Psychology of meditation: Theory and practice

S. K. Kiran Kumar

I Theory

Introduction

As we move from 20th to 21st century there appears to be a general improvement in the standard of living in terms of material comforts all over the world. People in general tend to be seized by the development of new technologies, capitalism, consumerism, and globalisation. . Individualistic tendencies seem to be replacing collectivism, even in Asian cultures. At the same time new challenges in moral, religious, social, economic, ecological and political spheres have emerged. These developments have also altered the traditional life styles and values. The level of stress and tension experienced by individuals in a changing ethos has increased and people have been seeking ways of coping with them. Value crisis is perceptible in just noticeable differences at global level as manifested in international conflicts, and in racial and communal hatred leading to increased terrorism, aggression and violence all over the world.

In this emerging scenario of conflict, stress and tension, experts in all fields are looking for new ways of managing the crisis. Social scientists and even some of the physical and natural scientists have also looked into ancient spiritual traditions to seek solace and solutions for modern problems. The crux of the point is not altering the external conditions, but bringing change within self and in one’s perspective. It is in this global context that spiritual traditions of the east have gained worldwide significance and acceptance as ways of bringing about the change in perspective and as harbinger of peace. Contemporary psychology of meditation is a socio-cultural response to changing worldview and ethos across the globe, which is taking place alongside the rapid strides in science and technology. It is an attempt at developing “I-thou” in contrast to “I-it” attitude in interpersonal relationship, in the words of Martin Beuber the famous French philosopher. Meditation is also a way of engaging the environment, called “man-in-nature” in contrast to “man-over-nature” by anthropologists.

Spiritual traditions as psychologies of meditation

Ornstein (1972) observes that meditation refers to a set of techniques, which are the products of a different type of psychology that aims at personal rather than intellectual knowledge. According to him meditation exercises are designed to produce an alteration in consciousness, which means a shift away from an active, outward-oriented, linear mode towards receptive and quiescent mode with a shift from external focus of attention to an internal one. These exercises constitute a deliberate attempt to separate one self for a short while from the flow of daily life, and to “turn off” the active mode of normal consciousness so that one may enter a complementary mode. This process involves inhibiting the usual mode of consciousness in order to cultivate a second mode that is available to man. The basic understanding underlying meditative exercises is that our ordinary consciousness is a personal construction and that it can be extended to a new mode of operation.

Deikman (1971) has listed several characteristics of the action and the receptive modes of consciousness. Most importantly as a psychological state the action mode is a state of striving whose functional orientation is achieving personal goals, from nutrition to defence to obtaining social rewards, a variety of symbols and sensual pleasures and avoidance of pain. This involves manipulation of the environment. The psychological manifestations of action mode include focal attention, object-based logic, heightened boundary perception, dominance of formal over sensory characteristics and predominance of shapes and meanings. The time orientation of this mode is future. The physiological correlates of this mode are dominance of striate muscle system, sympathetic nervous system, b-waves on EEG and increased muscle tension.

In contrast, the receptive mode is a psychological state of non-striving whose functional orientation is to “be” in the here and now without any personal goals to achieve of material or social nature, which leads to maximization of intake of the environment. The psychological manifestations of this mode are diffuse attention, paralogical thought, decreased boundary perception, dominance of sensory over formal characteristics of objects or events, and dominance of colour and texture. Physiological correlates are dominance of sensory-perceptual system, parasympathetic system, a-waves on EEG and decreased muscle tension. Meditation as exercises to facilitate receptive mode means many things according to Lama Govinda. It means turning inward; quiet observation, reflection and awareness of ourselves; to be conscious of consciousness; to become a detached observer of the stream of changing thoughts, feelings, drives and visions, until their nature and origin are recognized (Govinda, 1978).

Walsh (1983) understands the original goals and purposes of meditation within the context of consciousness, as development of certain qualities like calmness, equanimity, concentration, compassion, wisdom, generosity, and perceptual and introspective sensitivity; and of alternative states of consciousness.

Shapiro (1985) notes that the original purpose of meditation as delineated in the philosophical and cultural context of the techniques, is to create a deeper sensitivity to perceptual and cognitive stimuli and to bring about a change in a person’s awareness and reaction to oneself, others and the world around.

Definition and classification of meditation in modern psychology

In contemporary psychological literature meditation is used as a broad and generic term to include all those different connotations of yoga as a spiritual discipline and of dhyana and upasana. Second, the term also refers to all those spiritual practices prevalent in other traditions like Buddhism, Christianity, Jewish Kabalah, Taoism, etc. Third, it is used to refer to many other mental devices or techniques developed by researchers, for example, Clinically Standardised Meditation (Carrington, 1987). Sitting quietly, relaxing, closing the eyes, breathing deliberately, focusing attention on an object or image non-analytically, observing the thought process without judging, repeating sounds mentally, rhythmic moving of the body as in Sufi dervish dance, and so on are all considered as meditation. As Carrington (1987) notes the term is used as a “conglomerate word” and under this conceptual umbrella a number of “different techniques and intents” are grouped. According to Shapiro (1982) meditation refers to “a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a non-analytical way and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought”.

Naranjo and Ornstein (1971) categorise all the different meditative practices into three types viz., the way of forms (concentration, absorption, union, outer directed, Apollonian), the expressive way (freedom, transparance, surrender, inner directed, Dionysian) and the negative way (elimination, detachment, emptiness, centred, the “middle way”). Goleman (1977) groups them into two types viz., “concentration” and “opening up” meditation. Carrington (1987) distinguishes “centring” techniques from “meditation”. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra centring techniques are known as dharana and meditation is known as dhyana. To get a better idea of the difference between concentration and meditation and also to know about meditative practices in the Indian tradition one can refer to Bhajananada (1980a,b, c, d, &e; 1981a,b; 1983).

Carrington (1987) distinguishes between “practical” and “spiritual” meditation. Spiritual meditation is historic, embedded in centuries-old religious traditions. Practical form of meditation is contemporary and frequently practised in the west. The objective of spiritual meditation is to attain spiritual development, through a process of deepening the range of the human spirit and changing the entire life of a human being. Practical meditation affects the practitioner’s life in certain practical ways, without changing their lives in an essential fashion. The objective of practical meditation is to enrich the experience of the average Westerner who continues to function within the framework of ordinary society. Most contemporary researches and the propagation of meditation have focused on practical meditation. From the practical angle meditation is a cost-effective way of stress management and yoga is viewed not as a way of life but as a relaxation strategy. However, present situation calls for not just stress management but a fundamental re-vision of our outlook towards life and reality and meditation can bring about this change in us if rightly understood.

Application and objectives of meditation

Meditation has varied applications, its scope ranging from simple relaxation to Self-realization. Broadly one can speak of five of them: behavioural, clinical, epistemological, psychological, and socio-cultural. Behavioural refers to the enhancement of efficiency in terms of focal attention, present-centredness, skill in action, and decision making. Clinical applications include heightening of awareness of physiological and psychological processes leading to their voluntary control and inducing psychobiological and psychotherapeutic effects. Epistemological application refers to the acquisition of knowledge of self and reality through a process of transcendence, in which meditation serves as “experiential way” as contrasted with “empirical way”. Psychological application enables effecting changes in different aspects of mental functioning and personality, personal growth and self-actualization and inducing changes in interpersonal and social behaviour. Socio-cultural application of meditation as already mentioned is a response to different types of crisis viz., economic, energy, ecological, demographic and humanistic world over, and it involves fostering a sense of belongingness and oneness of humanity and oneness with cosmos, through a shift in perspective.

Foci of contemporary meditation research

With the introduction of Transcendental Meditation, by Maharshi Mahesha Yogi in early 1960s in Western culture researchers from many disciplines, primarily from physiology and psychology, have investigated the phenomenon of meditation. Many investigators have documented its practical utility for psychosomatic and psychological problems (Murphy & Donovan, 1997; Shapiro & Walsh, 1984; Walsh, 1999; West, 1987).

In psychological jargon, meditation techniques are “self-regulation strategies” (Shapiro & Giber, 1978). Self-regulation strategy primarily refers to the ways and means of controlling and directing the activity of a system by itself, which are built-in. At physiological level, self-regulation through meditation reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system that is crucial in causing stress and tension. It increases the dominance of the para-sympathetic nervous system activity, which enhances relaxation. Jacobson’s progressive muscular relaxation, biofeedback, autogenic training are some of the techniques which are of self-regulation. To this list is added the ancient Indian techniques like asana (posture) and pranayama (regulation of prana through breathing). Meditative practices which involve sitting and chanting mantra, focusing on breathing, being passively aware of thought processes are also considered as self-regulation strategies which act at the mental level. Many studies have been conducted on them and the relative efficacy of these techniques have been discussed and debated (Holmes, 1984; Shapiro, 1982; Woolfolk, 1975).

Another important focus of research on meditation is to examine its psychotherapeutic and growth benefits (Ali et al., 1988; Bogart, 1990). Investigators have found that meditative practices enhance psychological growth and well being. They also serve as therapeutic adjuncts both in re-educative and re-constructive therapies, besides serving as a supportive therapy technique.

Study of meditative practices as altered states of consciousness (Shapiro & Giber, 1978) primarily focussed on distinguishing states induced by meditation practices from clinical conditions and other techniques of altering consciousness (Barber, 1970; Kiran Kumar, 1981; Shapiro, 1980). Attempts to portray the phenomenology of meditative states (Brown, 1977; Goleman, 1977; Kornfield, 1979; Walsh, 1977, 1978) and to understand the underlying dimensions (Osis, Bokert, & Carlson, 1973) were made.

Understanding meditation as an integral aspect of spiritual traditions, but again in the background of modern psychological perspectives can be found in Brown, Engler & Wilber (1986), Naranjo & Ornstein (1971), Ornstein (1972), Tart (1975a, 1989), Walsh (1980a, 1999), and West (1986).

Thus, from the viewpoint of modern psychology, investigations on yoga and other meditative practices are of significance in enhancing the understanding of the body-mind relationship. For comprehensive overviews and reviews of studies on meditation, one can refer to Johnson (1982), Rao (1989), Vigne (1997), and Walsh (1980, 1999). They have also helped in redefining the boundaries of the discipline to include hitherto neglected human phenomena viz., consciousness, as a valid subject matter.

Contextual approach to meditation

Thus we have two main perspectives on meditation. One that views meditation from the point of view of modern psychology and the other which attempts to understand meditation as a product of a different type of psychology. The former views meditation primarily as a self-regulation strategy, an adjunct to psychotherapy and as a technique of altering consciousness. The latter, though acknowledges all these goes beyond towards the “farther reaches of human nature”(Abraham Maslow) with emphasis on “meta needs” and “being-values”. Most contemporary approaches to the study of meditation view meditation primarily as a technique from the perspective of modern psychology and a number of factors traditionally associated with meditation practices are regarded as secondary. However, careful examination of meditative phenomena reveals that these so-called secondary factors are as much important as the technique proper. Further, most teaching of meditation takes place in spiritually oriented centres, which bring in their unique assumptions and beliefs to provide a context whether one likes it or not.

The contextual approach holds that whether one approaches meditation from a modern psychological point of view or from the traditional point of view, there are many factors that provide an interactive context within which the technique one employs operate to produce certain phenomena. Thus, it is possible to understand all that is discussed in contemporary and traditional literature about meditation with reference to three broad conceptual categories, or factors in the statistical sense. They are nature (Category I), influencing factors (Category II) and effects (Category III). Each category has certain properties and these properties can have dimensions. All of them interact leading to meditative phenomena of different kinds. The word category is used here because the model is derived from a qualitative approach to data analysis based on Grounded Theory Technique of Sarbin & Cross (1990). For more details regarding the development of the model refer author’s book Psychology of Meditation: A contextual approach (Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 2002).

Category I
Nature
Category II
Influencing factors
Category III
Effects*
PropertiesPropertiesProperties
(a) Perceptions
(b) Practice
(c) Process
(a) Goals
(b) Belief system
(c) Culture and society
(d) Faith community
(e) Personality traits
(f)Facilitative factors
(g) Disturbing factors
(a) Stress relief
(b) Attitudinal change
(c) Dependency

*Note: Effects listed under properties do not exhaust all possibilities. It is dependent on the limited data variety.

The different definitions of meditation currently available in scientific literature seem to focus on different categories. For example, Goleman’s (1977) distinction between “concentration” and “opening up” meditation defined in terms of attention strategies, emphasise on the nature of meditation (Category I). Much discussion has taken place about the relation between the procedure one adopts and the experiences one undergoes during meditation (Goleman, 1977; Naranjo & Ornstein, 1971).  Similarly, Carrington’s (1977) distinction between “spiritual meditation” and “practical meditation”, and Johnson’s (1982) distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic “ goals are definitions which emphasise the influencing factors goals and belief system (Category II). Defining meditation as a means of inducing altered states of consciousness or as a self-regulation strategy (Shapiro & Giber, 1978), as relaxation response (Benson, 1975) are examples of Category III related to effects. One can suggest that the three categories represent a three-category/factor model of meditation. The various properties of the three categories interact with each other resulting in a variety of meditative experiences. Hence it is appropriate to treat it as a multivariate phenomenon.

The model holds that the understanding of the phenomenon of meditation depend on the meditator, or the person, as a context. Current approaches to understand meditation which are primarily technique or goal centred appear inadequate. Further, it is understood from this model that the process of meditation is dynamic. That means as the meditator undergoes changes in one’s belief system, values, expectations, and perceptions one’s meditation practice changes. Hence, the phenomenon of meditation has to be approached as a dynamic process, but not as a static incident or event. From the methodological point of view it appears more advantageous to follow some variations of the participant observation method, rather than a strict experimental approach. Longitudinal and cross -cultural studies will bring out more information on the dynamic phenomenon of meditation than any single culture, cross-sectional studies.

In the next section on practice, the three categories of are elaborated with a view to familiarize the readers as to how the various properties in each category may influence each other in the learning and actual day-to-day practice of meditation.

II Practice

Category I – Nature

Perceptions about meditation

The technique of meditation one uses and the process involved constitute what is usually called meditation. However, participants carry their own perceptions and expectations of meditation. For example, following are some of the perceptions about meditation reported by the participants in a study. It is a form of prayer; concentration on God; that which enables me to see what matters each moment and not concern myself with things that do not matter; a passive process; a way of integrating all these active techniques, like visualisation, relaxation, biofeedback; I didn’t think normal people could do meditation. The above excerpts illustrate how people view meditation in their own unique way, which may affect their practices, experience and outcome. While some of them represent what West  (1986) has called “common essence” of meditation, others are “biases” as Tart and Young (1989) have noted.  How such ‘perceptions’ influence the practice in one way or the other will be evident below.

Practice of meditation

Practice refers to what a meditator actually does during a period of twenty, thirty or sixty minutes.  He or she may follow one of the techniques like active focussing of attention on an object or thought or be passively aware. While doing that what one perceives and believes as important component of practice influences what one does. Here is an example. A participant reported: I practice it with some religious practice. I pray in the beginning and then I meditate with “mantra” rather than just breathing and saying Om. Om is of course a mantra, but I begin with Gayathri and then Om and then silent Om...you didn’t mention anything about mantra...It is my feeling that mantra brings better results than just doing breathing practice.

Another example. I do pranayama and...then I just sit quietly and tell my mind to stop. Primarily that’s what I do. Stillness, stopping the thinking.

There are individual differences in what type of practice suits a person. One participant reported thus. I don’t like focusing on my breathing. It doesn’t work for me. If I focus on it, it skips through...if I forget about it and then focus on my affirmation and then I become aware of my breathing that works. But I don’t find it is necessary for me to think about my breathing. It is not for me right now. Eventually I may get more into my breathing. Right now, I need to do it to kind of keep myself. I need to get a foundation, I need to feel safe, to feel peaceful, before I get to that level of breathing.

Generally, it is believed that participants of a meditation course adhere strictly to the specified type of meditation taught. However, it can be a source of error as far as a researcher is concerned because of the factor of individual differences. Meditators may bring in their won variations into what they do.

Process of meditation

The process here refers to what actually happens during a meditation session. An example of process is as follows: The usual is get into breathing as I begin with pranayama. The rhythm of the breathing settles the body down...and the body is enlivened by the prana as you feel it begins to reach into different parts of the body. Then the consciousness becomes clear and focussed...sometimes my attention is wide outside of my body. Not in my body at all. Often I struggle between being without thought and breathing. And breathing always activates the thought or often activates it and so I go back and forth between being able to be without thoughts, just clear attention and having that attention distracted by the movement of the breath. There are times when I am free from that and my attention is completely free from any activity of the body. That attention is very energetic...like a beam or sword or some piercing thing.

Phenomenology of meditative process varies considerably from one meditator to another. West (1986) has pointed out that, it is the uniqueness rather than the commonality of meditation experience that seems most significant in the lives of meditators. He also notes that the researchers have often viewed meditators as a homogenous group and, this tendency has obscured the large and real differences in meditators’ experiences.

Meditation cannot be described in a simplistic way. It cannot also be understood in an either/or manner and therefore, questions like whether meditation is a state or a technique, and whether meditation refers to a particular practice or to a whole set of practices may not be answered categorically. West (1986) has attempted to understand the “meditation career histories” of a number of subjects in terms of different conceptual continua. He notes that meditators practice varied on “unimodal versus multimodal” continuum, with many long -term meditators having experience of a rich mixture of methods.

Category II - Influencing factors

The perceptions, practice and process are conditioned by many variables, which are referred here as influencing factors, which provide a larger psychosocial and/or spiritual context for the practitioner. They are (a) Goals (b) Belief system (c) Culture and Society (d) Faith community (e) Personality traits (f) Facilitative factors and (g) Disturbing factors. Each one of them has certain properties and dimensions.

Goals

Goals involve three properties viz., expectations about meditation, motivation to begin meditation and adherence, i.e., whether one wants to practice as a way of life or as a means to end. Out of these expectations play a significant role. Expectations may be physical, psychological or spiritual. Physical includes relieving stress, gaining more energy, and overcoming illness. Psychological includes resolving emotional conflicts, resolving identity problems, experiencing calmness, and experiencing awareness. Spiritual includes God-realisation and Self-realisation. These expectations to certain extent limit the scope and depth of one’s experiences. Motivations to join a course and adhering to a routine depend to some extent on expectations.

Belief system

Belief system has two aspects viz., personal and cultural. Personal belief system refers to the belief system of an individual, as distinguished from ethnoepistemology, which refers to the cultural belief system. Ethnoepistemology refers to the world-view, values, beliefs in a culture about man and the universe, which are built into thought ways and life ways of people as integral aspects. One of the important aspects of personal belief system that has implication for meditation is whether one believes in a transcendental dimension or not. If one believes in it then one is likely to have a positive valence towards spiritual goals, whereas one who does not believe tend to have only physical and psychological expectations about meditation.

Since ethnoepistemology of a culture contributes to the development of the personal belief system, it tends to play a significant role in meditation practice. There are definite cultural differences between Asian and Western countries regarding the worldview. Asian cultures hold man is spiritual and believe in transcendental dimension, whereas many Western nations do not. For example, in India place of spirituality is high in the hierarchy of values, social acceptance of meditative practices is positive, environment is supportive, faith associated is more, availability of opportunities to learn meditation is more and availability of information and models is much as compared to a western society.

Faith community

Faith community is a group of persons who share certain assumptions, beliefs and views. A group of people who always would like to be identified as scientists can also be regarded as a faith community, as much as one speaks of a religious group as faith community.

Particular religious or faith community plays an important role in meditation practice and experience. Religious and spiritual traditions provide the necessary structure and discipline required for meditative life. Each religion/spiritual tradition has its own conceptions of spiritual and religious experiences that provide the conceptual framework. The properties relevant to this are liturgical, interactional, and environmental. Liturgical includes rituals conducted, chanting of hymns, singing devotional songs. Interactional properties include verbal, non-verbal, and “experiential” interactions between the teacher and the taught, verbal, non-verbal, and “experiential” interaction between the group members, sharing of personal experiences, and group meditation. Environmental property includes physical surroundings; serenity and quietness of atmosphere, and holiness attached to the place.

A group of people who may not believe in religion and spirituality, but would like to pursue meditation within the framework of modern psychology, or a psychology derived from spiritual tradition may form a faith community of their own with unique properties. An illustration of this with reference to Integral Psychology developed from Sri Aurobindo’s teachings can be found in Kiran Kumar (2001).

Personality traits

Personality traits also play a significant role in meditation. It is well known in the Indian tradition that sattva guna facilitates meditative life better as compared to rajo guna and tamo guna. A sattvic person is described as one who has discriminative intellect; who is self-controlled, serene, equanimous, and steadfast; who is virtuous, generous and gentle; and who is detached and duty bound without expectations, a seeker of self and aware of the unity underlying all diversities. A rajasic person is one who is driven into action by passion, is restless, is struggling; who has more desires, strong likes and dislikes, and pursues sensory pleasures; who is attached to one’s social roles; who lacks clear discrimination and has distorted understanding; and who is egotistic. A tamasic person is depressed, lethargic, disinclined to work, negligent, undisciplined, arrogant, hostile, indecisive, ignorant, inadvertent, uncertain and dull (Uma, 1969). It is to be noted that all the three gunas are present in all the individuals and it is the preponderance of one over the other which leads to the labelling of persons as sattvic, rajasic and tamasic type. According to Indian psychological perspectives, regular practice of meditation will lead to reduction in rajasic and tamasic qualities and increase of sattvic qualities.

Further, the way of life we prefer to live also matters. Whether one prefers ways of life, which emphasise solitude, withdrawal, contemplation, and meditation or those that emphasize an active, participating, and social existence determines one’s expectations about meditation. However, it is possible that over a period of practice preferences for ways of life may change due to a shift in one’s perspective about the nature of life and reality.

Facilitative factors

After one begins meditating there are facilitative and disturbing factors that are internal and external. Internal facilitative factors include relaxed state, constant practice and persistence, value attached to the goal and practice, and enjoying one’s work and feeling satisfaction in it. External facilitative factors include quiet and peaceful atmosphere, lack of problems in family and work and few external demands.

It is widely known that meditation leads to a relaxed state of body and mind. Then, under which condition can one consider what is widely believed as an effect of meditation is itself a facilitative property? One participant who used to attend the classes always in a state of tension later reported as follows: I can’t seem to focus on breathing unless I feel safe or calm already. Continuous anxiety and tension prevented this participant from following the meditation practice and she subsequently learnt “affirmations” like “I feel safe”, “I feel calm”, etc., from another yoga teacher. The “affirmations” worked as autosuggestion and relaxed her. The experience of this participant shows that intense feelings of insecurity and anxiety may actually prevent one from practising meditation, just as they would affect any other routine.

Disturbing factors

Internal disturbing factors include worry, conflicts, tensions, tiredness, lack of discipline, and one’s attitude towards meditation. The external factors include travel, work schedules, family commitment, physical environment, and problems in work and sporadic life style.

It is interesting to note that for another participant meditation practice itself came in the way as a disturbing factor because her attitude towards her practice was very rigid. As she reported she took her practice very seriously and started “judging” her meditation practice. Her attitude, I think I never do it right, was nagging her leading to frustration.

Category III - Effects of meditation

The effects of meditation practice can be many and varied. As discussed already with examples, the perceptions and expectations about meditation influence the effects of meditation considerably. Similarly, other influencing properties discussed also determine the effects of meditation practice. Therefore, in assessing the outcome of one’s practice one needs to keep in mind all the relevant variables which are simultaneously operating. It is important for a regular meditator to evaluate the many influencing factors that may be operating in course of one’s life, thus shaping one’s practice, experience and effects.

One possible effect of meditation that requires special mention is “dependency” one may develop on meditation. Dependency on meditation is a phenomenon many investigators have not looked into. Tart and Young (1989) have discussed this issue with reference to the attachment and addiction one may develop to a guru and/or drugs consumed as an aid to practice. Young notes that more often people develop needs with respect to the conditions they require to meditate, (i.e., facilitative properties discussed above), rather than around meditation itself. Two participants did report dependency on meditation. They described what they feel if they can not spend time for meditation regularly. Their experiences indicate different degrees of psychological dependency and one could say that it varies on a dimension from low to high.

One participant was able to differentiate between “compulsion” and “discomfort” when she does not practice meditation regularly. Her experience reported below will indicate how meditation can be a part of life and become a habit.

It seems to be not so much that I have an objective to it. It just becomes something natural I am doing. I don’t feel right if I don’t do it. Right is not the correct word. But I don’t feel as comfortable, but not compulsive, I got to do this not that kind. It is ...peaceful. It allows me to centre, slowdown, just generally that type of thing. So I miss it if I don’t do it.

The experience of another participant is quite different and it may be considered as a classic example of dependency on meditation.

When I don’t take that 45 minutes or half an hour in the morning, then life eats me up, there’s nothing left in me and in a few days, I’m cross, I yell at people, I act awful and if I remember to detach myself and sit quietly for half an hour then I have some chance of not losing everything all day.

Dependency on meditation may be as counterproductive to what one hope to achieve through meditation as any other negatively influencing factor. Hence, it is necessary to caution a practitioner to maintain a modicum of detachment regarding one’s own practice.

III Some tips for daily practice

Since meditation is understood as a multivariate phenomenon and in view of the many points discussed above, some guidelines for practitioners are suggested here. They are not exhaustive but useful.

  • Don’t carry a “mental baggage” when you want to learn meditation. Approach it with an innocent mind.
  • Be aware of your expectations about meditation and your motivations.
  • Be open to spiritual and transcendental possibilities. Understand the theoretical background of a system, if your goal is spiritual.
  • Try to maintain regular practice.
  • Stick to a particular system and technique for a fairly good length of time. Don’t “hop, skip and jump” from one to another.
  • Avoid disturbing factors.
  • Seek facilitating conditions.
  • Have a detached attitude.
  • You can use meditation to resolve your psychological problems if you can take an observer’s attitude.
  • Don’t practice when you are physically sick or psychologically very disturbed. It requires a fairly good amount of physical and mental stability to keep going with practice.

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Walsh, R. (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioural sciences. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137, 663-673.

Walsh, R. (1983). Meditation practice and research. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 23(1), 18-50.

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