Meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions. The earliest records of meditation (dhyana) are found in the Upanishads, and meditation plays a salient role in the contemplative repertoire of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Meditation has proven difficult to define as it covers a wide range of dissimilar practices in different traditions.
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 shown to have many benefits on psychological well-being.
Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you?
Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and is the most popular and researched form of meditation in the West.
In mindfulness meditation, you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You simply observe and take note of any patterns.
Spiritual meditation is used in nearly all religions and spiritual traditions. This practice is beneficial for those who seek spiritual growth and a deeper connection to a higher power or spiritual force.
Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses.
This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first.
If your mind does wander, simply come back to the practice and refocus. As the name suggests, this practice is ideal for anyone who wants to sharpen their focus and attention.
This is an active form of meditation where the movement guides you into a deeper connection with your body and the present moment.
Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and want to develop body awareness.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a type of meditation that’s been the subject of numerous studies in the scientific community.
TM was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and refers to a specific practice designed to quiet the mind and induce a state of calm and peace. It involves the use of mantra and is best taught by a certified TM practitioner.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” — Zen proverb
Why meditation is beneficial
There’s plenty of evidence supporting the numerous benefits of meditation.
Meditation can offer general health and mental/emotional benefits, including:
- lower blood pressure
- reduced stress
- better sleep
- improved emotional regulation
- increased focus
- enhanced mood
- reduced aggression
- greater adaptability
- healthier aging process
- a greater sense of empathy and connection with others