by Rosa Raponi Newton
Do you have a favourite meditation? Maybe it’s the mountain meditation. Or, maybe it’s the body scan. Have you wondered why you like some meditations more than others? For the first time, researchers are trying to understand individual preferences for different styles of meditation. Dr. Adam Burke of San Francisco State University recently completed a study comparing people’s preferences for 4 different types of meditation. He taught 247 participants how to meditate according to the following traditions:
- Zen – sitting with general awareness and using traditional posture as a reference point for the presence of mind
- Mindfulness (also known as Vipassana) – silent observation of the breath with mental labelling of lapses in attention and then returning attention to the breath
- Mantra –the image of a sphere of light over the area of the heart accompanied by the mental repetition of sounds “hum” on the inhalation, and “sah” on the exhalation
- Qigong Visualization – used the image of a column of light rising up through the base of the spine up through the top of the head with each inhalation and then descending drown the front midline of the body with each exhalation.
Participants learned one type of meditation each week for four weeks and then underwent a review session where each meditation was practiced for 10 minutes. At this time, participants were asked to rank order the meditations to indicate which style was preferred, which was easiest to practice, which was more enjoyable and which was more calming. Most participants indicated a preference for mindfulness and mantra meditations, also reporting that mindfulness and mantra were calming, enjoyable, and easier to practice than the other types. However, a few of the participants also said the same of the Zen and Qigong styles.
The bottom line, reports Dr. Burke, is that “a proper fit between the individual and the method may help to increase comfort with the method, perceived self-efficacy (that it feels it does you good), and consequently, encourages maintenance of practice over time”. So, this “fit” between the individual and the type of meditation, if attained, can go a long way in motivating someone to keep up their formal meditation practice. This interpretation also leaves room for people to be flexible with their meditation practice.
This research highlights one of the many benefits of the MBCPM program. There are a variety of meditations to suit individual preferences and needs, which allows for flexibility to practice whichever meditations seem to work best as you move through the program and beyond. Whether it’s mindful breathing or mindful movement, what matters most is that you develop a meditation practice that feels right for you!