DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDITATION
There is the classic mindfulness meditation, wherein the individual learns to pay deep attention to the minute processes within the flow of his or her breath or mental processes, while remaining undistracted by sensory or discursive thought. Then there is the meditation in the form of taking something as an object, such as when the person takes the fundamental truth that we as all beings want to find happiness and do not want to experience suffering, and that in this regard all beings are equal – thus developing equanimity towards all beings. Then there is the meditation in the form of cultivation of positive mental qualities, such as compassion and loving-kindness or friendliness. Here compassion and loving kindness are not so much as the objects of meditation; rather we are seeking to cultivate these qualities within our heart. There is also the practice of meditation as visualization. Here we use visualization as a tool to overcome ingrained psychological assumptions about ourselves and our capacity for change.
Given the various types of meditation you can see that it requires such different terms as cultivation,visualization, aspiration, reflection, or meditation in different contexts. However broadly speaking, the practice of meditation can be broken into two generic categories: absorptive meditation and analytic meditation. Absorptive meditation is a type of meditation whereby the meditator focuses single-pointedly on a given object or emotion so that one becomes completely absorbed into this experience. Analytic meditation on the other hand is a refined process of analysis and critical thinking whereby we take an object and investigate its nature, function and impact on our mental continuum.
Understanding this diversity of meditation practices and their associated states is crucial if we are to avoid the temptation of viewing meditation as constituting some kind of homogeneous mental state, characterized primarily by absence of thought. This way meditation acts as a therapeutic process whereby we learn to let go of even the most deep-seated tendency to view ourselves and the world around us, as being inherently and concretely a certain way. I would argue that meditation plays a major role in teaching us how to see ourselves and the world, in a new, enlightened way.
THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
For Buddhists, meditation is both the means and the end. There is, therefore, no need to tell them about the benefits of meditation. However, as most people have a narrow and naive view of and the capacity of change. That is, most people assume that what appears to them exists the way it appears. Through meditation you can gain insight into the nature of self, of consciousness and thus what makes you do certain habitual actions. Through having greater access into the psychological aspects, which motivate actions you can develop greater understanding of what constitutes human flourishing. Thereby giving you the tool for better decision making. It is meditation that is the link between what we think will serve us best, and the actual serving.