Back when I started doing Buddhist meditation in the ‘70’s, it was hard to find any Buddhist books or Buddhist retreats or Buddhist meditation classes or any information of any kind at all that could help me learn a daily Buddhist meditation practice. If you started talking about the "Dalai Lama," people figured you meant some kind of restaurant featuring sandwiches for pack animals from South America.

It's different now, of course.

In fact, I think people have gotten a bit Buddhist meditation happy these days. More and more people are growing infatuated with Buddhist styles of meditation. My town has only 100,000 residents, yet we have four centers focusing on Tibetan meditation. There are also three Zen meditation centers and four Vipassana meditation centers. And I am not even counting the numerous yoga centers based in no fewer than fifteen variant styles.

For people who are new to Buddhist meditation, all this can be a bit confusing.

Even if you narrow it down by deciding, say, that you want to do Zen meditation, you have to choose from two different Zen schools. In addition, we now have Western Zen meditation teachers from the second and third generation who have created new schools of Zen thought that someone from Japan fifty years ago might not even recognize.

If you are drawn to Tibetan meditation, you’ll find four separate lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, all containing different teachers focusing on different variations of the teaching themes. Some of these teachers may have participated in two or more lineages themselves.

There are even some Western teachers these days who are trying to take Buddhism itself out of Buddhist meditations. These folks have decided to teach the foundational techniques without the Buddhist philosophy they sprang from. You will often hear techniques presented this way called "mindfulness meditation practice." Some hospitals have begun using these kinds of mindfulness meditation practices for stress relief and anxiety reduction.

So where do you start when you are trying to choose from hundreds and hundreds of different Buddhist meditation techniques?

Let me offer a piece of advice that might seem a bit unusual, and that is: don’t buy into all the promises.

When you hear a meditation teacher speak or listen to meditation CDs or read meditation books, you will undoubtedly notice stories about people experiencing really amazing states of being that are supposedly very rare and take a lifetime of practice to achieve. That’s what I consider a very large carrot hanging from the end of a rather long stick. Myself, I ran after that carrot for more than thirty years. And after all those thirty years of chasing it, the carrot is no closer now than it was at the beginning of my practice.

These so-called promises were the story of what might occur in some distant future if I would just meditate more and longer and find a better technique… preferably one that made a promise of enlightenment in this life. When I quit listening to all those promises, though, I was able to ask myself this simple question: is my meditation practice producing reliable results now, or just the hope of some kind of result in the distant future?

If you are forcing yourself to meditate, either because you have to spend at least thirty minutes before you find any peace or because it can take you weeks to have any spaciousness or clarity, then you can stop believing that your lack of results is due to something being wrong with you that you need more practice correct.

It’s fine to try a try a practice for a number of weeks or months to see what its like. At the same time, trust yourself to notice if you are not getting the promised results now, instead of just waiting to get them at some imaginary future time. And if you aren't getting the results you want now, it could be time to consider looking elsewhere.

Remember, you may not even need a Buddhist meditation technique. You can find many, many types of meditations that are at least, if not more, powerful than Buddhist meditation.

I want to reassure you that the benefits of discovering a practice that genuinely works for you, one that reliably generates consistent results easily, far outweighs the cost of any time it might take to find such a practice.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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