Today, we are able to find "instant" everything. We live in a world of instant gratification. We want convenience, solutions, and results...and we want it now.
Having what we want fast can seem good, but, among all the benefits, our high speed world also brings a lot of stress which can eventually lead to serious problems.
Because of this stress, which one researcher has called "the most dangerous risk factor", more and more people are learning one of the most powerful means of relaxation, and focus...an ancient practice called "meditation."
Meditation 101...What You Need to Know
Many people assume meditation is complicated, because it produces a state where a person seems to be deeply concentrating on something, either personal awareness or some physical object or thought. Some have problems accepting it because it can almost seem some sort of religious, or spiritual, experience. Simpler than it sounds, meditation is one of the oldest means of calming the mind and the spirit.
Usually, this is accomplished by focusing one's attention upon a single point of reference. Easier to learn than most would believe, meditation is practiced by many people from all walks of life, because, even if done "poorly", by an amateur, it can help lead a person to a level of consciousness quite a bit higher than that of the ordinary person.
An Ancient Practice
As mentioned, meditation is an ancient practice which can trace its history back some 5,000 years ago. It is, in fact, a historical reality that the practice has been an important, and integral, component of various religions and philosophical practices in the Eastern part of the world.
Through the years, people who practiced meditation often developed various disciplines which made use of it, or incorporated it into other disciplines. These disciplines encompassed a wide range of the psychophysical and spiritual...or a combination of both. The goal of meditation, and most other such practices, was the enhancement of a person's self and progress to a higher level of mental concentration.
The word "meditation" is derived from the Latin word "meditatio". This is essentially equivalent to "all types mental or physical exercise". A broader meaning of meditation has evolved as time went by. Today, mediation is more popularly perceived as "contemplation" or "inward reflection"...still with the intention of achieving a higher level of consciousness.
It is of interest that, in the last few decades, scientific research has shown meditation to be an important tool in managing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving health, decreasing depression, and for improving the human condition overall. It is also interesting that this research has also shown that not only do many Eastern practices, such as yoga effectively produce meditative states, but so do many common practices, such as prayer, walking, and even contemplating vistas of beauty.
If you are planning to actually practice meditation, thinking about trying a discipline which produces similar effects, or are just interested in its seemingly limitless possibilities, then you possibly should start by familiarizing yourself with the various forms of meditation known today.
Common forms of meditation include those common to such religions and philosophies such as: "Bodhidharma", "Hinduism", "Bahá'í Faith", "Buddhism", "Christian meditation", "Islam Meditation", "Jainism", "Judaism", "Sikhism", and "Taoism"" Each of these forms has its own understanding of meditation and also often has different sets of practices that come with it.
The Physical Side of Meditation
An important thing to be aware of when studying meditation, is that some forms may involve various physical postures which should be learned to be able to perform the practice with maximum effectiveness. These postures may include standing, sitting, and supine depending on the tradition of the practice which you may want to follow.
Aside from the specific postures that are necessary, it is also important to take notice of the various types of meditation before finally indulging into it.
Many experts may tell you that the most common form of meditation is quite simply prayer because this is the one of the most practiced types experienced by people. Aside from prayer, however, other types of meditation also include a form made popular in the 60's by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles. This is called transcendental meditation (TM). You will also encounter mindfulness meditation, and probably some of the forms included in the Eastern tradition including Buddhist, Taoist, and Zen meditation.
If you are just starting to study or practice meditation, the first thing that you many need to concentrate on is the elements involved in a simple, traditional meditation session.
Four Elements: Location, Posture, Focus, Attitude
Usually, there are four elements that greatly affect traditional meditation. These will include finding a place that is quiet, learning a posture that is comfortable, selecting a physical object, sound, or phrase that you can focus your attention on, and adopting an attitude that is somewhat passive...at least relevant to the outside world.
Without a doubt, meditation can be a great mental exercise for anybody. It also serves as a stress buster because it allows a person to empty his or her mind of other stressors for a moment and focus attention to only one thing. Once this focus begins to be regularly achieved and maintained, the new meditator can feel relief and experience lighter feelings which can enable him or her to think more clearly, reduce stress, and become more comfortable with life at any level.