Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Meditation is also a consciousness-changing technique that has been shown to have a wide number of benefits on psychological well-being.
Some key things to note about meditation are that meditation has been practiced in cultures all over the world for thousands of years. Nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, has a tradition of using meditative practices.
While meditation is often used for religious purposes, many people practice it independently of any religious or spiritual beliefs or practices. Meditation can also be used as a psychotherapeutic technique.
Meditation can take on many different forms, but there are two main types: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation:
Concentrative meditation involves focusing all of your attention on a specific object while tuning out everything else around you. The goal is to really experience whatever you are focusing on, whether it's your breath, a specific word, or a mantra in order to reach a higher state of being.
Mindfulness meditation includes, among others, both mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness can target different issues, such as depression, which means that its focus may be different from practice to practice. Overall, it involves the state of being aware of and involved in the present moment and making yourself open, aware, and accepting.
While there are many different forms of meditations and ways to practice, learning a basic meditation for beginners is a great place to begin.
Choose a quiet spot that is free of distractions. Turn off your phone, television, and other distractions. If you choose to play quiet music, select something calm and repetitive.
Notice your thoughts. The purpose of meditation is not to clear your mind—your mind is inevitably going to wander. Instead, focus on gently bringing your attention back to your breath whenever you notice your thoughts drifting. Don't judge your thoughts or try to analyse them; simply direct your mind back to your deep breathing.
Consciousness is often likened to a stream, shifting and changing smoothly as it passes over the terrain. Meditation is one deliberate means of changing the course of this stream, and in turn, altering how you perceive and respond to the world around you.
Research has shown that meditation can have both physiological and psychological effects. Some of the positive physiological effects include a lowered state of physical arousal, reduced respiration rate, decreased heart rate, changes in brain wave patterns, and lowered stress.