The word meditation comes from the Latin “meditare”, which originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise, then later evolved into the more specific meaning “contemplation.” This usage is found in Christian spirituality, for example, “meditations on the sufferings of Christ”; as well as Western philosophy, as in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, a set of six mental exercises which systematically analyze the nature of reality. However, “meditation” in its modern sense, also refers to religious and spiritual practices.
Meditation is usually defined as one of the following:
-a continuous and profound state of contemplation that is experienced when the mind dissolves and is free of all thoughts
-a mental “opening up” to the divine, invoking the guidance of a higher power
-its ritual and contemplative qualities are similar to prayer in Western religions, but prayer emphasizes communication with a higher being, whereas meditation focuses on developing oneself.
-Meditation can also be used for personal development in a non-religious context, such as the exercises of Hatha Yoga.
It was used in secular contexts, such as martial arts and has also been employed by a number of religious and spiritual movements such as Hatha Yoga and New Age.
From the point of view of psychology, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness. However, many religious people challenge the assumption that these mental states (or any other visible loss) are the “goal” of meditation. More broadly meditation goals are varied, and range from spiritual enlightenment to a transformation of attitudes and also improve overall physical, cardiovascular and mental health.
- Different techniques of meditation can be classified according to their focus. Some are:
- Health applications and clinical studies of meditation
In the recent years there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of meditation. Many concepts of meditation have been applied to clinical settings in order to measure its effect on somatic motor function as well as cardiovascular and respiratory function. Also the hermeneutic (interpretation) and phenomenological aspects of meditation are areas of growing interest. Meditation has entered the mainstream of health care as a method of stress and pain reduction.
As a method of stress reduction, meditation is often used in hospitals in cases of chronic or terminal illness, to reduce complications associated with increased stress including a depressed immune system. There is a growing consensus in the medical community that mental factors such as stress significantly contribute to a lack of physical health, and there is a growing movement in mainstream science to fund research in this area.
- Meditation and the brain
The Mindfulness meditation and related techniques are designed to train attention to all sorts of perceived thoughts, feelings and emotions to be accepted as they are and lead to insight (understanding). Think of it as the opposite of Attention Deficit Disorder. Acquiring a wider and more flexible power of concentration facilitates the understanding of a situation and to act more objectively in emotionally or morally difficult situations. You can then reach a state of consciousness and creative “flow” of sensitive ideas.
Meditation may serve simply as a means of relaxation from a busy daily routine; as a technique for cultivating mental discipline; or as a means of gaining insight into the nature of reality, or of communing with one’s God or belief. Many report improved concentration, awareness, self-discipline and serenity through meditation.
- More effects of Meditation:
-Greater faith in, or understanding of, one’s religion or beliefs
-An increase in patience, compassion, and other virtues and morals or the understanding of them
-Feelings of calm or peace, and/or moments of great joy
-Sensitivity to certain forms of lighting, such as fluorescent lights or computer screens, and sometimes, heightened sense-perception.
-Experience of spiritual phenomena such as Kundalini, extra-sensory perception, or visions.