Meditation is not a religious custom. Although practiced in Buddhism, Hinduism and various other religions and philosophies, meditation has nothing to do with any religious views.
Meditation is a form of inaction. It is a practice of a certain technique that aims to rest the mind; to temporarily silence your thoughts and help you achieve peace.
A central goal of meditation is to achieve a state of consciousness that diverges from your waking mental state.The ultimate objective is to reach that center within, the unity with higher consciousness, a place where time and setting cease to exist. At this point we are able to experience our true self.
The first level of meditation can be reached by virtually any individual after a bit of practice. I consider this level to be one of plain focus, a state of mind that eliminates irrelevant distractions. Reaching a level of focus in which you prevent your mind from mulling on a future to-do list is a already great achievement. The second level of meditating consists of reaching a quiet place within, hearing that inner voice and seeing with our inner eye.
For individuals new to this practice I would recommend a guided meditation. The clear instruction will help explain what to do, help you keep your focus, and remain relaxed. Once you achieve a certain level of discipline and knowledge of the process, all meditation practices become unguided.
There is also a difference between active and inactive practices. While an inactive meditation empties your mind of any thoughts and attain calmness, an active one requires deliberate focus of the mind on a certain thought, feeling or idea.
What type of practice is the best for me?
Choosing one of these two practices will depend on your preferences, personality, and specific mood at the time of your practice
– Mindfulness –The objective of this type of meditation is focused attention, observing of thoughts without any judgment. It’s goal is to create awareness and insight.
– Primordial Sound (PSM)– This involves the use of mantra. This kind of practice usually requires a certain form of initiation where each individual is given a personalized mantra. The origin of this type of meditation is in the Vedic tradition of India.
– Zen – With this technique one should focus awareness on breath and the thoughts by simply observing them but letting them pass. It comes from Buddhist tradition.
– Transcendental (TM) – Mantra based practice similarly to PSM. It is a structured technique where individuals are given a mantra taking into account different factors (year of birth, gender etc.).
– Kundalini – The main goal of this practice is to awaken the kundalini energy which lies dormant in the base of the spine. To help you reach that goal Kundalini Meditation gives specific tools in a form of breathing exercises, mudras (hand positions) and mantras.
– Tonglen – This practice originates from Tibetan Buddhists. The ultimate goal is to connect you with suffering as a means to overcome it. This technique involves breath, visualization, and intention.
Successful mediation requires time and patience, at times your efforts may seem fruitless and even pointless. However, with continuous practice you may find yourself achieving a level of consciousness that you were unaware was even possible.