Most people have heard of mindfulness meditation — but analytical meditation may be a brand new concept to many.
Of all the Buddhist meditation techniques, it’s one of the most active-minded ones.
But don’t let that fool you.
Analytical meditation requires intense control, but it helps people distinguish their thoughts from the thinker, making it an excellent focus exercise.
How is it done?
What are its benefits?
Pull up a cushion, and let’s review the ins, outs, upsides, and downsides of analytical meditation.
What Is Analytic Meditation?
Most people are familiar with “mindfulness meditation,” wherein stabilization is the ultimate goal.
Mindfulness exercises help you focus on the present, clear your thoughts, and they enable you to cultivate single-minded focus, which is ideal for optimal mind and body health.
And while analytic meditation also calls for practitioners to focus on one idea, all thoughts related to your topic are welcome into the space. Individuals fall into a deep state of concentration as questions, stories, and possibilities flood their thoughts.
Rooted in the Tibetan Buddhism Lamrim tradition — which takes a procedural approach to reaching enlightenment — analytical meditation changes instead of clears the mind. It challenges your current worldview and allows you to discover your genuine nature.
But there’s not one way to practice analytical meditation. Some people use media aids, and others treat it as a traditional meditation.
We’ll get more into practice styles below, but suffice it to say that many schools of thought have developed various analytical meditation methods.
Some people find it easier to do analytical meditation for a longer time than classical practice because focusing on a concept or story, rather than concentrating on a single breath, is more manageable for certain brain types.
What do people often think about when doing analytical meditations? Topics typically include:
- The nature of love and patience
- The inevitability of death
- The disadvantage of judging other people
- The benefits and advantages of compassion
- The wisdom of impermanence
- What would it feel like to rid the world of suffering
- The infallibility of karma
- The eight worldly concerns (pleasure, pain, praise, blame, fame, shame, loss, and gain)
The Benefits of Analytical Meditation
What are the benefits of analytical meditation? Practitioners report a wide variety of positive effects.
- Disrupts Rumination: Have you ever been plagued with an intrusive, unrelenting memory or thought? Analytical meditation is a great way to steer your brain to green pastures —or at least less destructive ones.
- Cultivates Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a powerful balm. Letting go of negative judgments, resentments, and grudges improves your quality of life — both mentally and physically.
- Supports Solid Self-Esteem: Knowing oneself — inside and out, good and bad — is the gateway to loving oneself. Analytical meditation is a deep dive into your psyche, which allows for better self-assessment and personal exploration. Moreover, it builds confidence because your opinions and views are well considered and not dictated by outside influences.
- Releases Negative Emotions: Examining a topic, thought, or idea from every possible angle drains its power. After some contemplation, things you once saw as huge problems or blatant rudeness usually amount to mere blips. (We humans have a talent for making mountains out of molehills.)
- Makes You Less Reckless and Compulsive: Deliberate thinking erodes reckless and compulsive tendencies. After about a month of analytical meditation, you’ll discover that you’re spending less, saving more, and making better decisions in every area of your life.
- Supports Healthy Habits: Better thinking leads to better eating and more exercise; better eating and exercising lead to optimal health. Therefore, analytical meditation boosts your health.
- Eases Materialistic Instincts: You’re not alone. It happens to most people. At some point in our lives, we become consumed with material wealth. We crave more, more, more and metastasize into greedy monsters. Living with this monkey on your back is terrifying and miserable because you’re stuck in a permanent state of want. You’re never satisfied. Practicing analytical meditation eases this type of pain and paranoia. How? Why? When you can internalize the inevitability of impermanence and think less recklessly, your priorities change drastically.
How to Practice Analytical Meditation
We’ve talked about the benefits of analytically minded meditation; now, let’s look at several ways to practice.
Generally speaking, analytical meditation aims to break down a single idea, concept, or goal into smaller parts for closer examination.
Some people think practicing this type of focused thinking is about letting the mind wander — but they’re wrong.
Instead, it’s about control and micro-inspecting a subject from every angle.
1. Traditional Meditation
Most people who engage in analytical meditation do it the traditional way.
But before you do anything, pick a topic or idea you want to explore in-depth. It could be something as simple as “colors” or as complicated as “what must I do to become a better person.”
Sitting on a cushion, chair, or floor, assume an asana or just sit comfortably — advanced practitioners may want to use mudras. Then, start with a few deep breaths.
Then it’s off to the analytical races, where you approach your topic from various angles. You can accomplish this by posing questions to your psyche and subconscious.
For our hypothetical “better person” example, you may concentrate on questions like:
- What is a person? Am I one?
- What is good and bad?
- Have I ever done anything wrong or right?
- What were the consequences of behaving poorly?
- Was I forgiven?
- Was the judgment fair or couched in implicit biases and shadow-self manipulations?
- Do I have the ability to learn from mistakes?
- What can I change to be “better”?
Bonus Tip: Don’t let your mind run away on tangents unless they’re applicable. If your thoughts wander, bring them back to the topic at hand. Moreover, try to challenge yourself. Don’t stop at the simple answer; dig deeper.
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2. Walking Meditation
Another way to practice analytical meditation is the walking method.
Find a place where you can stroll safely. Walking down a busy street is not wise. Walking around your house or backyard is a much better option. Before you begin, clear away any obstacles.
With every step, consider a small point related to your topic. If it takes time to center your mind or contemplate, stand still. When you’re done with one thought, take another step and move on to the next nugget.
Bonus Tip: A wide-open park is another good spot to perform walking meditations. Just try not to bump into other people.
3. Coloring Meditation
More than just a developmental activity for children, coloring also benefits adults. Studies show that it mitigates stress, lowers blood pressure, and exercises the brain.
So how do you do analytical meditation while coloring?
Strive to make coloring the background activity. Try to let your subconscious mind work on the art while contemplating the topic.
We won’t lie: It takes a while to get the hang of coloring meditation. But once you do, we’re confident you’ll add it to your mental health toolbox.
Bonus Tip: Mandala coloring books are an excellent choice for this type of meditation practice.
4. Media Meditation
Media meditation marries contemplation and content consumption. It may sound counterintuitive, but many people find it helpful, enjoyable, and stress-relieving.
How does it work?
First, pick a podcast or audiobook. Second, get comfortable and grab a journal and pen to take notes.
Then pop on your choice and listen intently. If ancillary thoughts swoop into your mind, press pause, usher out the unwanted intrusions, and when you’re ready, press play.
Bonus Tip: If you find that you dozed out for a section, rewind. The point is to focus intently on the content you’re consuming.
5. Visualizing the Best Possible You
One of the more fun analytical meditation styles is visualizing.
As its name suggests, visualizing analytical meditation involves imagining the person you want to be and the life you want to live.
Professional athletes evangelize about the power of visualization. Take Michael Phelps.
The world-class swimmer often talks about his race-prep routine, which involves picturing himself ahead of the pack in the waterway. He goes through every stroke until he’s internalized the associated sensations of winning.
Bonus Tip: Don’t worry if you have a mind that can’t produce imagery. It’s a common condition, and in no way does it reflect poorly on your intelligence or creative capacity. If you fall into this category, simply “visualize” with words.
6. Contemplate Your Passions
Whether philosophical, personal, or professional, your passions are a great topic on which to meditate.
Break everything down into tiny pieces and put each one under a microscope. Contemplate how you relate to your passions and how you can better incorporate them into your life.
Bonus Tip: Using a visualization board can enhance this practice method.
If you haven’t had much luck with other types of meditation, give the analytical route a try. It may open a new world for you.
Furthermore, deep thought exercises are an excellent way to help you reach personal and professional goals.