Originally Posted by Gem
My basic point was you can categorise all meditations into either volitional or non-volitional practices. I had two different examples of non-volitional practices including breath awareness and listening to the 'sound current' as Seeker mentioned, but there are a range of other non-volitional techniques like body scanning or even candle gazing. The volitional techniques require you to generate something volitionally in imagination (mantra, visualisation etc), or controlling breathing like in paranyama. Not saying one is better and the other is worse, just making the point that the two types can't go together.
You are absolutely right in your categorization of meditation techniques. There are two ways- forced one and just be normal. Hinduism calls these hath-Yoga
My experience tells me that in the initial phase, volitional method is necessary or more helpful. As i found it, eventually everyone ends up with some kind of non volitional method, even those who starts with some kind of volitional methods.
As usual, i would like to go in the details.
As far as chanting of mantras are concerned, there are three ways of it. One is from the tongue, then from the throat, then only from the heart (mind). This progression happens naturally if one continues practice long enough. And, this last stage of repeating the mantras from the mind automatically becomes non-volitional.
But, the question is why volitional methods are necessary in initial stages?
The answer lies in the process how does our mind operate generally. Our mind processes the thinking/actions in four step method. Or, in other words we can say that mind has four parts/qualities- imagination, evaluation/wisdom, Memory, self/ego/will power. Each and every action of us has to go through by all these three processes.
Let us take an example to understand this clearly. Say, you think of having a cold drink. That is imagination and that may initiate for many reasons like being thirsty or seeing some other person having one. Now, you will judge in your mind whether you should take it or not? Are you hungry or not? And, is Having cold drink is good for you or not? That is wisdom and it decides in the favor of having it then the memory part of the mind will come into play. You will access your memory from where you can get one cold drink. Like, is there one in your fridge or you have to buy it from a shop and from which shop? And, lastly, your self ego/will power direct your body to take the necessary action for completing the job.
it looks somewhat lengthy process but in reality it happens very fast. So fast that we are unable to realize how it happens exactly. Volitional meditation uses the last quality of the mind (will power) the most.
We all drive vehicles like cars and motorcycles. And we know that in all geared vehicles, we have to put the vehicle always in the first gear when start from standing. Many readers would also be aware of the fact the in the gear boxes, the size of the first gear is always the biggest and as we moves up, the gear sizes become smaller and smaller.
So, the question is why we do not use the lowest sized gear as the first one. The answer is that we need the most of the power when the vehicle is stand still and with the increasing of the speed the vehicle needs less and less power. The same applies in the meditation too. We need the most power on the initial stages and as one moves on further, he/she needs less and less effort. And, to generate the most of the concentration, we has to use volitional methods.
When we use any mental practice regularly and long enough, it becomes a habit. Habit means that the repetition of that particular practice has gone beyond conscious mind and entered into subconscious. That means that is going to happen automatically without any effort from the conscious mind. So, the point is even if we start doing mantras as a volition method and do it long enough, sooner or later it would become a habit of the subconscious and then conscious mind would able to witness as just like one's breathing.
I would like to put forth one more analogy to understand the need of force in the starting stages. We all know about Space rockets. These rockets have initial boosters which give rockets escape velocity so that they can clear the gravitational field of the earth. Once clearing that zone, not much of the force is required so initial boosters detach from the rockets and the rockets moves on only on inbuilt engines. The same happens with volition methods. These act like initial boosters, which are necessary to clear some major initial hurdles. After clearing those, volition methods detach automatically from the process and only non- volition methodology kicks in. One needs not to take any conscious action about that because there a default mechanism in place to take care of that. There is only one difference. Unlike space rockets, in spiritual journey, there come two such initial stages where brute force is required. After crossing those two, things tend to calm down.