Many forms of meditation exist, ranging from the simple and easy, to the complex and difficult.
But while many traditions have their own names for the various styles of meditation, keep in mind that scholars often divide meditation into two broad categories:
1. Concentration meditation — also known as closed meditation
2. Awareness meditation — also known as open meditation
In order to understand this distinction, I want you to imagine a white wall with black dots.
In concentration meditation, you direct your focus onto one particular dot to the exclusion of everything else, and thereby develop your powers of concentration.
In awareness meditation, you open your attention to the whole wall and all the black dots, attempting to become aware of as much as possible, thereby developing your awareness, sensitivity, and wisdom.
In concentration meditation, you find an object of focus. This object of focus could be a mantra, a sensation, a chakra, an attitude, an image, or the breath. By focusing on the object of meditation, you gradually become identified with the object. And this is good because you weaken the subject object dualism, the sense of yourself as separate from anything else, and thereby transcend to more spiritual and transcendental layers of existence.
In awareness meditation, you do not limit your focus to a single object. Instead, you observe a whole range of passing thoughts, sensations, emotions, images, and breaths. While concentration meditation is a great tool to give you a glimpse of higher levels of existence, it does not permanently integrate those levels into the daily experience. In order to integrate these higher levels of experience, you have to develop your ability to expand your whole scope of awareness and observe everything happening all at once.
A common quick analogy is to think of concentration meditation as sharpening your sword, and awareness meditation as using your sword.
Buddhists call concentration meditation shamatha and awareness meditation vipassana.
Concentration meditation leads to an experience called samadhi, whereas awareness meditation leads to an experience called satori.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to give you the impression that concentration meditation and awareness meditation necessarily have to exist as separate practices. You can engage both of these styles of meditation at once during the same meditation session.
One is not superior to the other, and neither should should be pursued to the exclusion of the other. You should pursue each of them in tandem. You can operate back and forth between concentration and awareness, between focus and expansion. You can focus on one object and expand your peripheral awareness all at once.
Overall, my goal here is to help you understand that there are two basic styles of meditation — concentration meditation and awareness meditation.
Therefore, since meditation is really just limited to two basic styles, meditation really does not so much depend on the style in which one meditates, but instead on the object upon which one meditates. Click here to learn about the various object upon which you can meditate.