One of the most profound gifts…
People are becoming more familiar with the word meditation, but not so long ago you were considered weird if you meditated. Fortunately, in today’s day and age it is becoming an everyday practice for most people who strive towards greater health and wellbeing.
In my own life I have experienced time and again the benefits of a quiet moment in the morning before the not-so-quiet day. This ancient practice of unplugging has become the greatest tool to tame my monkey mind. It gives me clarity and a feeling of serenity that sets me up for the day.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. It is the practice of focusing your attention to help you feel calm and give you a clear awareness about your life.
Health Benefits of Meditation
The health benefits of meditation have been recognized by Eastern philosophers for thousands of years, but now it is also widely accepted and practiced in the West.
- Healthy sleep patterns, more hours, deeper sleep
- Improves immune system
- Lower levels of stress and anxiety
- Brings mental clarity and calms the mind
- Increase pain tolerance
- Improve memory and concentration
- Foster kindness
- Improves energy levels
- Increase relaxation and awareness
The earliest documented records that mentioned meditation involved the teachings of Vedas in ancient India, around 1500 BCE. However, the exact date of meditation origin is unknown, but historians believe that meditation was practiced as early as 5000 BCE.
Throughout most part of history, meditation was considered a spiritual practice that was the realm of monks, priests and other religious figures and was largely unknown amongst the general population.
Interesting Facts About Meditation
The English word ‘meditation’ stems from meditari, a Latin term meaning ‘to ponder’.
Meditation actually forms part of most world religions. If you think about it, all major religions have a tradition of meditation, however, it is not necessary to convert to a particular religion to practice meditation or to become self-aware.
Disney was one of the first companies to introduce meditation into the workplace.
Different Classifications of Meditation
Scientists usually classify meditation based on the way they focus attention, into two categories, known as, Focused Attention and Open Monitoring.
Focused Attention Meditation refers to focusing the attention on a single object during the whole meditation session. This object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. As the practitioner advances, his ability to keep the flow of attention in the chosen object gets stronger and distractions become less common and short-lived. Both the depth and steadiness of his attention are developed.
Examples of these are: Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others.
Open monitoring meditation refers to focusing the attention on any one object; we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without going into them.
Examples are: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation.
However, at the heart of all the different techniques is the intention to remain focused, relaxed and to keep that natural quality of awareness. All meditation, no matter which culture or tradition it comes from, how complicated it might appear, or what its purpose might be relies on at least one of the two essential components, concentration and clarity.
Just like training the body to make a particular muscle stronger, so can training the mind with meditation make the area of the brain associated with happiness and wellbeing stronger.
Meditation Tips for Beginners:
- Start small: You’re much more likely to stick with a new habit if you build it slowly. Start with only 5 minutes at a time. You’ll be amazed at the impact that just a few minutes has on your life.
- Be comfortable: You don’t need to meditate in the traditional cross-legged meditation pose. Meditate in any position you like, including sitting on a chair or even laying down.
- Use an app: It is a practice you can do anywhere and with today’s technology you can practice this profound ancient modality even with the help of an application on your mobile phone. Some of the most popular apps are Calm, Headspace, Aura and Insight Timer and they are all very easy to use.
- You’re doing it right: So many meditators quit soon after they begin since they think they’re doing it wrong. There is no wrong way to meditate. Remember, every time your mind has wandered; you practice non-judgement by gently returning your attention to the present moment.
Meditation is something everyone can do to improve his or her mental and emotional health. With so many benefits, meditation is one of the most beautiful gifts at our disposal.