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There are so many different kinds of meditation practices - how do they relate to each other, which ones should we do?
When we embark on practising meditation, it can seem confusing to come across the fact that there are many different techniques - last Wednesday (29 March), we explored this with the help of ta little list entitled ‘The Four Kinds of Meditation’. I first learned this many years ago from Ruciraketu at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre.
I found it a useful way then to understand the many meditation practices we may come across in our exploration of the dharma, and I’m sharing it here as a possibly useful way for us to choose the kind of practice for us at any given time.
Having said that, we also want to aim to grow in awareness and kindness in a balanced and rounded way, and while we may choose to focus on one or the other of these, I’d suggest we need all of them to be present as part of effective spiritual practice!
Here is a summary: There are four main kinds of meditation, and all meditation techniques can be understood under one of these headings:
1. Concentrative: There is a body of practices whose aim is to still the mind, to gather us together when we are dispersed, to help us focus and be present when we are distracted and ‘allover the place’. Mindfulness practices like the Mindfulness of Breathing are a classic practice for this aim.
2. Generative: this is the body of practices that help us grow and develop more of a quality that we wish to have more present in our life - kindness, generosity, rejoicing in others for example. The basis for these practices is that we can train ourselves to have more of these qualities - like building up a muscle through exercise. The Development of Loving Kindness (metta bhavana) is a key practice here.
3. Receptive: This is a key skill to learn - to be completely open and able to turn towards our actual experience, beyond and below our layers of cultural conditioning that make us blindly accept assumptions of ‘how things are’. The practice here is what we call in Triratna Just Sitting
4. Reflective: learning to think - in a relaxed, focused, directed way, allowing us to go deeper and find our authentic and truly creative way of relating to the world - the ability to do this very much depends on some grounding in the above three skills.
I am just adding the poem by Roger Keyes ‘Hokusei says’ as we read it at the end of the class and it is one of my favourites!