8 Basic Kinds of Meditation (And Why You Should Meditate On Your Heart)

by Asatar Bair on June 12, 2010


Alright, so we all know we should meditate. Regular doctors now recommend meditation to their patients. But how do you do it? And does it matter what kind of meditation you do?

There are some basic, fundamental differences among the kinds of meditation that most people practice, and these differences ought to be considered while you’re deciding what is right for you. Now, I’m hardly an impartial observer. I’m deeply dedicated to heart-based meditation, and of course that influences what I say about other traditions. Please keep in mind that meditation is like food for the spirit: any kind of food is better than nothing. But certain kinds of foods are better than others, and though everyone must to some extent find out what is right for their own body, there are some constant features of food that will have much the same effect on everyone.

So here are eight popular kinds of meditation:

Vipassana comes from the Buddhist tradition

1. Mindfulness, also called ‘Vipassana’, comes from the Buddhist tradition. I’d say mindfulness is the most popular form of meditation in the western world. It’s all about ‘being present’, letting your mind run, and accepting whatever thoughts come up, while practicing detachment from each thought. Mindfulness is taught along with an awareness on the breath, though the breathing is often considered to be just one sensation among many others, not a particular focus. There is no attempt to change the breathing pattern, which limits this practice and makes it observational rather than active. Changing your breathing changes the energy; just watching what your breathing is doing (particularly if your breathing is shallow, as it generally is) means you are stuck in a low-energy state.

Zazen comes from the Japanese Buddhist tradition

2. Zazen is the generic term for seated meditation in the Buddhist tradition, but in the modern Zen tradition, it is often referred to as ‘just sitting’. It is a minimal kind of meditation, done for long periods of time, with little instruction beyond the basics of posture (sit with your back straight). There is no particular attention to the breath, nor an attempt to change the breath. Zazen is the ‘anti-method’ approach to meditation, but it is often done in conjunction with a concentration on a certain aspect of Buddhist scripture, or a paradoxical sentence, story or question, called a koan. Zazen is very difficult to learn, and it is very difficult to make progress with this method, because of the lack of guidance on how to do the practice. Also, it was developed for a monastic setting, making it difficult to adapt to an active life in the world.

TM comes from the Hindu tradition

3. Transcendental Meditation is a simplified practice that emerges from Vedanta, the meditative tradition within Hinduism. In TM, you sit with your back straight (ideally in the Lotus or half-Lotus posture), and use a mantra, a sacred word that is repeated. Your focus is on rising above all that is impermanent. TM is a more involved method than either mindfulness or zazen. At the more advanced levels, TM focuses on the breath and changes the breath to change one’s state of being. TM often leads to leaving the body (indeed, that is the aim of the practice). That is problematic because the energy of the body (and the mind) can be disrupted. Also, the practice is not focused on your life and your purpose, and indeed the philosophy that goes with it is harmful to the heart, considering desires to be ‘egoic’ and materialistic.

Kundalini Yoga comes from the Hindu tradition

4. Kundalini is another practice that comes from Vedanta. Kundalini is the name for the rising stream of energy that exists in a human being (there is also a downward stream, not emphasized in Kundalini). The aim of Kundalini meditation is to become aware of that rising stream, and to ride the stream to infinity. The practitioner concentrates on their breath flowing through each of the energy centers of the body, always moving upward, toward the energy center just above the top of the head. Kundalini makes active use of the breath, using breath to move energy upward. Like TM, Kundalini is not heart-based in either its method or philosophy, and it can have unpleasant side-effects, which happen often enough to have been given a name: Kundalini syndrome.

Qi gong comes from the Taoist tradition

5. Qi gong is a form of Taoist meditation that uses the breath to circulate energy through the organs and energy centers of the body in a oval pattern called the ‘microcosmic orbit’. Attention is focused on the breath and the circulation of energy (called ‘qi’ or ‘chi’). Attention is also focused on the three major centers used in Taoist meditation: a point about two inches below the navel, the center of the chest, and the center of the forehead. Qi gong uses the breath to direct energy, and circulate energy in the body and spirit, but it is not heart-based. There is little sense of how the heart changes and develops, and no connection between the circulation of energy and emotional states, and no core set of teachings on how to work with emotion.

Guided visualization doesn't come from an established tradition

6. Guided visualization is a popular form of meditation that involves concentration upon an image or imaginary environment. It is usually done while listening to a recording. An example would be to imagine you are in a grassy field, with a clear sky overhead. There is sometimes a focus on the breath, but generally no attempt to use or control the breath, and because the sensation is imaginary, and the impetus for it comes from outside, the practice tends to be rather passive. This kind of meditation does not come from an established meditative tradition like the others listed above, and so it is untested as a method of spiritual development. Not every recorded meditation is an example of guided visualization; the key is whether it contains elements of hypnotic suggestion or the creation of fantasies under the guidance of someone else. If you are listening to a recording where the guide lays out a method for you to do yourself, or calls attention to sensation and energy already occurring within you, that is not guided visualization, but rather meditation instruction. The key is whether you are practicing a method that will enable you to do a practice by yourself or not.

Hypnosis produces a trance state

7. Trance-based practices. This is my category for a whole set of reflective practices that generate a trance state. The hallmarks of a trance are: awareness of the self and the environment is limited, conscious control of the experience is absent, rational thinking is absent, and memory of the experience is very limited. Often these kinds of practices involve drugs, music, shallow, rapid breathing (which produces an intoxicating effect), or a form of hypnotic suggestion. Because self-control is so limited, and because of the passivity involved in having a state induced by someone else, a trance state is both potentially dangerous and not helpful for spiritual development. I could’ve easily not included this as meditation, because it isn’t really meditation, but I included it because these kinds of practices are commonly thought to be meditation. The idea that meditation involves a trance-state is actually a common myth about meditation.

Heart-based meditation focuses your attention on your heart and emotions

8. Heart Rhythm Meditation focuses on the breath and heartbeat, making the breath full, deep, rich, rhythmic, and balanced. Attention is focused on the heart as the center of the energetic system. One tries to identify oneself with the heart. By focusing on the breath, you make your breath powerful. And then learning to direct the breath, to feel the circulation of breath as your pulse in different parts of your body, then on your magnetic field, you learn to direct and circulate energy. You are in control of yourself at all times, and you become both more powerful and more sensitive. Further, your power and sensitivity are always in service of your heart, so you become compassionate. (An excellent way to learn Heart Rhythm Meditation is to take our 8-week online course 101.)

So as this list shows, there are some basic differences between meditative methods. I could get into these differences at length, but this is intended just to establish that there are differences and briefly sketch them. It’s important not to denigrate any traditions or practices; each meditative tradition has been developed through the dedication of many thousands of hours, lifetimes of accumulated experience. I have deep respect for all these traditions. This post merely seeks to illuminate some of the differences so that you can have a better understanding of the kinds of meditation that exist in relation to heart-based forms of meditation like HRM.

Because HRM directs your full, deep, rhythmic breath toward your heart, it has all kinds of positive health effects. HRM is also an incredibly powerful and rapid way of healing the wounds of your heart. HRM is also a powerful way of accessing the state of unity, which is the goal of every kind of meditation. When you meditate on your heartbeat, you access the state of unity in a very unique way: you feel that your heartbeat is the universal heartbeat, the heartbeat of the all life, the heartbeat of God.


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{ 51 comments }

christine July 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thank you Asatar! What a wonderful, succinct overview of the key features of most known types of meditation. Previously I have extensively referred to the comparative Eastern/Western chart in the Dome to help seekers clarify the unique contribution of Heart Rhythm Meditation. This article in comparing features of specific meditative practices adds more specific depth, and may be particularly helpful to persons already familiar with a particular way of meditating in seeing the wisdom of expanding to Heart Rhythm Meditation as both a health practice and valuable aid to spiritual development.

Asatar Bair July 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hi Christine, I’m so glad you found this article helpful. Thank you for your comment! -Asatar

Latifa July 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

Helpful indeed to better explain HRM.

What is your sense of offering stethoscopes to people for helping them to find their heart beat while teaching HRM??

Asatar Bair July 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

Hi Latifa,
We’ve found that about 50% or so of our beginning students have some difficulty finding their heartbeat. As Susanna Bair charmingly puts it, “your heart is hiding”. Placing your hand on your heart helps. My personal sense is that a stethoscope is rather uncomfortable to wear for more than a minute or so. But it may be helpful to some to hear their heart beating. It reminds me of watching an ultrasound scan of someone’s heart, and being amazed by how liquid a sound the heart beat is when you can really hear it. Thank you for your comment!
Asatar

Marina July 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I love HRM!

Asatar Bair July 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

Nice to see you here, Marina!

Breno December 29, 2010 at 6:57 am

Hello,

I came by your site while searching on google… I would like to suggest that your thinking about Zazen – difficult, for monastic settings, difficult to adapt to the real world etc… is not quite correct. Although it came from monastic settings, the meaning of zazen – at least in the Soto-Zen school, from Master Dogen – is that everything in this life is zazen. Working, sleeping, doing the dishes… whatever. Zazen helps you to build your “be here and now” spirit to keep doing one thing well and only one.

regards,

- Breno

Asatar Bair December 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

Dear Breno,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

Correct, incorrect… it’s wonderful that so many points of view exist, helping us see each complex tradition from many angles.

Yes, I agree with you in spirit… but what does “be here now” mean? I think it means “pay attention”. So then how do you do that? What are the concrete aspects of the practice which help you to do that? Can you fill me in on how that has worked for you?
Asatar

SG February 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I am a regular TM practitioner. The description that you have given of TM is completely incorrect! In TM, there is no formal posture: one can sit( no lying down), in any which way one likes, as long as the person is comfortable. There is absolutely no focus on the breath! A small neutral or meaningless syllable is used as a mantra to reach the meditative state. What mantra is used is immaterial. The method is more important. TM has been well researched. It is one of the simplest technique. It starts working from the first time itself! One has to practice it for 20 minutes twice a day. A gap of half an hour after a small meal or tea and a gap of one and a half hour after a full meal. Also if it is practiced at night, one should practice it just before sleeping and go to sleep immediately. Otherwise, the revitalization that one feels can leave us energetic and raring to go….. The advanced level is even more intense and is truly mind-blowing! In fact, unlike many other forms does not have many do’s and dont’s. I am disappointed that such factually incorrect information has been put on this site and it is my earnest request that you correct it as soon as possible. For more details check out the following site, http://www.tm.org/.

Asatar Bair February 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Dear SG,
Thank you very much for your comment. But I must say I find it puzzling. TM comes from Vedanta, an old and very rich esoteric tradition originating in India. From what I know of this tradition, it does indeed matter in what way one’s posture is in meditation, and I believe that is so in TM as well. Is there not a focus on the full lotus posture, at the higher levels of the practice? Perhaps you can share with us what you see as the essence of TM practice. I cannot tell from your description what you consider to be the key elements.
thank you for writing!
Asatar
p.s. you might also enjoy my post on kundalini psychosis.

Jawad March 6, 2012 at 3:57 am

Hi. Nice explanation of all the prime modes of meditation. As being the Qi-gong student for couple of months and practised microcosmic orbit a lot, there are many breathing methods in Qi-gong with most borrowed from Yoga and slightly modified. However for Qi circulation taoist masters donot believe in moving Qi with breath. One of the reason being Qi moves much faster then the speed of breath and hence it is circulated and moved with the help of mind. My teacher Mantak Chia is able to circulate Chi in microcosmic orbit around 60,000 times in three minutes. Such massive speed can never be attained with breathing. Infact many taoist masters advice to directly focus on Qi through mind and take breathing exercises as distraction from the original path.

Whenever i compare Qi-gong with HRM i get a bit confused. In HRM meditation practise focuses on heart. However the centre of gravity of our body lies at third chakra or navel point and while doing Qi-gong standing forms and focusing on my centre of gravity gives me tremendous balance and makes me feel grounded like anything. So how do i compare the two forms of meditation in terms of benefits? Can anyone shed light on this please?

Asatar Bair March 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

Dear Jawad,
Different methods indeed have similarities and differences. Chi is energy, and breath is the energy in its most fundamental form. So working with the breath is working with chi, which as you say is directed by the mind. But the question of speed does not relate to breath. Any circulation of energy through the body or elsewhere that is driven by breath may go at any speed.
Breath is not a distraction from working with energy (chi). Breath is the way. The Taoist masters understood this, and focused a great deal on conscious breathing.
In terms of what center do you focus on, there are different choices. You can certainly focus on the lower dan tien (about 2 inches below the navel). In the Taoist system, there are three dan tiens (energy centers): the upper (center of the forehead), middle (center of the chest), and lower (below the navel, as I mentioned). By the way, the lower dan tien is not the same as the third chakra in the Indian system, which refers to the solar plexus, at the base of the rib cage. The three dan tiens correspond to centers which energize the mind, heart, and body. So it is all a matter of what you feel drawn to focus on. I have spent many hours practicing Taoist standing meditation, and I know what you mean about this practice being powerfully grounding and balancing. It is very good for the body. Focusing on the heart center is very good for deepening the emotions as well as one’s spiritual connection. The Taoist masters actually saw the middle dan tien (the heart) as the center of the energetic system. However, Taoist arts like T’ai Chi and Chi Kung have laid more emphasis on the lower dan tien in recent years.
Ask your teacher about the three dan tiens. If you have made a commitment to your teacher in the sense that your teacher has accepted responsibility for your spiritual growth, you should honor that and do what your teacher says. If not, then you are free to explore new methods.
thank you for your question, I hope this helps!
Asatar

Jawad March 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Dear Asatir
Thank you! Great explanation. However i believe breath and energy are two seperate things. Breath is a means to transport and store prana or energy. One of the proof is during higher meditations sometimes breath stops altogher for weeks and even months and body trips to alternate mode of getting energy whereby prana or energy is awakened. If i compare the approach of Kriya yoga with Chi Kung, In kriya yoga the prana is circulated into microcosmic orbit with the rhythm of inhale and exhale whereas in Chi kung the chi is ciruclated not with the rhythm of breath but is circulated mentally and that’s why it attains much faster speed and the electromagnetic feild it produces is much stronger then the one produced during Kriya yoga.
I am quite open to new approaches and thinking of trying to see what kind of experience it would be to do Hear Rhythm meditations. I regularly do standing form of chi kung called Zhan Zhaung and acquire considerable surge in energy accompanied by deep relaxation and a stunning level of intuition. So i wonder HRM would give me the same or a superior experience over other forms.
Thank you again for the nice information. Blessings and light!

Asatar Bair March 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Dear Jawad,
I have not personally experienced meditations where the breath stops, though I have read of such things. We do not seek to stop the breath or heart in Heart Rhythm Meditation, both because it is not necessary to achieve illumination, and because such methods can be dangerous. You say the electromagnetic field generated by Chi kung is stronger than Kriya yoga — that is interesting… can you point me to a place where that is documented?
Chi kung can be a wonderful practice, and it seems you are getting good results. I would say stick with it. HRM can also produce incredible experiences, but it takes time to learn a new method. You should only do it if your heart is longing for it.
take care,
Asatar

Jawad March 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Dear Asatar,
I have no written document to compare electomagnetic field produced by Chi kung compared with Kriya Yoga. It has been my own personal experience. Being in touch with a true master simplifies many things. My own chi kung teahcer had an explosive chi. I personally can just move my energy with thoughts and infact have been able to produce unbelieve results in therapy sessions with clients which literally astonished myself. Just putting a hand onto painfull area would vanish the pain which had been bothering people for years and years and with no results obtained from traditional and non-traditional methods.
However my point is that i would be sacrificing my time from Chi Kung practise and dedicating it to HRM and i am really excited to learn that. Infact i have just received my two books on “Living from Heart” & “Energizing your heart” from amazon and planning to start my practise. However i am a bit sceptible will i ever be able to learn from books. I live in a developing country whereby there are no opportunities to have teacher on HRM and learn directly under the guidance. Will it be safe to learn from book and do my own practise?
I also had the chance to learn mindful meditations directly from the teacher. Initially i did the practise directly from a book but with no profound results. But having the supervision of a teacher in a matter of few weeks produced the results that i could have never achieved in a decade reading merely from books and practising by myself. So how do i deepen my practise with book only? Also please guide me on the matter, i do therapy session with my clients and i have to depend a lot onto my intuition to proble problems and find out solutions. Would HRM practise further enhance my intuition?
Thank you and very kind regards,
Jawad

Asatar Bair March 10, 2012 at 7:55 am

Dear Jawad,
It’s true that attention and intention are powers which move energy. I have found that adding the breath adds power to your mind. When you get “Energize Your Heart”, check out the section called “The Six Basic Powers”. You’ll be safe trying out the techniques in “Living from the Heart” and “Energize Your Heart”. You are correct in thinking that working with a teacher will give you much more rapid progress. Our webcourse 101 would be a great place to start, which includes written feedback from one of our trained teachers, as well as a weekly videoconference.
In terms of your question on intuition, we have found that the heart is a wonderful, accessible source of intuition, and developing and refining the heart’s guidance is a major focus of our school.
Thank you for your wonderful questions. If you’d like to take the conversation further, perhaps Skype would be a good option. My skype name is asatarbair.
take care
Asatar

jawad March 12, 2012 at 2:15 am

Dear Asatar,
Many thanx for your valuable guidance. I recently received both the books ordered from amazon and have gone through the contents (including the one you mentioned). It seems very interesting. I plan to read the books completely and then start my practise alongwith the link provided by you. As i embark onto the journey of heart i will be getting in touch with you for your kind guidance.
Thank you again. May blessings shower upon you.
Best regards,
Jawad

Asatar Bair March 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Dear Jawad,
Great, thank you for your purchase and I hope the books enrich your path. I have found that working with the breath and heartbeat as described in Living from the Heart can be done in the context of many other practices.
take care,
Asatar

Jawad March 19, 2012 at 4:41 am

Dear Asatar,
I am definately very excited to start the meditations. Initially i plan to start with other of the practises i do and with passage of time if i found them valuable then i would not hesitate dropping all other forms and sticking only to one style; HRM
Thank you again

Kind regrads,
jawad

Asatar Bair March 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Hi Jawad,
May your explorations lead you to the practice that is right for you. Thank you for your interesting comments and questions.
love
Asatar

Siraj al-Haqq August 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I have had many experiences with Mindfulness meditation and Guided Visualization, and just a bit with Zazen, as well as introductions to TM and Qi Gong. To me they all seem interesting and somewhat helpful, each in their own ways. On the other hand, I have spent nearly my whole life doing Heart Rhythm Meditation and I find it to be extremely valuable. I say “nearly my whole life” because, beginning when I was maybe 8 or 9 I remember synchronizing my breath with my heartbeat. That set a rhythm for the flow of my thoughts, feelings and actions, whether I was lying still in bed or out in the grass, or sitting, playing, reading, listening, doing school work, or walking or riding my bike.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I met Puran Bair and began learning HRM practices – though they hadn’t yet been named as such. For me, HRM has provided both an interesting formalization of and a wonderful expansion on what I had already been doing naturally for over 3 decades. So, based on half a century of practice – I’m now in my 60s – I definitely attest to the great efficacy of HRM. I can (and do) spontaneously do HRM any time, any place, often in conjunction with another practice called the Element Purification Breaths, which are taught as part of the HRM practices. I don’t personally think of HRM as a meditation ‘practice’ in the sense of it being something I do at a set time and place – instead it is simply a significant part of the way I live my life. As such, my heart and breath provide a fundamental rhythm for my life that is always available regardless of where I am, what I am experiencing and what I am thinking, feeling and doing.

And here’s an interesting point that’s usually not mentioned. You can actually do HRM and simultaneously also incorporate some essential aspects of other types of meditation.

Asatar Bair August 24, 2012 at 5:31 am

Hi Siraj al-Haqq,
Thanks for sharing your story. I hear the same from many people — amazing what we know as children.
It’s wonderful too that you have such breath awareness in your daily activities. This is very important. But I would distinguish between the earnest effort to pay attention to your breath and heart (which you can do as many times as you think of it during the day), and a special time that is set aside, relatively free of distractions, to really open, explore, and energize your heart. Doing that on a regular basis makes HRM into a practice, one that I recommend to all heart-centered seekers.
love
Asatar

Kyo October 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm

If stress relief is the only goal, which meditation is best? a friend of mine said if I can block off 20 mins why not just nap?

Asatar Bair October 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Dear Kyo,
Thank you for your unusually frank question. A nap can work wonders for stress. Many modern workplaces are incorporating napping stations, finding that productivity is enhanced by a brief rest during the day.
In my experience, there is more to stress than simply a feeling you’d like to be rid of. Stress has roots, and exploring these roots will help you to grow. Any of the methods I have outlined will help with stress. But not all are equally effective at exploring the roots of stress. (I have written another post on this topic that you might find helpful: How To Shift Your Curve)
warm regards,
Asatar

Rajendra Kumar October 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

The heart based meditation is really wonderful way to communicate with the core of our being, a sort of direct approach to the Almighty and seek His guidance at every step of our life.By accepting the inner messages we glide through life without any hitch and fulfil God’s will.This is the way to live life.

ferris November 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I am doing research on type of meditation techniques. I have the TM website but couldn’t find any good websites for some of the other types, any suggestions?

Yogesh Sharma November 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

The most popular and I would which includes rest of all the meditation technique is Vipassana. This is not just a meditation but this is a way to get rid of dying and getting birth again.

Asatar Bair November 29, 2012 at 8:49 am

Dear Yogesh,
Thank you for your comment. Vipassana is discussed in the post above in the #1 spot, owing to its popularity. I respectfully disagree with you that Vipassana includes all other techniques. I would say rather that it is a beginning practice, a basic building block for meditation. You begin with self-reflection. But then you must move on. You must consider what aspect of yourself you’d like to change. Being present is an excellent first step, but it is not an end. We seek to move, transform, and fully express the energies within our being.
warm regards,
Asatar

Nisha December 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Dear Asatar,

first of all thank you for giving such a wonderulldetailed description of 8 kinds of meditation.

here I would like to say that any meditation is basically relaxation of your mind and being positive. I think techniques maybe different but finally or we can say core result or consequences are liberation.. nibbanaa..

I am student od vipassana… it helped me a lott.. so i believe that paths maybe different vipassana, tm, zazen, etc… destination is the same…

so everybody please know what you are doing and hw it will benefit to you.

once again thank you asatar..

warm regards
nisha

Asatar Bair January 2, 2013 at 9:58 am

Hi Nisha,
Thank you for your comment. I agree that all methods of meditation have the same destination: unity.
In unity, we are beyond good and bad, positive and negative. We become All.
warm regards,
Asatar

George Marshall January 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

A very nice article. Thanks. Though SG may have taken a bit more offense than was merited his/her comment from February of 2011 is, in essence, correct. In learning TM, the initiate is told to just sit comfortably. The lotus (padmasana) is encouraged in the more advanced techniques but is by no means absolutely necessary. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said himself that for older people who were unable to sit in the crossed legged postures of padmasana or siddhasana it would be perfectly acceptable for them to be provided light weight chairs. Perhaps he was making a little joke in order to alleviate the concerns of older meditators who were considering the advanced techniques, but to me this indicated that the emphasis was not to be placed primarily on the physical aspects of the advanced practice but rather on the spiritual and that strict insistence on particular yogic postures was not necessary. It is taught that TM is practiced not for what happens while meditating but for the benefits that accrue outside of meditating in the everyday environment of our lives. I am also a bit bemused by your suggestion that TM is harmful to the heart. You seem to suggest that because Vedanta teaches that desires are ‘egoic’ and materialistic that this makes the “philosophy that goes with [TM] …harmful to the heart.” It is correct that TM is derived from Vedanta, but it is not strictly bound by Vedantic principles. Many traditional Vedantins decry TM’s insistence that instruction be paid for. And though Vedanta is not in the strict sense of the word a “philosophy” but rather a “means” of self-knowledge, for ease of discussion we’ll call it a philosophy. How can a philosophy be harmful to the heart… if you are speaking of the physical blood-pumping organ? I think that it is misleading for you to say that TM often leads to leaving the body and that that is indeed the aim of the practice. The aim of the practice is transcendence, and to call this “leaving the body” is simply incorrect. Perhaps it is just a semantic matter, but transcendence is not what most people think of when they think of “leaving the body” or having “out of body experiences.” Transcendence is simply taking one’s awareness and turning it back onto the self; awareness itself. This is the essence of meditation from a Vedantic standpoint. TM’s “philosophy” is that healthy and prosperous people are more likely to be able to achieve “enlightenment” than are sickly, unhappy people. There has been at least as much peer reviewed research into the health benefits of TM as there has been for any other meditative discipline, and indeed, most people these days turn to TM for health reasons as much as for spiritual reasons…. as if the two reasons could really be separated. The greatest drawback to TM is the ridiculously inflated cost for learning the technique. Not to say that it isn’t worth every penny, but to expect the uninitiated to be able to understand and appreciate this is a major breakdown in logic and a significant failure of the TM establishment. The TM organization has changed substantially in 50 years but the technique itself has not. Again a very nice article and perhaps SG should not have taken such umbrage.

Asatar Bair January 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Dear George,
Thank you for your detailed comment. I have argued that TM is harmful to the heart spiritually because TM stresses transcendance, separating the self into boxes of ‘false’ and ‘true’, and disparaging the role of desire and purpose. Many people report psychological and emotional difficulties such as dissociation and lack of motivation from practicing TM, though of course many do not. For a fuller discussion, I recommend the book Follow Your Heart: The Map to Illumination.
warm regards,
Asatar

Paul Stokstad January 23, 2013 at 11:03 am

Regarding Asatar’s comment

Transcendence is simply the Self. The separation that actually happens (as opposed to the one you describe) is a clarification of the Self and non-self, which is only a preliminary “cleaning the windows of perception” stage called Cosmic Consciousness. Only on that enlightened platform can a true expansion of the heart take place, which allows the individual to rise to God Consciousness and then (with another stroke of knowledge) to Unity Consciousness.

A strictly devotional approach may have its merits, but to comsider the TM program as lacking a heart component is wildly off the mark. It is not a devotional technique, but the heart expands to a cosmic degree as a by-product of a more comrehensive focus on total enlightenment.

Asatar Bair January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Dear Paul,
Thank you so much for your comment! I am delighted to see that this post has begun to attract some “official” responses.
I like what you have to say about Cosmic Consciousness; I see in your answer that you have some real experience with these levels of consciousness.
Let me clarify my comment. TM is not a heart-centered practice, but rather a soul-centered practice. The aim of TM is to discover the soul, and this is considered the Self. What you refer to as ‘a clarification of Self and non-self’, can easily become disparaging to the thoughts, desires, and emotions. When you take practice a kind of meditation that is truly heart-centered, you will experience all the pain that is present in your heart. I do not see that TM has a compelling method or philosophy for exploring, working with, and experiencing pain. I believe the approach is to rise above pain, to transcend it. This approach does not strengthen the heart.
This assessment is not meant to put down TM. There is tremendous value in every single authentic meditation practice, of which TM is certainly one. The point of this article is simply to describe the different methods and some of their results, in my opinion.
warm regards,
Asatar

sudha April 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm

sir,i was meditating by concentration on my breathe.i dont konw what is the name of this type of meditation..i was meditating since 4 months.though iam meditating i can hear outside people talking.then iam in meditation or not?suddently one day i saw light green color and in middle thick blue color.when i got this experience the on that day also i was able to hear outside sounds.and i think iam not getting any energy passage on this particular day also.finally i want to know dat iam in right path of meditation and what does this colour indicate?please reply me

Asatar Bair April 3, 2013 at 5:26 am

Dear Sudha,
Focusing on your breath is a foundational technique of many kinds of meditation. It is normal to hear sounds outside yourself when you are meditating. The hallmark of the state of meditation is the experience of unity, where you feel that everything that is happening is within your own self, that you actually include the voices you hear outside as part of you. I would interpret your seeing green as a sign of the throat chakra, which indicates connection and communication with the world of spirit. The blue color indicates the third eye, which relates to subtle perception, vision, and understanding.
It is hard for me to say whether you are on the right path, as I don’t know much about your goals. I hope this is helpful.
thank you for your comment
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sudha April 3, 2013 at 11:08 pm

First of all thank you very much for your reply sir. Actually i am trying for a job in competitive field. I am waiting for results to come. I am thinking more about my result every minute. so,let me know sir, is this colour a +ve indication of my result? you told about throat chakra.regarding that, i came to know that meditation slowly heals your diseases. I am having thyroid problem. Is this throat chakra indicates healing that? sir, may be my questions may seem silly, but these improve my intrest on meditation. so, please reply

Asatar Bair April 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

Dear Sudha,
Best of luck to you in obtaining the job that you seek. You have my sympathy; searching for a job is very difficult, especially the waiting.
Rest assured that I do not think your questions are the slightest bit silly. But I have very limited ability to answer your questions, because I know very little about you. What would be most helpful to your journey would be to work with an experienced teacher who will get to know you and can give you meditation practices which are designed to help you grow given your challenges at this time. Our mentoring program was designed to do this.
Seeing a particular color is a very general signal from meditation. It may have something to do with events in the outer world, or the experience may simply reflect the state of your inner being at that time. It’s good that you are getting some kind of signal, some kind of experience from your meditation practice, and that you are asking yourself what it means. That brings self-knowledge.
I have had some experience with using meditation to heal myself and others, though not of a thyroid condition. Perhaps the simplest and most general healing practice I can recommend is to breathe through the area that needs healing, and try to feel your heartbeat in that area. If you can’t feel your heartbeat in your throat, place your hand on your neck. Breathe deeply and rhythmically. Please call me at 520-299-2170 if I can answer any more questions for you.
love
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Sean Webb May 6, 2013 at 7:32 am

Your words about meditation reveal you have obviously not experienced full enlightenment. Meditation is a means to an end. The ultimate end is the “out of body” (more accurately out of mind) experience that occurs when endogenous DMT is released into the blood stream by ceasing all conscious thought. Desires are indeed mind attachment related, and by scientific definition are therefore “egoic”. Going beyond ego is where enlightenment lives. My best wishes to your practice.

Asatar Bair May 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

Dear Sean,
I have read many books and articles on spirituality, and have then sometimes had the chance to sit in meditation with the author of that writing, and what I have learned is that it is very difficult to infer what someone has experienced or attained spiritually by reading words on a page. Words are dead, whereas spirit is life itself. In regards to your thoughts on conscious thought ceasing, that is indeed an experience I have had. But I do not consider it to be the pinnacle of achievement. There is a further stage beyond that, where conscious thought re-emerges, but in a universal, timeless, and perfect form. These are beautiful and profound thoughts, which have helped me to integrate the spiritual experience into life. I would’ve been distraught indeed had I missed them.
Thank you for your interesting comment and well-wishes; my best wishes to you as well.
love
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Dhara May 12, 2013 at 6:00 am

Thank you for the information. However, there are many more ways to meditate as well, including an ancient art, not known to most, called Kayotsarg. I am into it.

Asatar Bair May 12, 2013 at 8:14 am

Hi Dhara,
Thank you for your comment! I do not claim to offer a comprehensive description of every kind of meditation in this article — just the ones most people know about, have heard about, or have practiced. The method we teach, Heart Rhythm Meditation, is also not very well-known. I’m glad to know you have found a kind of meditation that speaks to you.
love
Asatar

Tony June 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi thank you for the insight.

I have a few questions

Where does manifestation come in?
Or visioning?

Or tapining into the universal energy which is you- then honoring it.

Healing modalities.
Both physical and psychological ?

Where would you classify the energy I can emit that lights up a room? I focus on expanding this energy. Also visions that open up – these visions come true that I have seen. In some cases I caused them to happen.

I am diving deeper into and want to nurture my talents.
These questions are intended as a learning tool.
Can you help clarify what I am experiencing?

I can also transmit this energy to others and they do feel it as I have been told of this power.
Any insight is greatly appreciated

Blessings

Asatar Bair June 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Dear Tony,
Thank you for your questions. The experiences and skills that you describe may be cultivated through meditation, but they are not kinds of meditation per se. These things are possible (indeed, they are our birthright as human beings) because the nature of reality is One Being, which connects us all in a network of energy which is best described as love. You experience the manifestation of your desires because your personal desires come from the desire of the Universe. You see visions because you tap into the quality of Vision itself. You tap into Universal Energy because that is the source of all energy. You heal because the true nature of a person is wholeness, in the same way that the true nature of reality is One.
I would advise you to learn and explore what you can on your own — it sounds like you are having good success. At some point, you will feel you need help to go further. That is when you should seek out a teacher. Our school, the Institute for Applied Meditation on the Heart (which runs the IAM University of the Heart) is available to you as a source of highly-trained and wonderfully insightful teachers.
Many blessings to you on your path.
love
Asatar

john williams July 18, 2013 at 12:19 am

Thanks for the information and knowledge above but i have few things in mind that ,when i was a kid i never ever used to meditate but i saw things like touchscreen computers and phones and many more which i saw again wen i grew up and it was all imagination i saw as kid
i used to control others mind while sitting home but how i still dont know i used to meditate while walking ,sitting sleeping or by doing anything like i have some powers within but i cant use it now plz help

Asatar Bair July 27, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Dear John,
Thank you for your comment. Meditation is really for gaining self control, not power over others. Meditation should make us feel both more free and more responsible, so that we can help others more, not control them. Each of us must have the freedom to follow our desires and attain our purpose in life.
My best to you as you walk your path. I hope some of these articles can be helpful to you.
warm regards,
Asatar

Jeromey August 10, 2013 at 6:16 am

All are very powerful. The one i practice daily is based on mindfulness (Vipassana), it really helps in quieting the mind and i guess thats what all these practices do. Thanks for sharing Asatar

Asatar Bair August 10, 2013 at 6:47 am

Hi Jeromey,
Thank you for your comment. I see you have a blog — best of luck with it!
Asatar

maia December 13, 2013 at 9:06 pm

hi, theres this type of meditation that my freind told me about where you sit against a wall and think a word over and over again and the word is specific, i cannot remember the word, i was hoping you would know. thank you

Asatar Bair December 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi Maia,
What you are referring to is called a mantra or a wazifa. There are so many different ones that have been used, but in general, a mantra will be a sacred word that is chanted or sung in order to attain the state of meditation. Perhaps you are thinking of “Om”, which is probably the most well-known mantra.
I hope this helps.
Thank you for your comment. To learn more about meditation, I recommend our 8-week online course 101: Introduction to Heart Rhythm Meditation, which is perfect for beginners.
love
Asatar

maia December 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

it starts with an o

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