What is Meditation?

by Cherie Miranda on November 18, 2012

What is Meditation?

Meditation is an activity that, to many, is still shrouded in mystery. However, it’s rapidly becoming more popular in the United States and in the rest of the world. In fact, according to Time Magazine, an estimated 15 million Americans meditate on a regular basis. So, you’ve probably heard the term by now.

But what is it exactly that The Beatles and other progressive thinkers in the 1960s got so excited about? Why did they bring meditation to the western world, and what exactly is meditation, anyway?

As stated by The Chopra Center, where I learned one of my favorite forms of practice called Primordial Sound Meditation, meditation is a tool for rediscovering your body’s own inner intelligence. I like to explain it by saying it’s a process of bringing the mind, body, and spirit together in harmony.

If you live in the Western World, you might think of meditation primarily as a tool for stress reduction. While it is certainly a proven way to drastically reduce stress and improve health in general, it’s also a way to quiet the mind. Even to have shorts bursts of silence mixed in with the jumble of thoughts constantly running and recycling through our brains brings a great deal of stress relief.

Meditation is a process of gradually quieting down the mind. But it’s important to understand that it is not a process of forcing the mind to quiet down. In fact, it’s not about force or struggle of any kind. Quite the opposite: meditation is something that comes easily, effortlessly, and naturally…even if it might require practice in the beginning (that’s why we call it a meditation “practice”). When you meditate, you learn to find the silence and stillness that already exist within you and gradually bring them into your daily life.

Meditation has an extensive history and has been practiced by people from many different cultures for thousands of years. In fact, all of the major religions have their versions of meditation. But don’t think for a moment that meditation is tied to religion. Yes, it’s practiced by monks and priests, but it’s also practiced worldwide by atheists and agnostics, men and women, children and adults, and pretty much any group you can think of. Even top athletes, world-class musicians, and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies use meditation as part of their strategy for health and success.

While most people have heard of meditation, everyone has a different idea of what it is and how it’s done. And for good reason: there are many different types of meditation. What’s the best kind of meditation? The kind you will do. It’s as simple as that. There is no one-size fits all for meditation, though it is true that certain types or styles of meditation are more efficient for certain outcomes. Guided meditations, for example, are great to use on a daily basis for your regular practice and they are also excellent for achieving specific outcomes.

We will discuss different types of meditation in future posts, but for now I’m offering a basic breathing meditation you can try anytime and anywhere. No special preparation required. If you can close your eyes, you can meditate. Here goes:

1.    Sit comfortably in a quiet location where you will not be disturbed.
2.    Close your eyes and take a minute or so to quiet down a bit.
3.    For the next five minutes, simply notice the flow of your breath. Don’t try to control your breathing. Just notice it.
4.    After the five minutes has elapsed, take another minute before slowly opening your eyes and resuming your regular activity.

If you give that a try, you can begin to get a taste for what meditation is really like. Everyone will have a different response to this exercise, but most will find that their minds race uncontrollably. The answer to that? Surprise: it’s OK. It’s normal. More on this in future posts.

Why meditate? Practicing meditation on a daily basis brings an unbelievable number of benefits. There are thousands of scientific studies which prove the physical benefits of meditation, and a regular meditation practice also nourishes the mind and spirit. Again, more detail about the benefits of meditation in future posts. I could write an entire book just on the benefits of meditation!

In closing, I suggest you give my quick little meditation a try. It will take less than 10 minutes and might give you a little more clarity during a hectic day.

Enjoy, and happy meditating!

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