4 Contemplative Meditation Techniques You Need To Experience
What is the best contemplation meditation technique?
There are 31 main meditation techniques in use today.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses:
- Movement meditations help to liberate the mind.
- Breathing meditations are good for relaxation.
- Taoist meditations restore the flow of chi.
- Zen will quickly improve your focus.
As a meditation teacher who has spent well over 10,000 hours meditating, I’ve discovered some truly amazing things about my own mind and about life in general. For instance, I’ve learned that I have an exceptional powerful sense of empathy that I used to take for granted.
Finding your spiritual strengths like that can open up a new chapter in your life.
The moment I learned I had heightened levels of empathy I set about healing other people.
That’s just one of the ways that the insight gained from contemplative meditation has helped me.
But this article is not about me. It’s about you.
As a unique individual, you will have your own spiritual strengths, and a few spiritual weaknesses too. Once you find those strengths and weaknesses you will gain an all new, enlightened perspective of yourself and of the world around you.
There are 4 contemplative meditation practices that will unlock your insight and transform your perspective. Let’s take a look at each of them.
4 Contemplative Meditation Techniques
Note that you’ll get way more out of this if you meditate in a place that has contemplative architecture.
1. Meditating on a spiritual text (like the Bible)
One of the oldest forms of contemplative meditation techniques is meditating on a spiritual text. For instance, meditating on the bible.
Meditating on the bible, the teachings of Buddha, the writings of Lao Tzu, or on any other spiritual text, is a powerful way of gaining a fresh perspective of spiritual life.
Books like the Bible and the Gita are perfect for contemplative meditation. Techniques like biblical mantras (reciting mantras from the bible) are excellent for developing your faith.
Never meditated before? Then this meditation is perfect. It’s one of the best contemplation meditation techniques for beginners. And it is immensely enjoyable and rewarding.
Simply choose your favorite spiritual text and find a passage in it that truly resonates with you. Now sit somewhere peaceful and take five minutes to relax your mind (focusing on your breath helps).
Once you are focused and relaxed, read the spiritual text out loud and focus on the words. You can focus on the imagery of the words, the underlying meaning of the words, the sound of the words, or on the way the words make you feel. This turns the simply contemplation into a contemplative meditation technique.
When you do this, you may begin to think of the text in new ways. Let this happen. Let the text reveal its true meaning to you, similar to how magic eye images reveal their picture once you are looking at them the right way.
This is one of the best contemplative meditation techniques. It will deliver valuable insight and transform your relationship with the text.
As an alternative to this, you might also like to try meditating on a sacred mantra.
2. Contemplating the divine
Most spiritualities that practice meditation have at least one contemplation meditation technique used to connect with the divine.
- In Hinduism it is called Bhakti technique
- In Christianity, it is biblical meditation.
- In Buddhism is is the Dhyana method.
To be a spiritualist implies seeking the divine. And most spiritualists enjoy meditating and contemplating on the divine.
A way to go further in this contemplation technique is to seek oneness with the divine. We do this by either focusing on a representation of divinity (a statue of a deity, a sacred passage, a religious image etc.) or by focusing on the way we think and feel about that divinity. This can become quite a deep contemplation technique.
Go further with this contemplation-meditation by bringing to mind your deity and observing how the mind conceives of that deity (whether it be by a mental image, a specific feeling or a mental sound). Finally, focus the mind on this conception, such that we will be meditating on the way our mind conceives of divinity.
This is one of the most rewarding contemplative meditation techniques. It brings us into contact with the sacred in a way many people have never experienced.
- Go further in your contemplative meditations by practicing Shambhavi mudra.
3. Practicing contemplation-meditating on an object
As well as using meditation to contemplate the divine, we can use it to contemplate physical objects.
There are very many physical objects to meditate on. They range from the elements to meditation crystals to aspects of nature.
No matter which objects we focus on in contemplative meditation, we practice in the same way. We bring the object to mind (either by looking at the object or by visualising it) and we focus 100% on the object. When we do this, we do not judge the object or think about it in this way or that way. We simply allow the object to rest in the mind, focusing on it 100%.
This practice helps us to perceive the reality of physical objects. These types of contemplative meditation techniques can be powerful sources of insight.
4. Breath Based Contemplative Meditation Techniques (Anapanasati)
Anapanasati meditation is a Buddhist technique that is used to calm the mind. Not only does it calm us, it also shows us the inner workings of the mind. This is a fantastic contemplation practice for learning about yourself.
The technique is broken into four stages. In the first stage we focus on the breath. This creates joy. We then focus on that sense of joy. Next comes the third stage. Here, we observe how the mind moves towards pleasant thoughts and feelings and away from negative thoughts and feelings. Finally, in stage four, we observe how all thoughts and feelings come and go.
This is a relatively simply technique, but surprisingly powerful. It begins by showing us the reality of the breath moving through the body and how the breath changes based on mood, thoughts, and feelings. After this we gain insight into the impermanence of the mind, and how the mind creates and erases thoughts and feelings.
Overall, Anapanasati is a potent way of accessing insight into the workings of the mind. Especially when it is followed by Vipassana.
- Read my guide to Buddhist meditations
These contemplative meditation techniques offer new sources of insight. They are immensely rewarding and can bring fresh perspectives about ourselves, the mind, the divine, and life in general.