Similarities among disciplines:
Ornstein noted that "most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief".:143
Progress on the "intractable" problem of defining meditation was attempted by a recent study of views common to 7 experts trained in diverse but empirically highly studied (clinical or Eastern-derived) forms of meditation.
The study identified "three main criteria... as essential to any meditation practice: the use of a defined technique, logic relaxation, and a self-induced state/mode. Other criteria deemed important [but not essential] involve a state of psychophysical relaxation, the use of a self-focus skill or anchor, the presence of a state of suspension of logical thought processes, a religious/spiritual/philosophical context, or a state of mental silence".:135
However, the study cautioned that "It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by 'family resemblances'... or by the related prototype model of concepts".:135
In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways; many of these emphasize the role of attention (see table at right)....(see previous post~Pb)
Oftentimes, in the West, meditation is classified in two broad categories, so noted in the following excerpt,
direction of mental attention... A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative mediation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness.:130
Other typologies have also been proposed,[additional citations useful] and some techniques shift among major categories.
Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that major categories of meditation, defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns.[additional citations useful]
Some evidence also suggests that using different focus objects may generate different brainwave patterns.
In Concentration meditation the meditator holds attention on a particular object (e.g., the breath at the point of one's own nose or a picture of one's Guru) while consistently bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object. See also, anapanasati.
In Mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process. The meditator is usually encouraged to maintain an open focus or monitoring. An example of a more detailed description of the process of mindfulness meditation:
In mindfulness meditation, the subject sits comfortably, in silence, centering attention by focusing mental awareness an object or process (either the breathing process, a sound, a mantra koan or riddle evoking questions, a visualisation, or an exercise) and then consciously is encouraged to scan their thoughts in an open focus, shifting freely from one perception to the next (Kutz et al., 1985a, b). No thought, image or sensation is considered an intrusion. The meditator, with a `no effort’ attitude, is asked to remain in the here and now. Using the focus as an `anchor’ (Teasdale et al., 1995) brings the subject constantly back to the present, avoiding cognitive analysis or fantasy regarding the contents of awareness, and increasing tolerance and relaxation of secondary thought processes.:49
Modern definitions and Western models
Definitions and scope:
Definitions or Characterizations of Meditation:
Definition / Characterization
•"[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration":228-9 Walsh & Shapiro (2006)
•"[M]editation is used to describe practices that self-regulate the body and mind, thereby affecting mental events by engaging a specific attentional set.... regulation of attention is the central commonality across the many divergent methods":180 Cahn & Polich (2006)
•"We define meditation... as a stylized mental technique... repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful":415 Jevning et al (1992)
•"the need for the meditator to retrain his attention, whether through concentration or mindfulness, is the single invariant ingredient in... every meditation system":107 Goleman (1988)
*Influential reviews (cited >50 times in PsycINFO),
encompassing multiple methods of meditation.
As early as 1971, Naranjo noted that "The word 'meditation' has been used to designate a
variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in
defining what meditation is.":6 As of 2010, there remains no definition of necessary and
sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance
within the modern scientific community, as one study recently noted a "persistent lack of
consensus in the literature" and a "seeming intractability of defining meditation".:135
In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are often used
imprecisely to designate broadly similar practices, or sets of practices, that are found
across many cultures and traditions.
Some of the difficulty in precisely defining meditation has been the need to recognize the
particularities of the many various traditions. There may be differences between the
theories of a certain tradition in what it means to practice some state, and so one may see
that the differences amongst traditions that have grown up a great distance apart from each
other will be even more stark. The defining of what is, 'meditation', has caused
problems in modern scientific research, and appeals have been made that researchers
more clearly define the type of meditation being practiced in order that results of their
studies be made more clear.:499 Taylor:2 noted that to refer only to meditation from
a particular faith (e.g., "Hindu" or "Buddhist")
is not enough, since the cultural traditions from which a particular kind of meditation comes
are quite different and even within a single tradition differ in complex ways. The specific
name of a school of thought or a teacher or the title of a specific text is often quite
important for identifying a particular type of meditation.
Within a specific context, more precise meanings are not uncommonly given the word
"meditation." For example, 'meditation', is sometimes the translation of meditation in
Latin, which means the third, of four steps, of Lectio Divina, an ancient form of Christian
prayer. 'Meditation' may also refer to the second of the three steps of Yoga in Patanjali's
Yoga Sutras, a step called dhyāna in Sanskrit.
Meditation may refer to a mental or spiritual state that may be attained by such
practices, and may also refer to the practice of that state.
This article focuses on meditation in the broad sense of a type of discipline, found in
various forms in many cultures, by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the
reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state. The terms
"meditative practice" and "meditation" are mostly used here in this broad sense. However,
usage may vary somewhat by context - readers should be aware that in quotations, or in
discussions of particular traditions, more specialized meanings of "meditation" may
sometimes be used (with meanings made clear by context whenever possible).