(Check out the above video for a very in-depth discussion of this question, given as free preview content from my new megacourse The Alchemy of Chaos.)
Here's a very, very common situation for students of magick and spirituality: You learn a few techniques. Now you learn a few others. Then you learn even more. Pretty soon, you've got a huge stack of techniques, and you probably like all of them to varying degrees. Now you're stuck wondering: Which meditation is best for me?
You have now successfully confused yourself. You may ask several different people, and get several different answers—and people will inevitably tell you that whatever type of meditation THEY do, or that THEY teach, is the best.
Now you might be even tempted to try and stack several types of meditation, or other types of spiritual practices, on top of each other—but there just isn't enough time in the day. And what's more, when you start combining them together, you end up with a weird mishmash that, while it certainly might be creative and interesting, isn't true to the original types of meditation you combined, and might in fact take you in a completely different direction altogether.
What to do?
Why Meditation Works
Let's start with the basics of why meditation works.
As I described in my recent podcast, meditation works by taking you out of your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Over time, it deeply trains your body and mind to react less to external stimuli. This rewiring can be so deep and profound that it will engender physical brain change, of the type that can be observed in MRIs.
The critical factor here is time and consistency: This type of physical restructing requires you to be practicing not only on an exceedingly long time scale, but for long enough periods of time in each sitting, AND to be doing consistently, on a day-in, day-out period.
You can't get to this if you're constantly hopping techniques or staying in analysis paralysis. The way to do it is to cut a deep, deep groove. And that means developing staying power with a primary technique.
What Meditation Should I Do?
While there are likely differences in the neurological effects of different meditation techniques, I will suggest that they are comparatively minimal when placed next to the importance of time scale and consistency. Notice that I said comparatively minimal, not non-existent. But that said, let's say person A is doing meditation technique A for thirty minutes a day, every day, and person B is doing meditation technique B for sixty minutes every week. I can immediately tell you, with zero knowledge of what technique each person is using, that person A is making better progress. Likewise, if person A is doing a single meditation technique for thirty minutes a day, and person B is cramming six meditation techniques into the same time frame, I can guarantee that person A is making better progress, regardless of what the techniques are.
In this light, it's like exercise: The best meditation is the one that you will stick to, not the one that somebody else says is the best.
What Meditation Is Best for Me?
I generally find that as far as staying power goes, simplicity is best. I will also add that choosing a meditation practice that you can do with zero paraphenalia or set-up is critical: You should be able to do it while riding passenger in a car, on a subway, or somewhere that does not involve an elaborate temple or meditation space setup. This is essential. Conditions will not always be ideal. You've got to work with the day as you find it.
With that criteria in mind, I highly recommend single-pointed focus meditation for beginners, and body-awareness meditation for more advanced students. These are not hard and fast rules, but general guidelines based on what I have generally seen of people's spiritual progress over extended timeframes.
When students are just beginning they simply need to learn to focus. This is not an innate ability—at least not the type of focus that meditators are able to achieve. Without a baseline of focus and mental control, nothing is possible, and you might as well throw out all your books on spirituality, because without a laser-honed mind, you simply won't be able to even approach the various claims made in these books.
However, single-pointed focus, over time, will greatly increase mental acuity and intellectual ability—but it will not necessarily increase emotional intelligence or produce the naked confrontation with self that is essential for real spiritual progress. For that, body awareness or insight-based meditation can do wonders—but not for beginners, who are simply liable to be swept away in a current of Feels.
With these guidelines in mind, absolutely check out the YouTube above, where I discuss this issue in greater detail (and talk about getting out of bad relationships to boot!)
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