Nowadays anyone can claim himself to be a meditator. Mindfulness to our internal processes is an essential technique in meditation, so much so many modern meditators call their practice Mindfulness meditation. In a way this gives meditation a more modern and secular or non-sectarian look. Besides Mindfulness meditation, Zen meditation is another common name for meditation, often, but not always, affiliated with Buddhism. There are many different approaches inside both Mindfulness meditation and Zen meditation. Traditionally compassion is an essence training concept in Zen meditation, though not necessarily so in today’s Zen meditation practices. Now, it is anything goes!
Compassion arises from the Buddhist belief that all sentient beings are or should be equal. In Zen’s meditative training for compassion, the training method is that during our meditative stage, we should strive to feel all sentient beings as equal. Such equality feeling is not likely to be possible in our normal daily life, afterall we all love people close to us, our family and friends for example, more than people in far away countries. In the “protected and comfortable meditative state” it is possible – through training. In psychological terms, it means lower down the tight censorship and control our ego, and let tension suppressed in our Unconscious to be released, and therefore it is good for our psychological health.
The danger for meditative training without compassion training is that a meditator, without proper guidance, can go along another path of human nature – feeling superior and self-importance during the “protected and comfortable meditative state”. In psychological terms the result can be a strengthening of our ego. Too strong an ego can possibly lead to nervous breakdown.
On the practical level, it also depends on what kind of person or life we choose to be and live With compassion meditative training, a meditator can become more people-oriented and become a more likeable person. He can solve his problems more realistically. With self-centred meditative training, a meditator, on the negative side, can become a difficult person to live with or be unrealistic in his judgments; on the positive side though, perhaps he can become more aggressive, and might well be good for advancing his career!
It is an open choice for each meditator. It is however important that we understand the choices that are open to us ,so that we can make our own choices rationally or consciously. Needless to say, for many modern meditators, meditation is just a kind of relaxation exercise - listening to soft music with our eyes closed in seated meditative pose, of course it is not a bad thing!