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Meditation: An Overview

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Within us is a secret longing to remember the light, to step out of time in this dancing world. It’s where we began and where we return.

-Jack Kornfield

Meditation can be a powerful aid for you as you undertake to reduce your stress or alleviate and decrease your depression or anxiety. It is a process that’s always available to you at any time, costs nothing, and can be customized to your precise need on any given day, at any given moment. You have the control, and you can use it a little or a lot, however you wish, as you move foward in wellness.

What Is Meditation?

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Without a doubt, even if you don’t realize it, you’ve already spent time in your life meditating. You might have called it prayer, contemplation, thoughtfulness, daydreaming, or quiet time. Webster defines the word as “to reflect on or muse over.” Buddhist texts, such as those by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, generally define meditation as “single-pointed concentration on a virtuous object.” Still other writers describe it as an art form enabling the practitioner to become aware on a grand scale. Even the Christian Bible recommends daily meditation.

Meditation is the practice of training your mind to acknowledge and let go of thoughts as they occur, focusing instead on a single point. This could be your breathing, a word or mantra that you are repeating, or an object such as a candle.

Meditation has been called an inner astronomy – a fairly accurate descriptor, since the journey is one that takes place within you. The point is to have a purpose in your meditation. Whether it is to relax your body, mind, or spirit, to resolve issues, or to simply clear your mind, meditation is a tool that anyone, with any belief system, can use.

Why Meditate?

Whatever you call it and whatever your purpose for it, meditation has been scientifically proven by scan technology to change brain wave patterns (Lutz). Regular meditation practice can result in permanent positive changes in your thought tendencies and by extension your outlook on life and your actions in your day-to-day existence.

Meditation can overcome inner problems created by negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, grief, ignorance, self-loathing, and fear. It helps to control the mind and can bring inner peace. In moments of great stress or despair, meditation can break cycles of desperation and sadness, changing your outlook from one of total negativity and hopelessness to one of resolve and hope. The results can be instantaneous and, with practice, permanent. It can be immensely restorative and comforting.

The point of meditation is to change your programmed habitual thinking to bring your behavior into greater alignment with that which you are seeking in life.

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How Do I Get Started in Meditation?

There are as many forms of meditation as there are people doing the meditating. Meditation is not just sitting formally in a lotus pose in a temple and humming mantras (although it could be if you want it to be). Meditation takes many forms and is based on many belief systems.

There is value in regarding the methods and tools that others have used throughout centuries past to achieve a high-quality meditative state, but you will ultimately determine what is best for you through trial and evaluation.

How Long and How Often Should I Meditate?

There are no rules, but many teachers recommend meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and evening each day. Don’t let an inability to commit to this dissuade you, however. Meditate whenever you can, according to your need, schedule, and ability. Meditation should never be a chore. If you approach meditation with resentment, you’ll be cheating yourself out of a lot of the benefits. Make your meditation time of refuge for you, not another chore on the to-do list that adds stress to your life if you need to miss it.

See our articles on some of the different types of meditation, and try those that appeal to you:

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Remember, meditation is personal and can be practiced by anyone with any belief system. The main goals of meditation are to achieve peace, relaxation, and awareness; all leading to the reduction of the stress of life.

Reference:

  1. Lutz, et al. Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. November 2004.

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