Apophatic Meditation

Definition - What does Apophatic Meditation mean?

Apophatic meditation is a style of meditation that involves clearing the mind, without a focus on an image or visualization. It is connected with apophatic theology, which is a form of religious thinking that approaches the concept of God, or the Divine, by contemplating only what it is not. It is also sometimes called negative theology and is often linked with mysticism as it perceives divinity as something outside and beyond the realm of ordinary comprehension.

Apophatic meditation is used in many Eastern yogic schools as a way to quiet inner voices and find peace and clarity. It is thought to bring greater serenity and tranquillity as well as promoting inward reflection.

Yogapedia explains Apophatic Meditation

Apophatic meditation is considered a passive form of meditation in contrast with the more active cataphatic meditation, which does involve imagery or visualization. There are two main forms of apophatic meditation:

  1. Concentrative — an intellectual approach intended to reach clearer, more expansive states of awareness. This includes zazen, transcendental meditation and vipassana.
  2. Receptive — a more collaborative approach in which divine power is regarded as a loving partner. This more directed meditation may include the use of mantra or prayer, but the words are not intended to evoke images, only to conjure the emotion or goal of the meditation.

Both forms of apophatic meditation are considered very grounding and calming, helping the yogi to find their own center.

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