Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit. Meditation is generally an internally-invoked, personal practice, which an individual can do by themselves. Prayer beads or other ritual objects may be used during meditation. Meditation may involve invoking or cultivating a feeling or internal state, such as compassion, or attending to a specific focal point. The term can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state.
There are dozens or more specific styles of meditation practice; the word meditation may carry different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions.
A 2007 study by the U.S. government found that nearly 9.4% of U.S. adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 months, up from 7.6% (more than 15 million people) in 2002.
Since the 1960s, meditation has been the focus of increasing scientific research of uneven rigor and quality. In over 1,000 published research studies, various methods of meditation have been linked to changes in metabolism, blood pressure, brain activation, and other bodily processes. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction.
The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced. Even in prehistoric times civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the final phases of human biological evolution. References to meditation with Rishabha in Jainism go back to the Acaranga Sutra dating to 500 BC. Around 500-600BC Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop meditative practices.
In the west, by 20BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of “spiritual exercises” involving attention (prosoche) and concentration and by the 3rd century Plotinus had developed meditative techniques.
The Pali Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other oriental countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Japan. Returning from China around 1227, Dogen wrote the instructions for Zazen.
Meditation helps you look for clarity, meaning and purpose in life
It brings you tools to cultivate health, healing, happiness and higher-self-development in your life. The practice of meditation transforms the frustrations of stress and tension into vitality for a fulfilling life. Deep meditation practice enables you to access reality-based experiences of the spiritual dimensions within and outside your Self.
- Alexandre Chaligne
The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this cannot be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.
Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a “ladder” were defined by the monk Guigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century.
By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it, and Voltaire asked for toleration towards Buddhists. The first English translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead was published in 1927.
Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self improvement.
– Both spiritual and secular forms of meditation have been subjects of scientific analyses. Research on meditation began in 1931, with scientific research increasing dramatically during the 1970s and 1980s.
Since the beginning of the ’70s more than a thousand studies of meditation in English-language have been reported. However, after 60 years of scientific study, the exact mechanism at work in meditation remains unclear.
Human consciousness is evolving, awakening to the discovery of Self
All of us are participants in the evolution of consciousness , the next great leap for humanity. We perceive ourselves to be more than just our physical bodies. We are connected to the universe through nonphysical dimensions and a holographic matrix of timeless information. Life itself is not something physical and death something spiritual. For us, life’s experiences have taken on a new significance. We marvel at the wonder of an emerging perception of reality that has been here waiting for us to realize all along.
- The Monroe Institute.