Because some are interested in the categories of meditation, it is interesting to note the similarities. For instance theorists like Ornstein and Naranjo divide meditation into three types: the way of form, the expressive way, and the negative way. The way of form is related to focusing on such things as external symbols, mandalas, or a candle flame. The expressive way involves one’s receptivity to the content and processes of consciousness, they explain. The final way, the negative way, is considered the middle way by these theorists, and is associated with detachment and elimination. Its aim is to cultivate detachment, to be non-reactive to sense impressions, feelings and mental states. These differentiations sound like a bit much for the beginner in meditation to consider, so we will simply look at ‘mindfulness’ based methods which might fit in one or more of the categories above.
One significant aspect of ‘mindfulness’ based methods is that they have as their basis the meditative practices of the Buddhists, the Yogis. These practices have been studied and proven to useful in inducing the relaxation response. What is the relaxation response?
Herbert Benson made the relaxation response famous in his books The Relaxation Response, and Beyond the Relaxation Response. But, before Benson there was the Nobel Prize winning achievement of Walter Hess, M.D. who mapped the relationship between the internal organs and certain brain centers, most notably the hypothalamus. In 1957 Hess’ research mapped out the parameters of the relaxation response. Researchers like Cade and Coxhead noted these physiological parameters when they considered different levels of consciousness and list these parameters as:
1. Decrease in oxygen consumption
2. Reduction in carbon monoxide elimination
3. Reduction in: (a) heart rate
(b) respiratory rate
(c) blood pressure
(d) muscle tone
(e) blood cortisol levels
4. increase in fingertip temperature
5. Increase in perfusion of internal organs (that is the organs receive more blood).
The reductions under number three are significant when we consider that these elements are part of the relaxation response that the average person can notice with the exception maybe of the cortisol levels. What current research has shown is that meditation (or the more popular mindfulness based stress reduction) by way of its breath awareness and relaxation focus; produce these parameters in a person. So no matter how we chose to differentiate meditation practices or make typologies concerning them, meditation is helpful if for nothing else than the management of stress.