What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Meditation” – Gurus sitting on mountaintops in pretzel-like poses? While that might be the case somewhere, the truth is meditation is much simpler than that. It is a state of being, like being aware, being surprised, or being calm. Confusing? It doesn’t have to be like that. Just be calm and open your mind to not thinking.
History of Meditation
Meditation can be traced back to hundreds of years BC and is found in virtually every culture. The methods and processes vary from each philosophy, but the end goal is the same – to achieve awareness of your inner self by suspending conscious thought. Depending on where the particular philosophy of meditation is derived will determine how deeply spiritual the process may be. Eastern cultures have a spiritual philosophy referring to meditation, while Western cultures tend to take a less religious approach. In the most recent years, meditation refers to the actions involved in quieting the mind and body to allowing oneself to become aware of the self inside your consciousness.
Learning to Meditate
Whether for spiritual purposes, or simply to find peace in yourself and your surroundings, learning to meditate is a process to be learned, rather than an exercise to be performed. Research on a specific culture’s type of meditation may be necessary to fully understand what is required. However, the basic concepts are similar in every philosophy – be still; breathe deeply; be quiet; be aware. These can be practiced in the solitude and privacy of your own home, as part of a class with a teacher in a studio, or in virtually any other environment you might be in.
One result of all forms of meditation is relaxation of the mind and body. It is important to understand that relaxation is often part of the process called meditation, and is not usually the end goal in itself. Relaxing on its own is not the same as meditating, but meditating will help you become more relaxed. Using controlled breathing, guided visualizations, and the practice of being self aware can help identify the parts of life that tend to create tension. Meditation can teach you how to suspend your thoughts so that the brain stops reacting negatively to these stressful situations.
That brings us to another wonderful benefit of meditation; the relief of physical and mental stress. Again, this is more a byproduct of practicing the methods instead of the total end goal. That said it is still a wonderful reason to start researching and practicing meditation. Through the processes of learning to open and quiet the mind while relaxing the body, many of the stresses in daily life are reduced greatly. By focusing on not focusing your mind, your body is given a reprieve from the thousands of worries going through your brain and setting off potentially harmful reactions.
Whether you are looking for a spiritual awakening or just a way to relax after a stressful day, meditation can be a useful tool. When used properly over long periods of time, it can help heal your body, mind, and soul by allowing your mind to be stress free, if only for a few minutes at a time.