There are hundreds of different kinds of meditation, most of them useless for gaining a fundamental understanding of your real self. There are meditations for health, for Siddhis (powers), for physical power, and endless types that promise enlightenment.
A fast, simplistic and otherwise inaccurate classification of types would be:
1. Listening to the words of the teacher.
This should be with an open mind and no thinking. Let the words come and flow through you. This is an extremely important "meditation."
2. Listening to sacred music, chanting, and doing nothing else at the time.
It was doing chanting that led me to an experience of witnessing what I thought was the presence of God within the lighted Void of my being. Turns out I was wrong. There is much more to enlightenment than that. It was also chanting that put me into the blissfully relaxed state that lasted for five days before my awakening to the unitive mind in everyday life. Prior, I had thousands of experiences of no mind and unitive Consciousness, but only in temporary Samadhis.
3. Concentrating on an external object, from a candle to a Christ-figure. (This is an absolute waste of time.)
4. Opening the Third Eye, which I would call illuminating the inner mental space. (An essential first step.)
It may be possible to have a half-hearted awakening experience without having totally revealed the inner light of the Void, but it would be anemic. I will write about this on a separate page on this site. It deserves an in-depth analysis.
5. Concentrating on an object in one’s inner mental space, such as a Mandala or some figurative imagination. (A waste of time.)
6. Focusing on and dismantling the inner world of senses and sense objects, such as pain or the sense that your body exists, and all other aspects of phenomenality, to understand that all things that appear really are just appearance, no more.
That is, phenomenal objects and states are “atomized” through microanalytic introspection. It makes inner phantasy lose its ‘solidity’, better revealing the canvas of emptiness. (Of some value to intermediate meditators, or those who are psychologically oriented; a variant and extension of the Third Eye opening.)
7. Focusing on one special object in that mental space, namely, the sense of presence, the I, the source of beingness.
This is a hard one, as it is not a visualization or creation. It is looking into the Void for its source, but the Void has no source. He who is looking for the source, is the source. (In a sense this is true, but not really. It is a concept that ends a lot of other mistaken concepts.) This is technical here, but he who is looking is not the one doing the seeking. Consciousness, manifesting in a few body-minds, seeks to know itself. Yet, Consciousness too is non-existence, an appearance, as is its container, the void. However, this whole package of world/Self/Consciousness/seeking is not real; like a dream, it does not touch you.
8. Formless meditation; just sitting and abiding in emptiness, or the Void (or God if you prefer that term.)
This is an extremely important type of meditation and is spontaneously generated after awakening. However, it is also extremely difficult compared to one where you are doing something, such as microanalysis, or opening the third eye, or solving a koan.
Meditation methods 7 and 8, for me, had the same result: Being nothing, absorbed in awe, thunderstruck by the enormous, endless depth of the Void. Staring into the depth of the void.
A variant of method 5 is the koan, a question formulated to bring a tight focusing of mind on a question, with a mind-clearing release when the koan is solved. Koan work is interesting and of some value, but sitting meditation on the Void is far more valuable. I’ve passed several hundreds of koans from Sasaki, Kozan, Maezumi and Seung Sahn, and got little out of it. Kozan Roshi, said there were 25,000 koans and he passed all of them. He said most of them were trivial. He said if he could do it, anyone could.
I think Maezumi gave them out only because it was tradition. I may be wrong, but I don’t think he respected them. Sasaki, on the other hand, loved koans and his love made me love them. On a good day, during a very powerful Sesshin, I might be able to solve two a day.
So, why do I even mention koan work if it is a waste of time? It does two things: checks the level of your understanding both for you and your teacher; it stops thinking just by the focus, which can lead to initial experiences of unitary mind and empty mind. However, it is a forced version, not a relaxed, persevering version.
The most essential meditation for the beginner is to open the Third Eye. I use that mystical term, because it is quite accurate. That is how the results of this meditation are experienced.
My experience was that initially, when I looked within, there was only darkness, within which a lot was happening, but I could not “see.”
I concentrated on the area just above the nose and between the eyes. After a few days, I began to see light within the darkness of inner space (mental).
Gradually, the light expanded to the size of a softball, then to a basketball, and spread downwards into my body and also upwards above my head. After a longer time, the inner sense of light in the inner mental space, had spread through my body into the ground and around in a larger and larger perimeter until it contained all things. The light by which we see the world appeared to be no more than this inner light reflected against forms.
Only with that inner light can any of the other inner meditations be completed.
That inner light eventually will begin to illuminate the vast emptiness of the Void. Others may call the same experience as the presence of God. The terms used to express the experience depends on the concepts you bring to it, whether you are a Buddhist ,or a Christian mystic, or just nuts.
You will see after a few years of practice and talking to people, that devotees tend to get the same type of understanding as their teacher, as well as adopt their mannerisms and even there way of speaking.
For example, Francis Lucille might as well be another Jean Klein; he has the same pauses, the same breathing style, etc. as Jean. Some of Maezumi’s successors are that way too.
The same with meditation states. You will get the same or similar experiences as your teacher, or at least your understanding will be the same, even if you grow in other directions later.
Focusing on the sense of being — or I — for me, was an acquired taste. I never knew that I was supposed to have an I until I read Ramana or Nisargadatta. I had to create an I-sense in order to try to find it and eventually find I never had one anyway. Go figure, Guru logic.
Actually, following the non-existent 'I' is a ruse to get you to ‘inwardly stare’ into the Heart of God.
Personally, listening to sacred music, listening to the words of the guru or sacred texts, looking for the I, or the source of beingness, or contemplating the Void, all brought me to the same place: open mouthed awe at peering into the Godhead or the Void.
Enlightenment is not found by the Void (God) gradually eating up the personal self. The perceived emptiness leads to a ‘sudden realization’ that a self never existed and that ‘I’ is an empty concept. In the end, it is a cognitive act, an understanding that is not intellectual so much as what Ramesh calls an “apprehension.”
Intellectual understanding is wishy-washy. It can change from moment-to-moment. But the enlightenment experience is like having a dozen eurekas all in one, but in the fundamental arena of self as opposed to an understanding in physics or economics. Therefore, the impact is on one’s entire conscious beingness.
When that realization occurs, all concepts disappear, even the concept that the world is real. However, even after the world as you know it disappears, you will continue to observe the Void or God, or Consciousness, and understand it too is not you. You are the observer prior to the Void, prior to God, prior to Consciousness. They are added onto you, and do not touch you. Nothing touches you. You are beyond Consciousness or God.
It is wrong even to say the "observer" because that would make "it" an object, and objects are only in Consciousness, and Consciousness is not real. By not real I mean it feels like a vapor after you awaken, just like dreams seem to the average person.
This is an overview of meditation and its final result.
There are a thousand steps on the way. The value of a good teacher is that he/she can set you on a narrow path to get to some point, to either self-knowledge, God knowledge, and to avoid the attraction of mystical powers or Siddhis, which have no value whatsoever. You acquire, so to speak, the spiritual equivalent of being able to flap your ears or do a one-finger pushup. Utterly useless unless you want to impress the girls, or guys, or yourself.
The negative of having a guru, is that you will get what he or she got, because you are walking the path they created, not your own. You are limited by their methods and discoveries.
When I find time to go through the massive junk I call my storage room, if I can find it, I will post, in its entirety, a small book on Tibetan Clear Light meditation — Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness — which is the expression closest to my own progressive experience.
Unfortunately, you will also discover that this Clear Light of the Void has dozens of slightly different manifestations and this book will let you know how each type falls into one or another Buddhist sect’s philosophy.
What a letdown. Your highest experience is just a verification, or vice versa, for some lifeless philosophy.
However, perseverance will pay off. Even Buddha, Christ or Da Free John cannot stop you from self-realization if you persevere. Unfortunately, 99.9% of those who start out do not persevere. There has to be a special fire in you, or the presence of a good guru.
In any event, it is not a matter of luck. You come to the table with it, or you do not. It’s a matter of genes one might say.