What is Meditation …

Meditation: the action or practice of meditating; focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.

The word meditation is derived from two Latin words: meditari (meaning “to think” or “to dwell upon”, or “to exercise the mind”) and mederi (“to heal”). The Sanskrit derivation “medha” means wisdom.

The ancient tradition of yoga and meditation began in Indian prehistory as a system of mental, physical, and spiritual exercises. In approximately 500BC the physician and sage, Patanjali formalised this tradition into a science, with four major, and four lesser branches involving ethical restraint, self-discipline, mental focus, physical exercise and meditation. The entire system was used in an integrated fashion and directed at the attainment of a unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration. Modern psychologists have described this state as “individuation” (Van der Post, 1975) or “self-actualisation” (Maslow, 1964) and it has been traditionally termed “self-realisation”.

There may be some people who consider meditation as a form of worship or prayer. Although there can be a religious connotation, and application of meditation, generally speaking, means awareness. For example; focussing on your breathing is an awareness state, and is meditation.

Sitting and listening to the birds in your garden is meditation. It is meditation for as long as these activities are absolutely free from any other distraction to the mind.

Meditation is not a technique, a mechanically learned and practiced skill, like switching a light on and off. On the contrary meditation can be a way of life. To meditate means to create a state in which all thought processes cease. The meditative state is a state of consciousness, in which the mind is free of extraneous thoughts and patterns. In meditation all the activity of the mind is reduced to the one state of absolute calm.

The majority of people have a completely uninformed view of meditation, and associate it with visions of monks in far off lands sitting together in silence, when they think about meditation. Meditation is actually becoming a practice that is quite popular in the Western world, among people from all walks of life – it is of particular value in various practices of psychotherapy. Essentially meditation is an approach, which anyone can use, to help them cope with medical problems, stress, and anxiety by way of thought, contemplation, and reflection.

One needs to be aware that meditation encompasses a wide variety of practises while holding to the basic common principles of consideration, and quiet thought, to bring about a state of rumination. Various types of meditation that are recognized include Transcendental MeditationTM, prayer, Zen meditation, Taoist meditation, Mindfulness meditation, and Buddhist meditation.

Some methods of meditation may require the body being absolutely still, or to be moved with controlled deliberation (Tai Chi), while other types allow for free movement of the body. Although the methods are different, the end goal of all types of meditation is to lead to a mind that is quieted, and free from stress.

© 2014 The School of Natural Health Sciences (MEDITATION, Lesson 1, pp. 1-2).

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