What is Meditation?
Meditation is a technique used to train attention and awareness, and attain a mentally clear, emotionally peaceful, and stable condition. Many religious traditions use meditation. The Vedas include the first records of meditation (dhyana), and meditation is an important part of Hinduism and Buddhism’s contemplative repertoire. Asian meditative techniques have been spreading to various cultures since the 19th century, finding use in non-spiritual fields including business and health. Meditation can reduce stress, anxiety, sadness, and pain while improving perception, self-concept, and well-being. The effects of meditation on health (psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular) are still being studied.
Meditation refers to the act in which a person uses specific techniques to guide their mind’s attention and awareness. This mind training works towards achieving a mentally clear, stable, and emotionally calm state. These techniques range from participating in activities such as mindfulness to focusing one’s mind on a particular thought, action, or object. Meditation as an exercise is practiced in several religious conventions. The earliest known record of meditation as a practice,, was found in the Upanishads of Hindu philosophy and religion. Meditation plays an integral part in the contemplative prayer genre of both Buddhism and Hinduism. Since the 18th century, meditative exercises, and techniques have spread themselves to other cultures and regions worldwide. These techniques have found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business, health, wellness, etc. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and a long-time meditator, has posited the view that having a narrative attached to one’s meditation practice can help in maintaining consistency and discipline. Taking his example, he expresses that the only way he has been able to meditate daily is because he indulges in the practice not primarily for his benefit but for the benefit of others.
Effect Of Meditation
The act of meditation is supposed to play an integral part in a person’s physical and mental health. It is known to significantly reduce stress, depression, anxiety and pain in an individual’s suffering. This exercise is also known to elevate an individual’s peace, self-concept, perception and well-being. Many researchers are on their way to better comprehending the effect of meditation on a human’s physical health. These research and studies primarily revolve around issues ranging in the psychological, cardiovascular and neurological areas.
Different Connotation Of The Word “Meditation”
Claudio Naranjo, a famous psychiatrist and practitioner noted that, “The word ‘meditation’ has been used to denote a spectrum of practices that are different from one another, so much so that one might find trouble defining what meditation is.”
It isn’t easy to establish a specific definition for the practice of meditation because of its versatility in different cultures and traditions. The term “meditation” or “meditative practice” is popularly used to denote a range of practices found in different cultures. Contextually, they can consist of any act, performance, or exercise that claims to guide the mind’s attention towards calm and compassion. This practice is primarily associated with the idea of achieving mental well-being and peace in one’s life. Even after having no definition or particular criteria for the elaboration of this practice, meditation has found a significant number of patrons across the world.
Meditation techniques can be broadly classified into three categories – Focused or Concentrated Meditation, Open Monitoring or Mindfulness Meditation, and Guided Meditation
Focused meditation methods consist of exercises that include paying attention to one’s breath, feeling or idea, koan, or mantra. Here, the thought or feeling might be a metta of love and kindness, and the mantra is the same as is associated with transcendental meditation. Additionally, focused meditation exercises also include single-point meditation.
Open Monitoring Meditation
Open monitoring meditation methods include mindfulness practices, shikantaza and other similar awareness states. Mindfulness meditation practice denotes a state of being wholly aware or mindful of the activity one is involved in. This practice focuses on being aware of one’s breathing for as little as five minutes each day. A common misconception about mindfulness meditation is that it involves not thinking. However, in reality, it is about being able to redirect a person’s thoughts in case of any distraction.
Mindfulness meditation practices improve one’s ability to focus on the moment. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness meditation is responsible for improving emotional regulation in the brain by decreasing the reactivity of a brain’s part called the amygdala. The amygdala is known for controlling the “fight or flight” response. By regulating this stress response, one can limit their anxiety, reduce depression, and improve self-control.
Additionally, there are some exercises that use both these meditation techniques. For example – Vipassana and Samatha. Vipassana is an exercise that uses Anapanasati as a form of preparation, and Samatha as an exercise is generally linked with the calm-abiding trope.
In the “No thought” methods of meditative practices, a practitioner is said to be fully alert, in control and aware of their sensory abilities. Despite this awareness, this practitioner is known to experience a state of exclusion from any unwanted thought or activity. These practices can be seen in close contrast to the popular form of meditative approaches that aim at detaching the practitioners from the outside world.
These common meditative exercises establish a non judgemental form of thought, but they never wholly cease an individual’s thought process. On the other hand, in Sahaja yoga spiritual movement, the focus is on one’s views being altogether stopped.
Guided meditation refers to the form of meditation which denotes several techniques that aim at achieving or enhancing the meditative state. Sometimes, it may refer to a simple meditation done through the guidance of a trained practitioner, and other times, it may denote the use of imagery, music and other techniques for achieving the purpose. This session can be facilitated either through a person or audio/video. The most common form of this practice is an amalgamation of meditation music, guided imagery, relaxation, receptive music therapy, mindfulness and journaling.
The benefits of guided meditation consist of a reduction in asthmatic episodes, descent in stress levels, lowered levels of physical pain, insomnia, negative or irrational thinking, anger and anxiety. This form of meditation also helps in improving individuals coping skills, concentration power, focus, optimism and feeling of well being.
Postures Of Meditation
Meditation is an exercise that primarily depends on the posture that a practitioner utilizes. Asanas and positions like the full lotus, half-lotus, seize and the kneeling positions are some of the very popular postures of meditation in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. Other than these, some other postures that can be utilized in this regard are the postures of sitting, supine (lying), and standing. The exercise of meditation is also done while walking (Kinhin), while doing a simple task mindfully (Samu), or while lying down on the ground (Savasana).