“Mindfulness and meditation” is a common phrase, though mindfulness seems to be much more popular. While mindfulness can be practiced in a wider variety of settings and situations, meditation has its own benefits. Further, while mindfulness is widely accepted as a mental and spiritual health tool, people are more likely to get hung up on meditation. This article will address the history and nature of meditation as well as some of its medical benefits and how you can get started.
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What is Meditation?
Meditation has been defined many ways by different practitioners and organisations. Generally, it involves clearing the mind. Because it can be so difficult to clear the mind completely, many people focus on an image or a sound. The sound or image can be external, or something created by the individual.
While most meditation involves clearing the mind, some people will use it to focus the mind on a particular task or idea in order to learn or discover new things without being distracted by other thoughts.
How is Meditation Practiced?
Many people’s only knowledge of meditation comes from the popular media. Where meditation is often practiced by religious individuals or members of the occult who are trying to achieve enlightenment, remotely contact someone, visit the spirit world, etc. With such an impression it is no wonder that the average person may have some misgivings about trying meditation for themselves.
Most of our ideas of meditation come from (miss)representations of Buddhist practices and other ancient Asian traditions in which meditation is one of seven steps to achieve inner peace. In these ancient practice’s meditation may be done silently. Though it may also be done by repeating a mantra – a word or phrase that usually only means something to the individual, and which helps them to focus.
Meditation also exists in Jewish traditions. The individual may focus on a candle flame, breath, or a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order to focus their attentions.
Meditation was also practiced by some ancient Christian thinkers. Many also believe that the Rosary – a Catholic prayer involving the repetition of several shorter prayers – is intended as a meditational aid.
Sufism, a school within Islam, also encourages meditation. Often in order to avoid distractions to better focus on a particular issue.
Meditation is now making something of a secular comeback with the mindfulness movement. Modern meditation usually focuses on the breath or on sensations of the body at rest. Another common kind of modern meditation is guided meditation. In which a person or group of people will meditate while a leader speaks softly, guiding them through thoughts or actions to help them rest.
Resources to Help You Get Started
While you still can focus on your breath, an imagined image, a candle flame, or one of the other traditional aids, there are a lot more resources more readily available for those interested in what this article has been calling “modern mediation”.
Multiple YouTube channels and mobile phone apps feature guided meditations, often daily, that can help you to relax your mind and body.
While some people like guided meditations, others find it difficult to focus while someone is talking aloud the whole time and prefer to avoid guided meditations.
A Simple Meditation You Can Learn And Practice Right Now
One common template for guided meditation that can be easily learned and performed without guidance is the “body scan”, a form of progressive muscle relaxation.
For this meditation, lie on your back or sit comfortably with your arms away from the body or at your sides. Consider you’re the toes of one of your feet. Consider how they feel and imagine that you can feel your breath going from your mouth all the way to your toes.
Then consider the bottom of the foot in the same way and then the top of the foot. In this way, move through your whole body, starting with one leg, then the other, then the trunk and the torso, the back, the arms, the shoulders, the neck, and the head, paying special attention to those areas or points where your body is in contact with the chair, the bed, or the floor.
Many people fall asleep during this meditation but it’s up to you whether that is a bad thing.
Do you currently include meditation as your daily practice? If not, what is holding you back from starting?