There are many different forms of meditation in Buddhism. Some go back to the Buddha himself (and possibly further back in time than that) while others are more recent developments.
But what is meditation? Meditation is the conscious cultivation of mindfulness, positive emotion, and clear perception of the ways things are.
Meditation is not a form of prayer, in which we call upon an external agency, but a form of inner training, in which we cultivate new ways of being. In meditation we consciously cultivate positive mental habits.
The term meditation encompasses many different techniques that facilitate the the cultivation of, amongst other things, calmness, relaxation, one-pointed concentration, lovingkindness, compassion, a sense of wellbeing, and insight into the impermanent and interconnected nature of reality.
In meditating we use some object on which we direct our attention. We can use the sensations of the breath, our emotional connection with ourselves and others, the physical sensations of the body, sounds, visualized images, etc.
Buddhist meditation is broadly divided into Shamatha and Vipashyana practices. Shamatha (Pali: Samatha) practice calms the mind and helps develops one-pointed concentration and positive emotions. Vipashyana (Pali: Vipassana) practice builds on the calmness, focus, and positive emotion generated in Shamatha , and helps to develop an awareness of the impermanence, interconnectedness, and the contingent nature of our experience.
On Wildmind we follow the traditional approach of cultivating Shamatha before approaching Vipashyana. In traditional Buddhist teaching there is a great emphasis on learning to calm the mind so that we can then go on to insight practices. Generally we at Wildmind don’t teach Insight Meditation except under supervision on our online courses.
We teach the following practices on this site:
- Mindfulness of breathing, which promotes mental stillness
- Development of lovingkindness, which encourages the development of positive emotion
- Walking meditation, which helps us bring more awareness into the body and into daily activities
- Mantra meditation, which helps calm the mind and to connect us with deeper levels of inspiration
- The Six Element practice, which helps promote a sense of interconnectedness and which counteracts any sense of self-inflation we may have.
We also offer advice on meditation posture (essential to establishing an effective practice), and on our blog we have a constant output of articles on all aspects of practice as well as news on the latest developments in the world of meditation.
Meditating has been shown in clinical studies to have many medical and psychological benefits, including promoting a sense of wellbeing, boosting the immune system, promoting the development of cortical matter in the brain, and slowing aging.