kaiel wrote:That being said, as I begin to practice, how do I know which meditation is best for a beginner, how will I know I am not a beginner any longer? As those who practice, did the meditation validate for you the teachings of Buddhism?
Generally, meditation begins with calming the mind (shamatha) and, in my experience basic mind-calming meditation is pretty much the same whether you are studying Theravada, Zen (Mahayana), Vajrayana. However, some schools emphasize chanting rather than quiet meditation. Some combine mind-calming with vippassana (analytical introspection) and there are some differences regarding the focus of one's meditation. But since calming the mind is essential, this is usually where everyone starts. If you are told to start with something else, some elaborate head trip, you might want to look somewhere else.
As far as being a beginner, I don't think that ever really ends. I have had more than one teacher talk about meditation always being 'fresh' and always, in a sense, being a beginner. There is always the next subtle layer of mental crap to cut through. However, as time passes you will find that it takes less time for your mind to become settled and focused, and that you can remain focused and relaxed for much longer periods. So, as you may recall the first few times meditating, the mind gets restless. This should pass after a while.
I don't know if meditation 'validates' the teachings. For me, it's life's problems that validate the teachings. But meditation is essential. Everything is somewhat speculative until you practice it, and meditation is the practice. There is tremendous power in giving yourself permission to just sit, sit and really stop all the mental running around, even for a few minutes. My understanding is (buddhism teaches)that the mind's original state is calm and clear. Some schools say "empty and luminous" or "unmoving" or whatever. It means that at the core, there is something that is not shaken by what blows by, just as a big stone Buddha statue just sits there, unmoving in the rain and wind and hot sun. Through meditation you find this Buddha, and that's where you return to. I guess, in that sense, it does validate the teachings.