Photo by marekuliasz/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by marekuliasz/iStock / Getty Images

What is meditation?

There are many ways to define meditation, some simple, some complex, some based in spirituality, and some based on scientific principles. 

While there are many aspects to meditation, we can start with a basic definition:

Meditation is the practice of quieting and focusing the mind thereby producing a state of consciousness completely different from our normal waking state. The mind is focused inward, and while you are fully alert, you are not focused on external events, past thoughts, or future worries. 

A regular practice of meditation has many benefits both physically and mentally, such as reduced stress, improved concentration, and better insight into your own thought processes.

An important part of the definition is perhaps what meditation is “not”. Meditation is not a religion. It is not a relaxation exercise (although some types of meditation have relaxation as a benefit). It is not just a Buddhist or Eastern practice. There are meditation practices based on Western spirituality such as Centering Prayer which stems from Christian contemplative tradition, and there are secular types of meditation based on practical scientific principles. 

It is not something mysterious or a way to escape reality. It is a practical, valuable exercise in becoming in touch with our own mind.

Recently, the term “mindfulness” has been in the news even appearing as cover stories on major magazines such as Newsweek and Time. Often the term mindfulness is used as a generic term when referring to meditation, since at times the term meditation is associated with Eastern religions, and mindfulness sounds more secular. Mindfulness is actually a type of meditation, and it’s important to remember that while meditation is a part of many different religions, it is not a religious practice. 

Meditation includes a wide variety of practices, such as insight meditation, concentration practices, guided meditations, etc. It is practiced sitting, standing, lying down, walking, etc. Meditation can be practiced in groups or alone, for a few minutes a day or in multiple day retreats. 

It is perhaps more beneficial to take a look at the benefits of meditation and then explore the types of practice available, and then actually try meditation. 

Regular meditation practice is now becoming not just a part of yoga studios or alternative lifestyles. Meditation is now taught in the military, in police departments, in gyms, in schools, in corporations, and in homes throughout the world. 

Meditation can benefit you personally and even the entire world. Try it and see…