meditation means you must be sat still, but there is truly no ‘right’ way to meditate. Yoga might spring to mind, but there are lots of other forms of movement meditation, such as tai chi, or simply going on a long walk.
If you’re just getting started with your practice of meditation, and aren’t sure where to start, read our blog on the Buddha’s different poses and hand positions. This will give you a starting point as to how to focus your meditation on your end goals, and how to build your meditative space!