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
To Understand the Two Types of Meditation, Imagine a White Wall with Black Dots
In order to understand this distinction, I want you to imagine a white wall with black dots.
In concentration meditation, you direct your attention onto one particular dot to the exclusion of everything else, and thereby develop your powers of concentration. Concentration meditation requires willpower.
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 capacity for awareness. Awareness meditation requires noticing.
In concentration meditation, you find an object of attention. This object of attention 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. If you maintain concentration on that object long enough, you can eventually transcend it and enter a state of bliss.
In awareness meditation, you do not limit your attention to a single object. Instead, you observe a whole range of phenomenon, engaging all of your senses, especially those associated with sight, sound, sensation, and scent. By maintaining constant attention of these you gradually become more and more present and integrated with daily experience.
Use These Two Skills to Sharpen or Use Your “Sword”
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.
Also keep in mind that people tend to refer to awareness meditation as mindfulness meditation.
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.