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Meditation is used as a broad term for practices done by a sole practitioner without much, if any, external aid, often for the purpose of self-transformation. Often, though not at all necessarily, meditation is done as part of a religious tradition.

Etymology

The word meditation comes from the Indo-European root med-, meaning "to measure." It entered English as meditation through the Latin meditatio, which originally indicated any type of physical or intellectual exercise, then later evolved into the more specific meaning "contemplation."

Practices founded in spirituality and religion

There are many specific ways of meditating; even in a specific religious tradition there are lots of different ways of meditating. Some have also pointed to similarities between the various ways of meditating.



Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith teaches that meditation is necessary for spiritual growth, alongside obligatory prayer and fasting. `Abdu'l-Bahá is quoted as saying:

"Meditation is the key for opening the doors of mysteries to your mind.
In that state man abstracts himself: in that state man withdraws himself from all outside objects; in that subjective mood he is immersed in the ocean of spiritual life and can unfold the secrets of things-in-themselves."


Although the founder of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, never specified any particular forms of meditation, some Bahá'í practices are meditative. One of these is the daily repetition of the Arabic phrase Alláhu Abhá ( ) (God is Most Glorious) 95 times preceded by ablutions. Abhá has the same root as Bahá' (Arabic: بهاء "splendor" or "glory") which Bahá'ís consider to be the "Greatest Name of God".

Buddhism

Dynamic tranquilty: the Buddha in contemplation.
Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena. The historical Buddha himself, Siddhartha Gautama, was said to have achieved enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. In Buddhist mythology, there were twenty eight Buddhas and all of them used meditation to make spiritual progress. Most forms of Buddhism distinguish between two classes of meditation practices, samatha and vipassana, both of which are necessary for attaining enlightenment. The former consists of practices aimed at developing the ability to focus the attention single-pointedly; the latter includes practices aimed at developing insight and wisdom through seeing the true nature of reality. The differentiation between the two types of meditation practices is not always clear cut, which is made obvious when studying practices such as anapanasati which could be said to start off as a shamatha practice but that goes through a number of stages and ends up as a vipassana practice.

Theravada Buddhism emphasizes the meditative development of mindfulness (sati, see for example the Satipatthana Sutta) and concentration (samadhi, see kammatthana), as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, in the pursuit of Nibbana (Nirvana). Traditional popular meditation subjects include the breath (anapana) and loving-kindness (mettā).

In the Vipassana style of meditation the awareness is initially focused on the rising and falling breath and then (when respiration is almost suspended and the mind and heart still) on either some simple symbol (candle flame), body part (thumb or tip of the nose) or concept (provided any of these is unlikely to evoke emotional or intellectual disturbance).

One particularly influential school of Buddhist meditation in the 20th century was the Thai Forest Tradition which included such notable practitioners of meditation as Ajahn Thate, Ajahn Maha Bua and the Ajahn Chah.

In Japanese Mahayana schools, Tendai (Tien-tai), concentration is cultivated through highly structured ritual. Especially in the Chinese Chán Buddhism school (which branched out into the Japanese Zen, and Korean Seon schools), ts'o ch'an meditation and koan meditation practices allow a practitioner to directly experience the true nature of reality (each of the names of these schools derives from the Sanskrit dhyana, and translates into "meditation" in their respective languages). The esoteric Shingon sect shares many features with Tibetan Buddhism. The Japanese haiku poet Basho saw poetry as a process of meditation concerned with the art of describing the brief appearances of the everlasting self, of eternity, in the circumstances of the world. We get a sense of this ethical purpose in his writing at the commencement of his classic work Narrow Roads to the Deep North. In a more lonely and perhaps more profound pilgrimage than Chaucer depicted in the Canterbury Tales, Basho reflects on mortality in intermingled poetry and prose as he journeys north from shrine to shrine.

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) emphasizes tantra for its senior practitioners; hence its alternate name of Tantrayana Buddhism. Many monks go through their day without "meditating" in a recognizable form, but are more likely to chant or participate in group liturgy. In this tradition, the purpose of meditation is to awaken the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce practitioners to the true nature of mind: unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death.

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


Most Buddhist traditions recognize that the path to Enlightenment entails three types of training: virtue (sīla); concentration (dhyāna); and, wisdom (paññā). Thus, meditative process alone is not sufficient; it is but one part of the path. In other words, in Buddhism, in tandem with mental cultivation, ethical development and wise understanding are also necessary for the attainment of the highest goal.

It has been argued that meditative traditions of Buddhism (which predated the recorded birth of Jesus by 500 years and were present in Asia Minormarker and Alexandriamarker during Jesus' life), influenced the development of some aspects of Christian contemplative faith (Buddhism and Christianity).

Christianity

Meditation of François Saint
Christian traditions have various practices which can be identified as forms of "meditation." Monastic traditions are the basis for many of these. Practices such as the rosary, the Adoration (focusing on the eucharist) in Catholicism or the hesychast tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy, may be compared to forms of Eastern meditation that focus on an individual object. Christian meditation is considered a form of prayer. Hesychastic practice may involve recitation of the Jesus Prayer, thus "through the grace of God and one's own effort, to concentrate the nous in the heart." Prayer as a form of meditation of the heart is described in the Philokalia—a practice that leads towards Theosis which ignores the senses and results in inner stillness.

In 1975, the Benedictine monk, John Main introduced a form of meditation based on repetitive recitation of a prayer-phrase, traditionally the Aramaic phrase "Maranatha," meaning "Come, Lord", as quoted at the end of both Corinthians and Revelation. The World Community for Christian Meditation was founded in 1991 to continue Main's work, which the Community describes as: "teaching Christian meditation as part of the great work of our time of restoring the contemplative dimension of Christian faith in the life of the church."

The Old Testament book of Joshua sets out a form of meditation based on scriptures: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it, then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:8). This is one of the reasons why bible verse memorization is a practice among many evangelical Christians.

The predominant form of worship among Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, has historically been communal silent prayer or meditation which consists of focusing on the Inner Light of Christ, listening for and awaiting the movement of the "still, small voice within," which may or may not result in being moved to spoken ministry.

Hinduism

The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which includes the Bhagavad Gita. According to Gavin Flood, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers to meditation when it states that "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman) within oneself".


Raja Yoga (sometimes simply referred to as Yoga) is one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy, focusing on meditation. Dhyana, or meditation, is the seventh of eight limbs of the Raja Yoga path as expounded by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Patanjali recommended "meditation with the Lord as the object" as a part of the spiritual practices (sadhana) that leads to samadhi, or blissful inner peace. The word 'Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit yuj, which means "to control", "to yoke", "to unite", and refers to techniques and disciplines of asceticism and meditation which lead to spiritual experience. The practices of Yoga help one to control the mind and senses so the ego can be transcended and the true self (atman) experienced, leading to moksa or liberation. Meditation in Hinduism is not confined to any school or sect and has expanded beyond Hinduism to the West.

The different types of Yoga in Hinduism are designed to appeal to varieties of personality types, but to take the sincere practitioner to the same destinations in each case: first samadhi in which non-dual consciousness is experienced only in meditation and then samadhi where non-dual consciousness is experienced throughout waking activities.

The influential modern proponent of Hinduism who first introduced Eastern philosophy to the West in the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda, describes meditation as follows:

"Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions.
The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists.
When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself.
To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it.
Whatever the soul touches ... it has to take its colour.
That is the difficulty.
That constitutes the bondage."


Islam

A Muslim is obliged to pray at least five times a day: once before sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset, and once at night. During prayer a Muslim focuses and meditates on God by reciting the Qur'an and engaging in dhikr to reaffirm and strengthen the bond between Creator and creation. This guides the soul to truth. Such meditation is intended to help maintain a feeling of spiritual peace, in the face of whatever challenges work, social or family life may present.

The five daily acts of peaceful prayer are to serve as a template and inspiration for conduct during the rest of the day, transforming it, ideally, into one single and sustained meditation: even sleep is to be regarded as but another phase of that sustained meditation.

Meditative quiescence is said to have a quality of healing, and—in contemporary terminology—enhancing creativity. The Islamic prophet Muhammad spent sustained periods in contemplation and meditation. It was during one such period that Muhammad began to receive the revelations of the Qur'an.

Following are the styles, or schools, of meditation in the Muslim traditions:
  • Tafakkur or tadabbur, literally means reflection upon the universe: this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotional development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration awakens and liberates both heart and intellect, permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite. Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one's submission to God.
  • Meditation in the Sufi traditions is largely based on a spectrum of mystical exercises, varying from one lineage to another. Such techniques, particularly the more audacious, can be, and often have been down the ages, a source of controversy among scholars. One broad group of ulema, followers of the great Al-Ghazzali, for example, have in general been open to such techniques and forms of devotion, while another such group, those who concur with the prodigious Ibn Taymiya, reject and generally condemn such procedures as species of bid'ah (Arabic: بدعة) or mere innovation.


Numerous Sufi traditions place emphasis upon a meditative procedure similar in its cognitive aspect to one of the two principal approaches to be found in the Buddhist traditions: that of the concentration technique, involving high-intensity and sharply focused introspection. In the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order, for example, this is particularly evident, where muraqaba takes the form of tamarkoz, the latter being a Persian term that means concentration.

Jainism

Meditation has been one of the core spiritual practices undertaken by the Jains since the era of first Tirthankar Lord Rishabha. All the twenty four Tirthankars have practiced deep meditation before attaining enlightenment. They are all shown in meditative postures in the images or idols. Lord Mahaveer practiced deep meditation for twelve years and attained enlightenment.

The Oldest Jain Canon (4th Century BCE) describes meditation of Mahavira before attaining kevala Jnana:
Giving up the company of all householders whomsoever, he meditated.
Asked, he gave no answer; he went, and did not transgress the right path.(AS 312) In these places was the wise Sramana for thirteen long years; he meditated day and night, exerting himself, undisturbed, strenuously.
(AS 333) And Mahavira meditated (persevering) in some posture, without the smallest motion; he meditated in mental concentration on (the things) above, below, beside, free from desires.
He meditated free from sin and desire, not attached to sounds or colours; though still an erring mortal (khadmastha), he wandered about, and never acted carelessly.(AS 374-375)


After more than twelve years of austerities and meditation, Mahavira entered the state of Kevala Jnana while doing shukla dhayana, the highest form of meditation:
The Venerable Ascetic Mahavira passed twelve years in this way of life; during the thirteenth year in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaisakha, on its tenth day called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vigaya, while the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni, when the shadow had turned towards the east, and the first wake was over, outside of the town Grimbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rigupalika, in the field of the householder Samaga, in a north-eastern direction from an old temple, not far from a Sal tree, in a squatting position with joined heels exposing himself to the heat of the sun, with the knees high and the head low, in deep meditation, in the midst of abstract meditation,he reached Nirvana, the complete and full, the unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite and supreme best knowledge and intuition, called Kevala.


The Jains use the word Samayika, a word in the Prakrit language derived from the word samay (time), to denote the practice of meditation. The aim of Samayika is to transcend the daily experiences of being a "constantly changing" human being, Jiva, and allow for the identification with the "changeless" reality in the practitioner, the Atma. If the present moment of time is taken to be a point between the past and the future, Samayika means being fully aware, alert and conscious in that very moment, experiencing one's true nature, Atma, which is considered common to all living beings. To live in samayik is called living in the present. The Samayika takes on special significance during Paryushana, a special eight-day period practiced by the Jains. One of the main goal of Samayika is to inculcate the quality of equanimity. It encourages to be consistently spiritually vigilant. Samayaika is practiced in all the Jain sects and communities.

In Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, Mahavira explains the various benefits of meditation:

Acharya Mahaprajna, the 10th Head of Jain Swetamber Terapanth sect , formulated a well organized meditation system known as preksha meditation in 1970s. With this, he rediscovered the Jain Meditation techniques available in ancient Jain scriptures. The system consists of the perception of the breath, body, the psychic centres, psychic colors, thought and of contemplation processes which can initiate the process of personal transformation. Few important contemplation themes are - Impermanence, Solitariness, Vulnerability. It aims at reaching and purifying the deeper levels of existence. Regular practice is believed to strengthen the immune system and build up stamina to resist against ageing, pollution, viruses, diseases. Meditation practice is an important part of the daily lives of the religion's monks.

The kayotsarg method is found to be very useful by many Jains. Its the process of complete relaxation with high degree of self awareness.

Contemplation is a very old and important meditation technique. The practitioner meditates deeply on subtle facts. In agnya vichāya, one contemplates on seven facts - life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. In apaya vichāya, one contemplates on the incorrect insights one indulges into and that eventually develops right insight. In vipaka vichāya, one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. In sansathan vichāya, when one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul.

There exists a number of meditation techniques such as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc. In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on Mantras. A Mantra could be either a combinations of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, whether Digambara or Svetambara practice Mantra. Mantra chanting is an important part of daily lives of Jain monks and followers. Mantra chanting can be done either loudly or silently in mind.

Judaism

There is evidence that Judaism has had meditative practices that go back thousands of years. For instance, in the Torah, the patriarch Isaac is described as going "לשוח" (lasuach) in the field—a term understood by all commentators as some type of meditative practice (Genesis 24:63), probably prayer.

Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) that meditation was central to the prophets. In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: hāgâ ( ), which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and ( ), which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.

The Jewish mystical tradition, Kabbalah, is inherently a meditative field of study. The Talmud refers to the advantage of the scholar over the prophet, as his understanding takes on intellectual, conceptual form, that deepens mental grasp, and can be communicated to others. The advantage of the prophet over the scholar is in the transcendence of their intuitive vision. The ideal illumination is achieved when the insights of mystical revelation are brought into conceptual structures. For example, Isaac Luria revealed new doctrines of Kabbalah in the 16th Century, that revolutionised and reordered its teachings into a new system. However, he did not write down his teachings, which were recounted and interpreted instead by his close circle of disciples. After a mystical encounter, called in Kabbalistic tradition an "elevation of the soul" into the spiritual realms, Isaac Luria said that it would take 70 years to explain all that he had experienced. As Kabbalah evolved its teachings took on successively greater conceptual form and philosophical system. Nonetheless, as is implied by the name of Kabbalah, which means "to receive", its exponents see that for the student to understand its teachings requires a spiritual intuitive reception that illuminates and personalises the intellectual structures.

Coresponding to the learning of Kabbalah are its traditional meditative practices, as for the Kabbalist, the ultimate purpose of its study is to understand and cleave to the Divine. Classic methods include the mental visualisation of the supernal realms the soul navigates through to achieve certain ends. One of the most well known types of meditation in early Jewish mysticism was the work of the Merkabah, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot" (of God).

In modern Jewish practice one of the best known meditative practices is called "hitbodedut" (התבודדות, alternatively transliterated as "hisbodedus"), and is explained in Kabbalistic, Hasidic, and Mussar writings, especially the Hasidic method of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. The word derives from the Hebrew word "boded" (בודד), meaning the state of being alone. Another Hasidic system is the Habad method of "hisbonenus", related to the Sephirah of "Binah", Hebrew for understanding. This practice is the analytical reflective process of making oneself understand a mystical concept well, that follows and internalises its study in Hasidic writings.

New Age

New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy and mysticism such as Yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence. In the West, meditation found its mainstream roots through the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the youth of the day rebelled against traditional belief systems as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance.New Age meditation as practiced by the early hippies is regarded for its techniques of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.

Many New Age groups combine yoga with meditation where the control of mind and breathing is said to be the highest yoga.Carlos Castaneda, considered by some to be "a father of the new age", wrote that the Toltec mystics of northern Sonora practiced "halting the interior dialog", or quieting one's thoughts, as a key meditative practice. His teacher don Juan Matus believed that the mind or the Ego was actually a "foreign installation" and was the chief cause of a person's misery. One learns how to "see" the world for what it is by stopping what don Juan called "endless self-absorption". One can also do this by the practice of Tensegrity or the use of magical passes.

Michal Levin experienced an intense series of meditations when she initially used a technique that she later described as ‘Heartleads Meditation’ or the ‘LEAP Process’. These meditations were recorded over many months and produced visions and clairvoyant inspiration that were documented in the book, The Pool of Memory, the Autobiography of an Unwilling Intuitive. In later books she outlined, in précis form, her understanding of the effects of this meditation on consciousness and psychological development.

Sikhism

In Sikhism, the practices of simran and Nām Japō encourage quiet meditation. This is focusing one's attention on the attributes of God. Sikhs believe that there are 10 'gates' to the body; 'gates' is another word for 'chakras' or energy centres. The top most energy level is the called the tenth gate or dasam dwar. When one reaches this stage through continuous practice meditation becomes a habit that continues whilst walking, talking, eating, awake and even sleeping. There is a distinct taste or flavour when a meditator reaches this lofty stage of meditation, as one experiences absolute peace and tranquility inside and outside the body.

Followers of the Sikh religion also believe that love comes through meditation on the lord's name since meditation only conjures up positive emotions in oneself which are portrayed through our actions. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached the equality of all humankind and stressed the importance of living a householder's life instead of wandering around jungles meditating, the latter of which being a popular practice at the time. The Guru preached that we can obtain liberation from life and death by living a totally normal family life and by spreading love amongst every human being regardless of religion.

In the Sikh religion, kirtan, otherwise known as singing the hymns of God is seen as one of the most beneficial ways of aiding meditation, and it too in some ways is believed to be a meditation of one kind.

Taoism



Taoism includes a number of meditative and contemplative traditions. Originally said to have their principles described in the I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu and Tao Tsang among other texts; the multitude of schools relating to Qigong, Neigong, Internal alchemy, Daoyin and Zhan zhuang are a large, diverse array of breath training practices in aid of meditation with much influence on later Chinese Buddhism and with much influence on traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese as well as some Japanese martial arts. The Chinese martial art T'ai Chi Ch'uan is named after the well-known focus for Taoist and Neo-Confucian meditation, the T'ai Chi T'u, and is often referred to as “meditation in motion”.

Often Taoist Internal martial arts, especially Tai Chi Chuan are thought of as moving meditation. A common phrase being, "movement in stillness" referring to energetic movement in passive Qigong and seated Taoist meditation; with the converse being "stillness in movement", a state of mental calm and meditation in the tai chi form.

Other

Meditation according to Krishnamurti

J Krishnamurti used the word meditation to mean something entirely different from the practice of any system or method to change the mind. He said, “Man, in order to escape his conflicts, has invented many forms of meditation. These have been based on desire, will, and the urge for achievement, and imply conflict and a struggle to arrive. This conscious, deliberate striving is always within the limits of a conditioned mind, and in this there is no freedom. All effort to meditate is the denial of meditation. Meditation is the ending of thought. It is only then that there is a different dimension which is beyond time.” For Krishnamurti, meditation was choiceless awareness in the present. He said "..When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy - if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation."

Two quotes taken from film footage of talk given by Jiddu Krishnamurti to children in 1984 "Meditation means 'To be free of measurement'." "Meditation can only take place when there is no effort, when there is no contradiction."

Meditation using beads

Many religions have their own Prayer beads. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads, as also in Jainism, as may the Buddhist juzu. The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Prayers and specific meditations of each religion are different and there are theological reasons for the number of beads. Prayer beads may come in different colors, sizes and designs. However, the central purpose, which is to pray repetitively and to meditate, is the same across all religions that use them as a prayer tool.

Transcendental Meditation

The Transcendental Meditation technique, or TM technique is a form of mantra meditation introduced in India in 1955 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917-2008). It is reported to be the most widely researched and one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques.Taught in a standardized seven-step course by certified teachers, the technique involves the use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day, while sitting comfortably with closed eyes.

Jangama Dhyana

Jangama dhyana is a meditation technique which was taught by Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj beginning in 1961 and is currently taught by his direct disciple Shri Shivarudra Balayogi Maharaj. Jangama means 'eternal existence' and dhyana means 'meditation.' Hence Jangama dhyana is 'Meditation on the Eternal Existence (of the Self).' It is an ancient technique which involves concentrating the mind and sight between the eyebrows. According to Patanjali, this is one method of achieving the initial concentration (dharana: Yoga Sutras, III: 1) necessary for the mind to go introverted in meditation (dhyana: Yoga Sutras, III: 2). In deeper practice of the Jangama dhyana technique, the mind concentrated between the eyebrows begins to automatically lose all location and focus on the watching itself. Eventually, the meditator is said to experience only the consciousness of existence.

Secular practices

A collective meditation in Sri Lanka
Forms of meditation which are devoid of religious content have been developed in the west as a way of promoting physical and mental well being:

  • Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscular tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension.
  • Autogenic training was developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in 1932. Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation; however, autogenic training is devoid of any mysticism.
  • Australian psychiatrist Dr Ainslie Meares published a groundbreaking work in the 1960s entitled Relief Without Drugs, in which he recommended some simple, secular relaxation techniques based on Hindu practices as a means of combating anxiety, stress and chronic physical pain.
  • Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical Schoolmarker conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators from various disciplines including Transcendental Meditation and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1975 Benson published a book titled The Relaxation Response where he outlined his own version of meditation for relaxation.
  • The book Sensual Meditation which was written by the founder of the Raëlian movement outlines a sequence of non-ascetic meditation exercises which emphasize a Sensual Meditation involving a physical and sensual awareness connected with current knowledge of how the body and mind are organized.
  • The 1999 book The Calm Technique: Meditation Without Magic or Mysticism by Paul Wilson has a discussion and instruction in a form of secular meditation.
  • Biofeedback has been tried by many researchers since the 1950s as a way to enter deeper states of mind.
  • Natural Stress Relief is a form of meditation which uses a silent mantra.
  • Acem Meditation has been developed in the Scandinavian countries since 1966. It is non-religious technique with no requirement for change of lifestyle or adaption to any system of belief.
  • Newer forms of meditation are based on the results of studies with electroencephalography in long-term meditators. Studies have demonstrated the presence of a frequency-following response to auditory and visual stimuli. This EEG activity was termed "frequency-following response" because its period (cycles per second) corresponds to the fundamental frequency of the stimulus. Stated plainly, if the stimulus is 5 Hz, the resulting measured EEG will show a 5 Hz frequency-following response using appropriate time-domain averaging protocols. This is the justification behind such inventions as the Dreamachine and binaural beats.


In a Western context

"Meditation" in its modern sense refers to Yogic meditation that originated in India. In the late nineteenth century, Theosophists adopted the word "meditation" to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other Indian religions. Thus the English word "meditation" does not exclusively translate to any single term or concept, and can be used to translate words such as the Sanskrit dhāraṇā, dhyana, samadhi and bhavana.

Meditation may be for a religious purpose, but even before being brought to the West it was used in secular contexts, such as the martial arts. Beginning with the Theosophists, though, meditation has been employed in the West by a number of religious and spiritual movements, such as Yoga , New Age and the New Thought movement, as well as limited use in Christianity.

Meditation techniques have also been used by Western theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Relaxation training works toward achieving mental and muscle relaxation to reduce daily stresses. Jacobson is credited with developing the initial progressive relaxation procedure. These techniques are used in conjunction with other behavioral techniques. Originally used with systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques are now used with other clinical problems. Meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback-induced relaxation are a few of the techniques used with relaxation training. One of the eight essential phases of EMDR (developed by Shapiro), bringing adequate closure to the end of each session, also entails the use of relaxation techniques, including meditation. Multimodal therapy, a technically eclectic approach to behavioral therapy, also employs the use of meditation as a technique used in individual therapy.

From the point of view of psychology and physiology, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness, and its goals in that context have been stated to achieving spiritual enlightenment, to the transformation of attitudes, and to better cardiovascular health.

Physical postures

Half-lotus position.
Different spiritual traditions, and different teachers within those traditions, prescribe or suggest different physical postures for meditation. Sitting, supine, and standing postures are used. Most famous are the several cross-legged sitting postures, including the Lotus Position.

Spine

Many meditative traditions teach that the spine should be kept "straight," that is, the meditator should not slouch. Often this is explained as a way of encouraging the circulation of what some call "spiritual energy," the "vital breath", the "life force" (Sanskrit prana, Chinese qi, Latin spiritus) or the Kundalini. In some traditions the meditator may sit on a chair, flat-footed (as in New Thought); sit on a stool (as in Orthodox Christianity); or walk in mindfulness (as in Theravada Buddhism). Some traditions suggest being barefoot, for comfort, for convenience, or for spiritual reasons.

Other traditions, such as those related to kundalini yoga, take a less formal approach. While the basic practice in these traditions is also to sit still quietly in a traditional posture, they emphasize the possibility of kriyas - spontaneous yogic postures, changes in breathing patterns or emotional states, or perhaps repetitive physical movements such as swaying, etc., which may naturally arise as the practitioner sits in meditation, and which should not be resisted but rather allowed to express themselves to enhance the natural flow of energy through the body. This is said to help purify the nadis and ultimately deepen one's meditative practice.

Mudra/Hand

Various hand-gestures or mudras may be prescribed. These can carry theological meaning or according to Yogic philosophy can actually affect consciousness. For example, a common Buddhist hand-position is with the right hand resting atop the left (like the Buddha's begging bowl), with the thumbs touching.

Eyes

In most meditative traditions, the eyes are closed. In some schools such as Zen, the eyes are half-closed, half open and looking slightly downward. In others such as Brahma Kumaris, the eyes are kept fully open.

Quiet is often desirable, and some people use repetitive activities such as deep breathing, humming or chanting to help induce a meditative state.

In Sufism meditation (muraqaba) with eyes closed is called Varood while with open eyes is known as Shahood or Fa'tha.

Focus and Gaze

Often such details are shared by more than one religion, even in cases where mutual influence seems unlikely. One example is "navel-gazing," which is apparently attested within Eastern Orthodoxy as well as Chinese qigong practice. Another is the practice of focusing on the breath, found in Orthodox Christianity, Sufism, and numerous Indic traditions.

Cross-legged Sitting

Sitting cross-legged (or upon one's knees) for extended periods when one is not sufficiently limber, can result in a range of ergonomic complaints called "meditator's knee". Many meditative traditions do not require sitting cross legged.

Health applications and clinical studies

A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation; it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.

In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of meditation research, conducted by researchers at the University of Albertamarker Evidence-based Practice Center. The report reviewed 813 studies in five broad categories of meditation: mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong. The report concluded that "[t]he therapeutic effects of meditation practices cannot be established based on the current literature," and "firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. However, the results analyzed from methodologically stronger research include findings sufficiently favorable to emphasize the value of further research in this field."

In popular fiction

Various forms of meditation have been described in popular culture sources. In particular, science fiction stories such as Frank Herbert's 'Dune', Star Trek, Artemis Fowl, Star Wars, Maskman, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, and Stargate SG-1 have featured characters who practice one form of meditation or another. Mediation also appears as the overt theme of novels such as Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. Usually these practices are inspired by real-world meditation traditions, but sometimes they have very different methods and purposes.

Notes

  1. Take Our Word For it Archive of Etymology Questions: Mediation
  2. American Heritage Dictionary: List of Indo European Roots
  3. B. Alan Wallace, Contemplative Science. Columbia University Press, 2007, p. 81.
  4. Tiyavanich K. Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand. University of Hawaii Press, 1997.
  5. Nobuyuki Yuasa 'Introduction' in Basho. Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches Nobuyuki Yuasa (trans) Penguin Books. Harmondsworth 1966 p37
  6. Sogyal, Rinpoche (1994) The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Patrick Gaffney and Andrew Harvey eds. New York: Harper Collins.
  7. Ground, Path, and Fruition: Mind-Nature Teachings Concerning the View, Meditation, and Action of Dzogpa Chenpo, the Innate Great Perfection. Compiled by Surya Das with Nyoshul Khenpo. Retrieved on; August 25, 2007.
  8. For instance, from the Pali Canon, see MN 44 (Thanissaro, 1998a) and AN 3:88 (Thanissaro, 1998b). In Mahayana tradition, the Lotus Sutra lists the Six Perfections (paramita) which echoes the threefold training with the inclusion of virtue (śīla), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (prajñā).
  9. Dharmacarini Manishini, Western Buddhist Review. Accessed at http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol4/kamma_in_context.html
  10. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, Part One (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1935), vol. 1, p. 449
  11. Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos The Mind of the Orthodox Church. IX. The “Synodikon of Orthodoxy,” 4c) Hesychasm. www.pelagia.org. Retrieved on: February 2, 2008.
  12. The World Community for Christian Meditation. How to Meditate
  13. The World Community for Christian Meditation Welcome. www.wccm.org/home. Retrieved on: February 2, 2008.
  14. Ascension Mission Prayer and Meditation. Retrieved on January 20, 2008
  15. Christian Meditation. Retrieved on January 20, 2008
  16. Religious Society of Friends (August 2008). "Advices, Queries and Voices." Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  17. Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 51. The earliest reference is actually in the Mokshadharma, which dates to the early Buddhist period.
  18. The Katha Upanishad describes yoga, including mediation. On meditation in this and other post-Buddhist Hindu literature see Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Harvard University Press, 2000, page 199.
  19. Barbara Stoler Miller (trans) Yoga. Discipline of Freedom. The Yoga Sutras Attributed to Patanjali. Uni of California Press (1996) p5.
  20. Swami Vivekananda. Complete Works Vol 4. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_4/Lectures_and_Discourses/Meditation
  21. 3 Al Emran, verses 189-194; 6 Al Anaam verses 160 to 163.
  22. Dwivedi, Kedar Nath. Review:Freedom from Self, Sufism, Meditation and Psychotherapy. Group Analysis, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 434-436, December 1989
  23. The Final Testament by Rashad Khalifa, Appendix 28 - Muhammad Wrote God's Revelations With His Own Hand submission.org. Retrieved on: January 8, 2009.
  24. *
  25. * verse 986
  26. *
  27. Preksha Meditation preksha.com. Retrieved on: August 25, 2007
  28. J. Zaveri What is Preksha?. .jzaveri.com. Retrieved on: August 25, 2007.
  29. Shapiro, R. A Brief Introduction to Jewish Meditation. tripod.com. Retrieved on: August 25, 2007.
  30. The Hippies 1968-07
  31. http://www.spaceandmotion.com/health/yoga-meditation-new-age-spirituality.htm
  32. http://www.dharmacentral.com/articles/newage.htm
  33. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/98371/Carlos-Castaneda
  34. Magical Passes
  35. Journey to Ixtlan
  36. http://www.geocities.com/magicalpass/
  37. Krishnamurti Foundation Trust. Meditation. From Chapter 15 of Freedom from the Known, J. Krishnamurti (1969) Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-064808-2. Retrieved on: August 26, 2007.
  38. Quotes by Jiddu Krishnamurti to children in 1984 YouTube Link at time interval 13:40 .
  39. "Beatles guru dies in Netherlands" USA Today (AP) (February 5, 2008)
  40. Epstein, Edward, "Politics and Transcendental Meditation", San Francisco Chronicle (December 29, 1995)
  41. Woo, Elaine, "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; founded Transcedental Meditation movement" Baltimore Sun (reprinted from LA Times) (February 6, 2008)
  42. Morris, Bevan "Maharishi’s Vedic Science and Technology: The Only Means to Create World Peace", Journal of Modern Science and Vedic Science Volume 5, Numbers 1–2, 1992 p 200
  43. Morris, Bevan. Forward. Science of Being and Art of Living. By Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. New York:Plume/The Penguin Group. 1963, Forward copyright 2001.
  44. Murphy M, Donovan S, Taylor E. The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation: A review of Contemporary Research with a Comprehensive Bibliography 1931-1996. Sausalito, California: Institute of Noetic Sciences; 1997.
  45. Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson
  46. Reverse Heart Disease Now, Stephen Sinatra, James Roberts, Martin Zucker, John Wiley & Sons, 2007 p192 [1]
  47. New Life magazine, Sept-Oct, 2003 Frederick Travis, Ph.D. and Ken Chawkin
  48. Official TM web site
  49. The Healing History of EEG Biofeedback Eagle Life Communications Accessed March 2007 .
  50. Lazar, S.W.; Bush, G.; Gollub, R. L.; Fricchione, G. L.; Khalsa, G.; Benson, H. Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation" NeuroReport: Volume 11(7) 15 May 2000 pp. 1581–1585 PubMed abstract PMID 10841380


References

  • Austin, James H. (1999) Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999, ISBN 0-262-51109-6
  • Azeemi, Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi (2005) Muraqaba: The Art and Science of Sufi Meditation. Houston: Plato, 2005, ISBN 0-9758875-4-8
  • Bennett-Goleman, T. (2001) Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart, Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60752-9
  • Benson, Herbert and Miriam Z. Klipper. (2000 [1972]). The Relaxation Response. Expanded Updated edition. Harper. ISBN 0380815958
  • Craven JL. (1989) Meditation and psychotherapy. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Oct;34(7):648-53. PubMed abstract PMID 2680046
  • Hayes SC, Strosahl KD, Wilson KG. (1999) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Kutz I, Borysenko JZ, Benson H. (1985) Meditation and psychotherapy: a rationale for the integration of dynamic psychotherapy, the relaxation response, and mindfulness meditation. American Journal of Psychiatry, Jan;142(1):1-8. PubMed abstract PMID 3881049
  • Lazar, Sara W. (2005) "Mindfulness Research." In: Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. Germer C, Siegel RD, Fulton P (eds.) New York: Guildford Press.
  • Metzner R. (2005) Psychedelic, Psychoactive and Addictive Drugs and States of Consciousness. In Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience, Chap. 2. Mitch Earlywine, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • MirAhmadi, As Sayed Nurjan Healing Power of Sufi Meditation The Healing Power of Sufi Meditation Paperback: 180 pages Publisher: Islamic Supreme Council of America (June 30, 2005) Language: English
  • Nirmalananda Giri, Swami (2007) Om Yoga: It's Theory and Practice In-depth study of the classical meditation method of the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Upanishads.
  • Perez-De-Albeniz, Alberto & Holmes, Jeremy (2000) Meditation: Concepts, Effects And Uses In Therapy. International Journal of Psychotherapy, March 2000, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p49, 10p
  • Shalif, I. et al. (1985) Focusing on the Emotions of Daily Life (Tel-Aviv: Etext Archives, 1990)
  • Shapiro DH Jr. (1992) Adverse effects of meditation: a preliminary investigation of long-term meditators. Int. Journal of Psychosom. 39(1-4):62-7. PubMed abstract PMID 1428622
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, ISBN 0-06-250834-2
  • Tart, Charles T., editor. Altered States of Consciousness (1969) ISBN 0-471-84560-4
  • Trungpa, C. (1973) Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Shambhala South Asia Editions, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Trungpa, C. (1984) Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Shambhala Dragon Editions, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Erhard Vogel. (2001) Journey Into Your Center, Nataraja Publications, ISBN 1-892484-05-6
  • Wenner, Melinda. "Brain Scans Reveal Why Meditation Works." LiveScience.com. 30 June 2007.


Further reading

  • Ajahn Brahm, Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond. ISBN 978-0861712755
  • Cooper, David. A. The Art of Meditation: A Complete Guide. ISBN 81-7992-164-6
  • Easwaran, Eknath. Meditation. ISBN 0-915132-66-4 New edition: Passage Meditation. ISBN 978-158638-026-7
  • Krishnamurti, Jiddu. This Light in Oneself: True Meditation, 1999, Shambhala Publications. ISBN 1-57062-442-9
  • Long, Barry. Meditation: A Foundation Course — A Book of Ten Lessons. ISBN 1-899-32400-3
  • Hart, William. Art of Living, Vipassana Meditation, ISBN 0060637242, ISBN 978-0-06-063724-8
  • Meiche, Michele. Meditation for Everyday Living. ISBN 09-710374-69


  • Levin, Michal. Meditation, Path to the Deepest Self, Dorling Kindersley, 2002. ISBN 978-0789483331
  • Goenka, S. N.. Meditation Now: Inner Peace through Inner Wisdom, ISBN 1928706231, ISBN 978-1928706236
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi.


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