With the world changing at a faster speed than ever before, more people are looking for ways to get rid of the stress and anxiety that comes with the changing times. One practice which has been gaining in popularity in recent years is the art of meditation. A practice that is thousands of years old, meditation is a great way to improve your life and health, as it offers a straightforward solution for people feeling anxiety and stress in their everyday lives.
It helps to understand what meditation is and how it can work for you. Today, there are millions of people who use meditation in one form or another to prepare themselves for the coming challenges of life and to find relief from the stress that they have experienced over the course of their day.
Let’s look a little more in-depth at what meditation is.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice where a person invokes a mode of consciousness or trains their mind to seek some benefit, achieve acknowledgement of its content without identification, or to simply relax and ease away the stress and anxiety of the day. There are many different practices and techniques for meditation that offer several benefits:
- Stress relief
- Developing compassion
- Building internal energy
- Improving overall state of being
Meditation is a form of concentration that allows the person to develop or improve on an aspect in their life such as finding more love, patience, generosity, or being more forgiving. Meditation can be used for preparation before facing a challenge, held during the activity itself, or afterward to help pull back to a normal state.
Before learning more about how meditation can benefit our present, let’s investigate its past.
History of Meditation
Although there is no exact date or place where meditation was first practiced, it is believed to have been started in the areas known today as India and Nepal about 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. About the same time, the first recorded acts of meditation were occurring in China with the Confucianism and Taoism movements that began to define what is meditation.
The history of meditation in the western world is less clear as the first recorded acts did not occur until about 20 BCE. Philo of Alexandria mentioned using something called spiritual exercises that involved concentrating the mind which evokes meditation as we know it today. However, much of the western history that was recorded was destroyed, so there are no clear beginnings to meditation that are currently known. By the 3rd century AD, Plotinus had written down some meditative techniques.
At the same time, Buddhism was spreading across China and the Pali Canon, written in the 1st century AD cited meditation as a step towards mental liberation. There are many passages written about meditation that points to Zen Buddhism and its rise across Asia and Southeast Asia during that time. Meditation in the western world seemed to stagnate and die out during the Dark Ages, but was revitalized with the opening of the Silk Road which brought the Buddhist ideals to the west and meditation along with it.
Over the centuries, meditation has been adapted by Christian, Islamic, and other religions in various forms. One prominent example is the repetition of the Jesus Prayer by Greek Orthodox monks who live on Mount Athos in Greece. However, there are many examples in religion where meditative states are used in the practice of faith.
The secular use of meditation is a relatively recent phenomenon although such practices may have been in use for many centuries, but simply not recorded. It was not until the mid-20th century that secular practices of meditation became more popular. Today, they reach around the world as millions of people practice meditation in one form or another.
What Meditation Means
The term “meditation” has various meanings depending on the context that it is used. Because meditation is associated in part with religious practices along with cultural beliefs, there are several connotations that can be attached to the meaning. However, most people perceive meditation is a way to clear the mind, regulate thoughts, and create a platform that allows them to lower their blood pressure, reduce anxiety and stress, and even treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other depressive disorders.
Meditation may be performed standing, sitting, or laying down depending on the form which you choose to take. For example, Buddhist monks practice the state of meditation while conducting their day-to-day activities. However, most people who practice meditation will find a few moments of privacy so they can remove the stress and anxiety from their thoughts helps define what is meditation.
The actual practice of meditation may be used to analyze an emotional state that you are undergoing, such as hatred or anger. Or, it can be used in response to an action so that you can create compassion or another positive feeling. Many will interpret the term meditation as the actual state, technique, or practice used to evoke such responses. Many forms of mediation involve repeating a mantra, closing the eyes, and delving into a deeper mental state of being. The mantra itself may carry words that either have or do not have any meaning unto themselves, but simply to evoke the proper state of consciousness to enter the state of meditation.
The Practice of Meditation
Understanding what meditation can do for you can begin with a very short session. In fact, many people start meditating with a little as two minutes devoted to each session that starts once a day. You start by finding a quiet place, sitting down, closing your eyes, and focusing your mind on a specific place or object.
Just like exercise, you’ll want to pick it up a little each session so that you are meditating for up to three minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes each day. You’ll want to make meditation a habit so it will be part of your everyday life. The good news is that you do not need to purchase anything. All you really need is a place for you to focus your mind for two minutes each day.
As you meditate, you’ll want to count the number of breaths that you take. This will help provide focus for your mind so that it does not wonder off. It can be frustrating for meditation newbies. Many complain that they cannot stay focused. The response is that, yes, it takes practice. Stick with it. Don’t expect major results to shift your world. The effects are subtle, but if you stick with it, they will become very apparent.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on what meditation is and how it can benefit your life. Namaste.
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