The Many Forms of Meditation

In our culture, meditation encompasses a broad range of concepts and practices. From the formal sitting practice of Zen, to the Christian Centering prayer; from Hindu chanting to Transcendental Meditation™; from Sufi dervish practices to Running Meditation—we use the term "meditation" in the broadest possible way.

It makes a lot of sense. There seems to be an infinite number of methods that bring us into the present moment—which is the essence of what meditation is. What we do when we reach the present moment, and what meaning we ascribe to it is where the many paths diverge.

In June 2007, the National Institute of Health's (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) funded a comprehensive study of meditation, entitled "Meditation Practices for Health: State of the Research." 


They identified five broad categories of meditation:

  • Mantra Meditation
    • Transcendental Meditation (TM)
    • Relaxation Response
    • Clinically Standardized Meditation (CSM)
  • Mindfulness Meditation
    • Vipassana
    • Zen
    • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
    • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Qi Gong

You can read the entire fascinating report by clicking the above link.

For a comprehensive look at meditation, check out Wikipedia's Meditation page, where you can find information on the forms of meditation including:

  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Jainism
  • New Age
  • Sikhism
  • Taoism
  • Bahai

Of all the meditation types, Vipassana or Insight is currently the most popular.  One of the best websites for this is Wildmind Buddhist Meditation.  The site includes meditation instruction and guidance, on-going support for your practice, a discussion forum, applied meditation information centered around stress, health issues, pain management, and more, and great articles.

Several sites feature talks from the leading Vipassana/Insight meditation teachers from the U.S. and around the world:

All of these talks are very accessible, friendly, open, and compassionate.

Other Favorite Online Resources on Meditation

Two interesting meditation and science blogs are:

For a comprehensive site on Mindfulness Meditation, with articles, blogs, community discussion boards, videos, terrific articles, and more, visit Wellsphere's Mindfulness Meditation page.

If you are interested in pursuing meditation further and want to find out about retreats and retreat centers, check out The Insight Meditation Society. You will find information about its retreats and teachers and links to other excellent retreat centers:

For online meditation courses taught by very outstanding teachers, check into DharmaCore: Buddhism for the Web Generation.

And finally, for a talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn—one of the founders of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, also a leading teacher in Insight Meditation and author of Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness; Meditation for Optimum Health and Full Catastrophe Living—you can visit "The Ceaseless Society: What Happens to Our Mind, Body and Spirit when we just Never Stop?"

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