Meditation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training one’s attention and awareness to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control. This is proven to promote general mental well being and development and / or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration.
Meditation in its many variant forms is as old as religion itself. Though typically associated with Buddhism and Hinduism it is also to be found in branches of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The secular form of meditation most Westerners are familiar with today arrived from India in the 1960s. Secular meditation is now recognized worldwide as one of the foremost self improvement tools for combating stress, promoting physical and mental relaxation and rejuvenation, and developing a “new age“ spiritual outlook.
Hundreds of scientific studies have been done on meditation since the 1960s. It is known that during meditation brain wave activity shifts from the right frontal cortex associated with negative emotions to the left frontal cortex associated with positive ones. This mental shift decreases the harmful effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. Latest studies also suggest meditation is anti-aging. This is because stress degrades the ability of cells to renew themselves and therefore cells die leading to accelerated aging. Meditation is also employed in Western psychology to alleviate obsessive compulsive disorders and prevent relapses in depression and drug addiction. At the other end of the spectrum, meditation is used by athletes and speakers in pre-performance preparation to improve results. It is also used in actors’ workshops and rehearsals to boost creativity. In both cases the aim is to block out extraneous thoughts so energy is focused on the task in hand to the exclusion of all else.
Other benefits that have been observed include an improved immune system, improved function of organs, pain and headache reduction, lower blood pressure, heightened perception, greater forgiveness, better self esteem and a more ethical outlook on life.
The majority of ancient and contemporary practices revolve around a blend of “concentrative meditation” and “mindfulness” or “self-awareness meditation”. The former focuses intensively on one particular physical or visual object or on a mantra, whether a sound, word or phrase. The latter invites the practitioner to non-judgmentally observe – that is, without prejudice or preconceived notions – the content of his or her experience from moment to moment. Some techniques require the meditator to focus on, or be aware of, their breathing. This illustrates that practical distinctions are often blurred, styles of meditation that fall outside these parameters are also discussed in the chapter. Most meditation is done in the classic sitting yogic pose, but dynamic t’ai Chi qigong, by contrast, is “moving meditation” involving the hypnotic flow of fluid gestures. In short, there is a style of meditation to suit every taste. This reflects the constant reinterpretation and reinvention of meditation, as well as the endless borrowing and blending of techniques and ideas, ancient and modern.
• Join a class and be with like-minded people. It probably doesn’t matter which practice you try at first – the important thing initially is to get some sort of instruction.
• Just 15-20 minutes a day is needed; though if you have the time, twice a day would be even better.
• Persevere. Meditation is hard! Westerners are simply not attuned to sitting still and, as it were, doing nothing. When you start distracting thoughts will inevitably pop into your head, Allow a month of daily trial before you are tempted to dismiss it.
• Keep an open, non-judgmental mins, Cynicism will block any kind of progress.
• If the thought of sitting bores you, consider Tai Chi exercises, sometimes called “the art of moving meditation”.