Frequently asked questions

Meditation FAQ

What is meditation?

A definition I like to use is, “Meditation is an activity involving the cultivation of mindfulness and the application of techniques to change ourselves in order that we become more fulfilled and more able to see things as they really are.”

Meditation is about becoming more fulfilled, but also has the function of helping us to more clearly understand the nature of the world we live in. These two goals are really the same, since we can’t be fulfilled if we have serious misunderstandings about life. In particular we have to learn what conditions (actions, thoughts, etc.) give rise to happiness and which to unhappiness.

Meditation gives us tools to quiet the mind so that we can become more aware of the mental processes that lead to greater fulfillment. It also offers us tools to change our mental states so that we become happier.

Do you have to be a Buddhist to do Buddhist meditation?

No. You don’t have to adopt any religious belief system in order to do the meditation practices that we teach here.

Can anyone meditate?

Pretty much. People who have experienced schizophrenia should be cautious about taking up meditation, and although meditation can help with depression I wouldn’t advise anyone to start meditating while they are feeling profoundly depressed (they should wait until they’re feeling more balanced).

Apart from that. I think just about anyone can learn to meditate. Those who get least from meditation are usually those who want instant results. Meditation is like going to the gym — you have to actually do the work to get the benefits. Let go of that quick-fix mentality and accept that some changes take time, and you’ll find your meditation practice will be very helpful.

Can meditation help with stress?

Meditation is a particularly effective way of dealing with stress. It helps us to calm down and to become more aware of how stressful feelings arise.
What kinds of meditation do you teach here?

We mostly teach the most widespread meditation practices, including mindfulness of breathing, development of lovingkindness, and walking meditation. These practices are found in virtually every major Buddhist tradition. In addition we teach mantra meditation, which is mostly associated with Mahayana Buddhism, although some of the mantras we teach come from the Theravadin (pronounced TEY-ra-VAHD-in) tradition.

How is this different from Transcendental Meditation?

Transcendental Meditation is an adaptation of Hindu mantra meditation, involving the recitation of the “seed syllables” (the essential names, if you like) of Hindu deities. Although TM can be effective, the organization that teaches it is very money-oriented, and charges a lot for the practices they teach.
Do you need to have a teacher?

Like most skills, you can learn a lot on your own, but a teacher can be helpful to guide you when times get tough or when you have a blind spot. You can teach yourself to paint, for example, but having a teacher can speed the process and make learning more interesting and productive. It’s the same with meditation.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • 1.should people with schizophrenia practice meditation,if yes which one.
    2.where can one learn budhist meditation in India

  • Hi Ishi,

    The advice I’ve received from mental health professionals is that it’s not wise for people with schizophrenia to meditate because it can become a basis for delusive experiences.

    As for where to learn meditation in India, I’m afraid I don’t know.

    All the best,

  • Hi, I’ve been meditating for about a month following the online guides here and I’ve seen many positive changes in myself. I was going to recommend it to my mother, who is suffering from depression, but I see here that it’s not advisable. Is there any particular reason for this? Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Verena,

    We have a section on depression that you might want to check out (although it does need updating).

    I wouldn’t say that people who are depressed shouldn’t meditate, but just that it should be undertaken with care, and preferably under supervision. People who are depressed can be overly critical of themselves, and meditation, with its emphasis on paying attention to inner processes, offers ample fodder for self-analysis and even self-criticism. So the combination can be — well, let’s say things may or may not go well.

    There’s actually a considerable body of research showing that for people who suffer from depression, meditation can prevent relapse. But usually these studies have been done with people who have experienced depression but are not actually depressed at the time they learn to meditate. There’s not much research that’s been done (that I know of) involving people who are experiencing depression while learning meditation, although I’d imagine a lot of Jon Kabat Zinn’s MBSR students were depressed at the time they underwent “treatment.”

    So I’d say the ideal is to learn to meditate with a teacher present, or at the very least that your mother take things easy and start with short sits, and that she not expect too much. It would be helpful if you were sitting with her (if that’s possible) and available to give encouragement and support.

    I hope this helps. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

    All the best,

  • Thanks for your response. I’ll definitely give this more thought.

  • Ishi can contact Ahimsa Trust in Noida, near Delhi if she is in north India. They will be able to help. Search for their contacts.


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