People engage in contemplative practices for a variety of reasons, including increased mindfulness or spiritual development. But, regardless of the goal, it is not known what contemplative practice works the best to achieve the goal. In addition, it is not known what pattern of practice works the best with each type of practice.
These questions are investigated in today’s Research News article “Meditation has stronger relationships with mindfulness, kundalini, and mystical experiences than yoga or prayer.”
Regardless of whether meditation, yoga, or prayer is practiced, higher levels of mindfulness occur. But, the highest levels of mindfulness are produced by meditation. This was also true for kundalini and mystical experiences.
Kundalini experiences are changes in the physical energetics of the body, including extreme levels of energy, physical symptoms, involuntary movements etc. Kundalini effects will be the subject of an upcoming CMCS essay (stay tuned). These experiences were first documented in the ancient yogic traditions. So, it is surprising that meditation has a larger impact than yoga practice.
Mystical experiences have always been associated with meditation but also strongly with prayer. The effectiveness of prayer in producing mystical experiences is well exemplified by the Christian or Sufi mystics. So, it is surprising that prayer is not particularly effective.
One explanation for the relative ineffectiveness of yoga and prayer is the reasons and the way they are practiced in modern cultures. Yoga is often treated as a fitness practice rather than a contemplative practice and prayer is often used mechanically or for petition to a deity rather than for contemplation. So, it should not be surprising that overall these practices are not as potent in producing mindfulness, kundalini, and mystical experiences as meditation.
It was clear, however, that no matter what practice is used the amount of practice is the most important factor in its effectiveness. It’s the amount of time spent each week practicing and it’s the number of years of practice that best predict heightened states. How frequently one practices, how long each session lasts, or whether practice occurs in groups or alone doesn’t seem to matter. It’s simply the total amount of practice that is associated with effectiveness.
So, engage in contemplative practices, but do so in a contemplative manner, do so regularly, and invest time and patience in the practice and you will begin to reap the rewards.