The Art of Meditation
For thousands of years, the art of meditation has been practiced in regions all over the world. Originating from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 bc in India, meditation has provided a way for many to connect with their more spiritual side as well as a form of relaxation and remedy to internal pain.
What is Meditation?
Because everybody practices meditation differently there is no one definition to what exactly it is, but scientifically meditation is when you focus on a specific thing, whether it be breathing, an object or sound around you, or a feeling in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal as well as spiritual growth. This is also known as focused-attention of mindful meditation. Another type of meditation is called open-monitoring meditation, where you listen to the noises and happenings around you and simply take them in.
Although the practice of meditation originated in India, it has been and continues to be practiced all over the world, from India and Japan being the countries with the highest practice rate, to China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia to name just a few. India has a population of over 1.3 billion, and is considered to be one of the holiest places, with countless religious landmarks and a colorful history in religion as well. Because Yoga originated in India as well, the two go hand in hand, strengthening not only your physical form but your spiritual and emotional one as well. Japan has many of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths, both of which rely heavily on zen meditation in a technique called Zazen meditation. This involves sitting on your knees in a clean and quiet place with your back straight, chin up, and breathing quiet and slowly without control, just letting it flow out and around you. This zen meditation is believed to help achieve enlightenment and self-realization.
Just like those in India, Hindu meditation is very closely related to yoga. Hindu meditation consists of something called mantra meditation, where you focus on the vibration of a word rather than trying to convince yourself to believe it. One of the most well-known mantra words is “om”, sitting with your spine straight with your eyes closed. Repeat the mantra in your mind, or try whispering it, and repeat it for a set number of times or a duration. After a while, you should find yourself saying the word without consciously having to think about it.
There are two types of Chinese meditation, one being Taoist meditation, originating from Daoism, which is a Chinese religion and philosophy dating back to Lao Tzu in the 6th century. Taoism focuses on living in harmony with nature, or Tao. You sit with you back straight and eyes half-lidded, pointed towards your nose. The other type of Chinese meditation is Qigong, meaning life energy cultivation. This type of meditation is mostly reserved for healing or martial arts training, and consists of slow body movements and calculated breathing. Once taught in secret, it is now a very popular form of meditation
Now that you understand what meditation is and the different practices and their origins, you can begin your meditation journey with the knowledge of its history and origins!