Wikipedia defines Meditation as a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Meditation has been practiced since 1500 BCE antiquity in numerous religious traditions, often as part of the path towards enlightenment and self realization. The earliest records of meditation or Dhanya as it is called in Sanskrit, come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health.
Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and increasing peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being. Meditation is under research to define its possible health benefits which could be psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular as well as other effects.
Meditation has been associated with all the major religions of the world, be it Hindusim, Islam, Jainism,Buddhisim or Christianity. There have been many religious practices which has its roots in meditation, be it chanting the lord’s name with a rosary or sitting in one position and comtemplating the infinite.
I have written about meditation previously, but even though I have tried meditating in fits and bursts, after a few days, I usually find myself starting to slack. Earlier this year, I restarted meditating again. It started with someone asking if I was interested in being a part of a group for Deepak Chopra’s 21 day meditation course. Intrigued, I said yes and started the programme. During the programme, I also came across an app which was giving free access to all their meditation programmes for a year because of the current situation and I decided to take them up on their offer. Initially, I used to meditate at night before bed, but soon started falling back on old habits and trying to miss one day thinking it was no big deal. Then I switched it up. I started waking up about 30 minutes earlier daily to meditate and to my big surprise, this really worked for me. I found that I really liked being awake early enough when the house was in silence and the 15 minutes I spent on my practice started paying off. These days, I find myself waking up early even on weekends and public holidays, when I would normally sleep in, just because I want to meditate in silence and darkness (or with minimal light). I have now been consistent with my practice for more than two months and it has done wonders in my own behaviour. I feel that I have become less anxious and also feel more positive these days, with the cloud of negativity that usually hangs around me, lessened to a great degree. I am also trying to be more grateful to things around me, which is a positive thing.
Mediation is a practice and you only get better the longer you practice it. Every meditation practice is unique in its own way and even if you feel you did not have a good practice, incrementally you are getting better. Meditation is great for both physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It lowers your blood pressure, improves blood circulation, lowers heart rate, reduces anxiety, slows down your respitory rate, reduces anxiety, lowers blood cortisol levels, reduces stress, gives you feelings of well-being and improves and deepens your sense of relaxation.
Contemporary researchers are now exploring whether a consistent meditation practice yields long-term benefits, and noting positive effects on brain and immune function among meditators. Yet it’s worth repeating that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher may say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It’s simply to be present.
Meditation is not as difficult as we think. All we need to do is sit in a quiet place with no distractions. Close your eyes and start focussing on the one thing we all have and do – our breathing. Just breathe naturally, there is no need to to changeyour breathing style and technique. If you mind wanders, and this is common and natural, just acknowledge it and go back to focussing on your breathing. You may also feel phantom itches and perhaps pain. When this happens, again acknowledge it and go back to your breath. When you start, you can start at 1-2 minutes and then once you become comfortable, slowly start increasing the time and you can go as long as 15-20 minutes. The longer you practice meditation, the more your focus becomes sharper and you can after some time, focus on your breathing without your mind wandering for the entire duration of the meditation.
During times like this, when we are anxious on so many levels and worry about our health, finances and scores of other things, a meditation practice will help you manage your anxieties and help you get a grip on things so that you don’t get overwhelmed.