I was about to start facilitating a meditation the other day and about an hour before, I was struck with the realization that in order to become a lifelong meditation practitioner, it is helpful to know your learning style. As a college professor, one of the first things I teach my students is to learn how you best learn. Essentially, you are either an auditory learner, a visual learner, a kinesthetic learner or more likely, a combination. Schools, whether it be kindergarten to grade twelve or post-secondary institutions, are still mainly set-up for auditory learners. We ask the learner to sit attentively at a desk and learn what is being said by the instructor. Only about thirty percent of the population are auditory learners. The majority of people are visual learners and a very small percentage seem to be kinesthetic learners. Learning styles are very easy to spot. An auditory learner often does not write notes and will question and clarify their understanding of what was said. The visual learner benefits from movement and transitions in teaching. Light and color can enhance their learning and they will often use hi-lighters and underline words in the text. Videos can be particularly helpful. Kinesthetic learners find it difficult to sit still. They need to have movement to facilitate their learning.
You might ask what learning styles have to do with meditation? A common entry point to meditation for people is to use a meditation app like Insight Timer or Calm and others may try attending a group meditation. Many people find learning to meditate to be tedious or even frustrating and many give up long before they start to notice the benefits. If you are an auditory learner, you may really appreciate a guided meditation where you are following somebody's voice or perhaps chanting but if you are visual, you will need the guided meditation to at least have elements of imagery but even visual learners have trouble seeing images in their mind. Many visual learners will benefit from meditations that involve visual focus such as trataka or mahasati or a japa meditation with beads. Kinesthetic learners will benefit from movement based meditations such as mahasati or walking meditations. Kinesthetic learners can practice mindfulness during body practices such as Tai Chi, hatha yoga, or Qi Gong.
When you understand how you learn you can effectively employ your conscious mind in an activity that is most natural to you. It doesn't matter whether you sit in full lotus and focus on sensations of breath at the nostrils (vipassana) or dance and sing in a devotional bhakti yoga practice or count mala beads or do a walking meditation, the practice is always the same: notice that your subconscious mind has taken your attention away and gently guide it back. Meditation, which comes from the Latin word "meditari" means to "concentrate or mull over", is simply the practice of continually using the conscious mind to concentrate on something. If you know how you learn, you are more likely to find meditation practice to be less of a frustrating seminar and more of an enjoyable learning experience.
Here is a learning style inventory test if you are unsure of your learning style.