Different types of meditation

Different types of meditation

by Headspace » Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:33 pm


I have only completed 4 days of the take 10 series and I am enjoying it immensely.

I just wanted to mention that I think I have been doing a form of meditation for many years without knowing that I was doing a form of meditation.

When I was 18, I was in a car accident which, unfortunately was my fault. I was in a new car in a new city and I was kind of distracted. That experience led me to focus on my driving by using a little self-guided exercise. When I found myself drifting away from focusing on the road, I would think of the word,
and it would bring me right back to the present.

Years later, I have started using the same technique to ease chronic severe pain that has developed as a result of a cancer related surgery. When I feel a flair-up of pain, I think of the color blue and of cool, icy things, like an icicle or snow or even an ocean wave. It really helps me get through a difficult moment of pain.

Is this another form of meditation?

Andy's Answer

Hi, thanks for getting in touch and great to hear you're enjoying Take10 with Headspace.

I always find it interesting to hear stories like these, where the mind seems to have found an intuitive response to address a difficult situation. It would seem to reinforce the idea that we all have the potential to experience the mind from a place of awareness. Sometimes it is intentional, as with training the mind through meditation and at other times, it just seems to happen by accident. Either way, as you well know, it can make such a big difference.

The method you mention for addressing chronic pain is more typically described as 'association' rather than 'meditation'. It is not unlike visualising a calm blue ocean or a sun drenched beach when we are feeling stressed. For many people this works very well and it helps them to step out of the so-called stress response loop. Whilst association can have a similar result to meditation, there are some subtle but important differences.

Meditation, in it's purest form, is about awareness and compassion. There are of course many different techniques from many different cultures, traditions and lineages, but the underlying essence of all is that by training the qualities of intention, calm and clarity, we increase both awareness and compassion, no matter what the context.

The awareness aspect is learning to observe the thought, emotion or sensation without wanting to change it in anyway, content to simply watch it, to understand it and to experience it in a very direct way. In contrast, whilst not always the case, with association the motivation is usually wanting to escape, change or 'deal' with the thought, emotion or sensation in some way. It is a subtle difference but an important one.

The compassion aspect is what we generally think of as empathy. So, by watching the mind and understanding more about the challenging aspects of body and mind, so we understand it not in an isolated way, but more in terms of the shared human condition. With this comes less criticism and judgement of others and their actions. Needless to say, this is a journey of a lifetime.

I suspect that what you are currently doing has aspects of both of these and I am certainly not discouraging the use of association which is clearly very helpful and effective for you. I can only say from my own experience that complementing association with daily meditation will only enhance your experience and it's great to know you've got off to such a good start.

Warm wishes, Andy
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