People practice meditation in various ways depending upon their background, inclination, and available resources. However, all meditation techniques can be put in two broad categories:
Concentration (or absorption) meditation: You aim to concentrate the mind on the chosen object of your meditation and ignore everything else. The object can be your breathing, some symbol on a surface some distance away, mantra, ie., non-stop repetition of a word or phrase, visualization of some form or figure, etc. You make all your effort to keep the mind focused on the meditation object and try not to allow it to drift.
You reap the fruits of meditation when you are able to sustain the awareness of the meditation object effortlessly for longer periods of time. It normally leads to an altered state of consciousness that is highly rewarding.
Insight (or mindfulness) meditation: This form of meditation is just the reverse of concentration meditation. Rather than trying to focus the mind on something, you give it a free reign and try to become a “witness” or “observer” – of yourself, thoughts, feelings, sensation, breathing, etc. You efforts involve remaining detached from whatever you are observing.
You try to keep an open mind that does not include or exclude anything; that does not accept or reject anything. You try not to analyse or interpret. You aim to maintain the “present centered” mental presence as intensely as you can. You are trying to convert your observation into “mere observation” and “bare observation”. It helps in developing a non-reactive, unbiased, clam, and clear state of mind.
This is the technique of the Buddha and is called Vipassana meditation. The word “Vipassana” come from the language Buddha spoke 2500 years ago. It means “seeing things as they really are” rather than through our colored interpretations. All meditation techniques that originated after Buddha have mindfulness as the basis.