Understanding the Difference between Meditation, Contemplation, Visualization, and Prayer

“The mind is reflective by nature so it needs a place to rest. It needs to reflect something and that is why we give it an object around which the energy of the mind is able to coalesce.” –Sandra Anderson

As I develop mindfulness experiences for artists, writers, yogis, and other learners (including myself), I’m finding Sandra Anderson’s explanation of the differences between meditation, contemplation, visualization, and prayer really helpful as a way to begin discussing what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Meditation is stabilizing the mind by confining it to a particular focal point (e.g., a breath, a mantra, a space within the body, an image); this technique supports our intention to go inside ourselves to our innermost source of consciousness.

Meditation is not an inner dialogue; it’s an inner focus that trains our mind to be tranquil and to connect with a deeper consciousness.

Contemplation is thinking about something, an inquiry.

Visualization is a generating or observing a series of images, a visual inquiry.

Prayer is an expression of desire or gratitude directed toward something, such as a deity or a higher power.

All three can be adjuncts to meditation and prepare the mind for meditation but they are not the same as meditation.

So contemplation, visualization, and prayer might be classified as “trains of thought” but meditation is the training of thought itself.

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