The breath is a great object to start to establish mindfulness. No one breath is the same as another breath. Every inhalation and exhalation comes to an end. We don’t tend to personalize a breath and call it our own. In examining the breath we are able to see the true nature of reality. It is always changing and impermanent. Can we also develop the same self-less awareness of the breath for every other object?
There is no best type of meditation. A form of meditation may resonate better with you than another one.
Individual choice is important. Starting off with focused awareness theoretically may be the best way to start as it is an initial way to create stability of the mind. The breath is always available to focus on. In open monitoring the multiple changing objects may be difficult initially to bring awareness and concentration to. For some individuals it may be better to start with focused awareness and create some stability of the mind. Then shift to open monitoring.
One hears about TM or transcendental meditation, Insight meditation, Metta or loving kindness meditation, Zen meditation, Yogic meditation etc. There are so many choices. How does one figure this out? It may be easier to look at how the meditation is done rather than what it is.
There are 2 main types of meditation. Focused awareness and open monitoring. In focused awareness there isconcentration on one object. One could choose the breath, a saying, sound, body sensation, silence or visualization. No breath, body sensation, sound etc. remains the same. We are bringing our attention to one object that is constantly changing.
In open monitoring whatever object is dominant in one’s awareness is what one brings the attention to. It could be the breath, a sound, thought etc. We are bringing our attention to constantly changing objects. Ultimately the main purpose is to develop awareness of the present moment.
Why meditate? Is it to reach an altered state? Transcend the ego? Find enlightenment? I hate to tell you but the purpose of meditation is to simply develop awareness of the present moment. In focused concentration meditation we are developing awareness of the breath. As we develop concentration amazing things happen in our brain. MRI scans have shown that there is an increased activity of the prefrontal cortex, the executive function of the brain and decreased activity of the amygdala, the fear centre of the brain. As we practice we develop more emotional and cognitive regulation, calmness, better coping skills and less self referencing. What I have personally discovered is that the practice does you. I started off to meditate to relieve stress and over the years I have been given the gift of greater calmness, loving kindness, compassion and equanimity. I never intentionally started out to obtain these qualities. Meditate and be open to the unknown possibilities that may develop.