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Most people probably associate meditation with religion. It is certainly true that most religious practices include meditation as an essential part of their teaching, although some don't use the word 'meditation' to describe their particular meditative or contemplative practice.
However, although Meditation has been taught in the West for many years as part of the Christian tradition, it does not always have a religious element. It is not necessary to be religiously minded to meditate, nor to give up worldly things, as is often supposed. Meditation is a natural part of the human experience and is increasingly used as a therapy for promoting good health and boosting the immune system. Over the past half century, many non-
The word 'meditation' can be used in a variety of different ways and may have many different associations. For some, the word may imply concentrating the mind on some mental image or, possibly, on the idea of nothing; for others, it may mean thinking about an idea, as when we meditate on the state of the economy. Meditation may be a form of devotion or prayer; it may mean an examination of one's internal thought processes, or simply a settling down of the mind into quietness. For some it could be sitting in a meadow on a summer afternoon letting the sun and birdsong carry you away; or it may mean a guided meditation in which a therapist asks a patient to imagine certain things happening to him. All these meanings and more have passed under the umbrella of 'meditation'. Despite their differences, all forms of meditation have the same basis -
Outside of the religious practice, meditation is simply a mental and physical course of action that a person uses to separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings in order to become fully aware. Anyone who has looked at a sunset or a beautiful painting and felt calm and inner joy, while their mind becomes clear and their perception sharpens, has had a taste of the realm of meditation. Successful meditation means simply being -
Techniques of Relaxation
There are many widely known systematic techniques of relaxation. All attempt to combat stress by bringing the ‘fight or flight’ response under control. There are two main groups: those that concentrate on the mind, and those that work on the body. The proposal is that if you relax one, you will relax the other.
Most mental methods are forms of meditation. Throughout man’s history, a variety of different techniques have been derived, originally from the esoteric elements of the major religions; all have the effect of increasing the powers of concentration, and all combat stress by bringing the mind under conscious control. The mind is, in its usual state, a never-
Meditation aims to bring this process under control, allowing you to concentrate on the moment, and not to worry about past or future possibilities. This increase in attention eventually leads to a new clear-
Methods of Meditation
There are three methods of meditation. Most common is the use of physical or mental objects on which the meditator tries to focus his attention. Every time other thoughts, or even verbal definitions, enter the mind, they must be pushed off and attention brought back to the object. Physical objects should be natural objects, such as stones or shells, or small personal objects like jewels or plain rings. Other objects include: the verbal or mental repetition of sounds (Transcendental Meditation's associations (the lotus flower, pictures of saints and gurus); and body rhythms, especially breathing.
The classical meditation methods of Bhakti, and Sufi, Raja and Kundalini yoga all use the meditator's own breathing. You just sit and concentrate on your breathing... not doing anything to alter the way you breathe, not worrying about whether you are doing it right or wrong, not even thinking about breathing; just 'following' the breathing and 'becoming one' with the breathing.
The second major method is to concentrate on yourself; to cultivate a constant awareness of your actions, thoughts and surroundings. This means that you begin to see how your mind works, to discover the automatic nature of your actions and to see the possibilities of the self or, in some philosophies, the essential nothingness, behind the transient automation. Krishnamurti's "self-
The third method combines aspects of the other two; the best known examples being Zen Buddhism's "zazen" meditation and use of the "koans" (unsolvable problems), and Tibetan Buddhism. Choose the method most suitable for your own personality and circumstances, and stress will be relieved.,
Physiological Effects of Meditation
These are the opposite to those of the ‘fight or flight’ response. The following conclusions emerge from the results of experiments designed to scientifically test the benefits of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Here are a few supportive articles and sites that may help convince you that meditation is a worthwhile habit:
The Science of Meditation -
The Benefits of Meditation -
Scientists probe meditation secrets -
For more information go to Project Meditation
If you require further information about meditation, or the various therapies on offer to you, please feel free to contact us.
If you want to learn meditation the easy way, the Gaia Team recommends:
We found the following programme concerning relaxed breathing very useful:
And this one is just right for stress reduction:
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