Nowadays, the benefits of meditation have become well-known. We do it for stress relief, better focus, or simply for clarity and calm. These benefits become magnified when we engage in meditation with a clear goal and intention. And once we know our goal, we can determine the type of meditation that would serve it best. We can divide meditation into three types based on our goal. These types are progressive stages not only defined by the purposes they serve, but also the depth of the meditation.
- Health meditation
- Functional meditation
- Enlightenment meditation
1. Health Meditation
Purpose: Improve health
When you mention “meditation,” people often only think of sitting with their eyes closed. But all we do in our lives, such as, laughing, walking, breathing, or praising others, is all meditation. There is not a thing we do that is not meditation, because meditation is a technique for using the mind. Putting our minds into our lives whether we’re sitting still or moving—in other words, becoming more mindful—is meditation. This can all be included in the category of health meditation.
As the first stage of meditative practice, health meditation does not involve entering a very deep state of consciousness. In such a state, brain waves slow to a theta level. For health meditation, though, it’s enough if they slow from the beta frequency of our active minds to an alpha frequency. This causes our consciousness to sink from the neocortex, or outer layers of our brain, to the paleocortex further in the center of our brain.
As that happens, we enter a state of emotional control and feel a sense of great peace. Even that is enough to make us feel very comfortable, to help us recover from fatigue, digest better, release stress, increase our immunity, and improve our health overall.
When we learn to control ourselves through health meditation, we can use that control to meditate in earnest and engage in functional meditation.
2. Functional Meditation
Purpose: Improve brain functions like concentration and creativity and changing habits
Once we learn to control our thoughts and emotions through health meditation, next, we can do functional meditation. Functional meditative methods are about developing the power of the brain. We use the magic of imagination to increase our creativity and concentration. In such a meditative state, we can forget our age and gender and let go of our present situation or anxieties. Just as we can freely switch back and forth between gears in our cars, we can freely shift our consciousness with our imagination; this is a way to make good use of our brain.
Students do it to increase their learning ability, and some people use it to stop or change bad habits. For example, people who want to quit smoking can actually stop if, through meditation, they encourage their brain by continuously visualizing themselves having quit smoking.
This type of visualization goes deeper than changing the thoughts floating in our paleocortex. Habits are embedded in the neural networks of our subconscious, deep in the paleocortex, almost at the entrance to the brain stem. So there are limits to extracting that information using only the thought of the neocortex. That’s why, even after we say that we’ve resolved to change, we go back to our old habits in a few days.
Information in the paleocortex is not moved by information in the neocortex. We have to bring our awareness deep into the paleocortex through meditation and strongly resolve, “I will stop smoking.” It’s like inputting information into a computer.
If we do that, then, for a while, the old information and newly input information battle it out. At that point, we have to continually talk to our paleocortex about what harm will come to us unless we quit smoking. When such information gets in, the bad information that was there before loses its power and jumps out. Without even realizing it, we start to hate even looking at tobacco.
This is controlling and recreating ourselves through functional meditation, the second kind of meditation.
3. Enlightenment Meditation
Purpose: Great awakening
Enlightenment meditation is the highest level of meditation. At the heart of it is discovering who we really are at our core.
When we meditate deeply, going past an alpha state and into a slower theta frequency, our emotions disappear like clouds scattering and vanishing. We enter into a “no self” state, or what is also called the zero point. From this clear, emotion-free state beyond our bodies or our egos, if we go in even deeper, we attain a state of a new awakening. Then, we have a realization concerning who we are and a connection to all that is.
Practicing health meditation can be done throughout every day of our lives. With more concerted practice, we learn to quiet our thoughts and emotions to do functional meditation regularly. We actively change our habits and exercise our imagination to become more creative. By becoming proficient in health meditation and functional meditation, our brain becomes trained enough to go deeper, into enlightenment meditation, to experience the nature of all life.
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