Over the years I have tried different types of meditation through different schools. And although the difference is minimal and the result the same. It is necessary to know the differences so that you can change to suit your personality and mood. Mindfulness is big business these days and it looks like Buddhism without the cultural attachments. It allows the medical establishment to push a spiritual exercise that has been medically proven to yield results. With group mindfulness meditations that I have sat in with there is an emphasis on guided meditation through talk and visualization. and less concern about how you sit. It is great for beginners and those with mental health issues. If you can’t afford the courses then you can buy a book and follow a guided meditation on the cd.
In my early days I sat with Zen Buddhists and there is a stronger emphasis on how you sit. The arms, legs, back, head, and even how you hold your tongue are very important. This meditation posture is designed to press and activate certain meridian and energy points thus bringing the mind into a relaxed state. It is more helpful to do this in a group at first because Zen practitioners can sit for two twenty-five minute sessions, with a five-minute walk meditation in between, which can be quite demanding at first. While mindfulness focuses on images and words, in the beginning Zen or Zazen, focuses primarily on the breath going through the nose and into the stomach. Specific instruction is required.
In Tibetan Buddhism there is a greater variety for many meditation techniques and you can sit in a variety of positions. There are different breathing techniques which can including whether you keep your eyes half-closed, or fully open just staring head. They also have mantras which are Tibetan words or phrases that will help you build up compassion or merit.They also have visualization techniques connected with certain deities that help you cleanse and purify your karma, but a course and teacher, will need to be sought before you even commence these meditations. Always seek an experienced meditation practitioner and check the validity of the teacher and the lineage they belong too. Here is a very easy meditation style to get you started.
They always say when you meditate, don’t meditate, just sit and relax. No specific technique is required when we sit but we all try to do this, or do that. If you are feeling incredibly restless and can’t sit at all then you can pull up a chair, and sitting upright with your hands on your knees, just stare out of the window looking at the sky. Watch the clouds move. Feel your breath coming in and out. Feel your stomach rising and falling, or the air coming through your nose. Feel your belly moving in and out. Notice the twitches in your body and the different thoughts that come and go. Just sit for however long you feel and even have a cup of tea if you are stressed.