In Buddhism, the threefold path to enlightenment and nirvana consists of meditation (samadhi), virtue (sila), and wisdom (panna). As far as meditation is concerned, Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati) and Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Bhavana) are believed to be two of the most valuable among the different types of meditation taught by the Buddha.
Good posture, practice, and problems are the three parts of Anapanasati. The meditating person sits with straight back and folded legs on a cushion, with the eyes closed and hands nestled in the lap. This is what goes to make a good posture. Conscious counting of each breath taken during the meditation, where attention is focused on inhalation and exhalation of each breath, is what is meant by practice. As expected, after a certain time of doing the above, the meditating person will start to have problems, such as discomfort or pain in the knees and other joints, itches on different parts of the body, and so on.
Despite all this, concentration must be absolute. There should be no movement, and the meditating person must continue to count the ins and outs of each of his/her breath. Now, it is natural for the mind to begin wandering here and there, and generally get distracted, with many different thoughts coming to mind. But, the breathing must continue as before. One will have to have lots of patience, and keep on trying to bring back one’s attention to the breath. Gradually, the distracting thoughts will start to disappear one by one, the discomfort to various parts of the body will begin to be forgotten, and the meditating person will experience periods of mental calm and inner peace.
Wakeful Mindfulness and Mindfulness in Everyday Activities are also forms of Anapanasati. Monks of the Theravada tradition, especially, practice the first (Wakeful Mindfulness and Mindfulness) in their monasteries and retreats. They first seek out a quiet place for long walks, and then, while walking, concentrate on movements and sensations. They try to consistently make the mind free from interfering thoughts. Their aim is to lose the self, which will help in gaining deeper insight into ‘no-self’ and impermanence. Mindfulness in Everyday Activities, on the other hand, is simply being mindful of everyday activities by concentrating on all activities, whether big or small. This is believed to help in making one live in the present moment, besides making one more effective and efficient.
Metta Bhavana is an additional meditation technique to Anapanasati, and its objective is to develop universal love, which is done through a three-stage process—specific pervasion, directional pervasion, and non-specific pervasion. Specific pervasion is the process of conveying love and kindness to yourself, to a respected individual, to somebody cherished, to some stranger, and finally, to someone you don’t like, hate, abhor, or fear. Visualization (imagining that ‘someone’ to be joyful), reflection (on that someone’s positive qualities), and mantra (repeating positive words like, ‘May I be calm and peaceful; may my mind be free from hate; may my heart be full of love.’) are part and parcel of specific pervasion. Emanating love and kindness in all directions, by thinking of friends, well-wishers, and like-minded communities around the world, is directional pervasion. Radiating love and kindness in daily life (throughout the day) is non-specific pervasion, which is, in fact, an outcome of the first two stages.