What Is Meditation? An Exploration of the Possible Benefits of Meditation

Article by David G Wilcox

Can the practice of meditation really relieve stress, bring serenity, and possibly improve your health?

Scientific studies seem to indicate that it can. Meditation has often been used as an effective method of stress and pain relief. Meditation has also been shown to be effective in increasing attention span, which may be good news for people who have attention deficit disorder. The evidence is clear, although much study still needs to be done, meditation has been shown to help relieve stress, bring a sense of serenity, and may improve some health issues like attention deficit disorder.

However, while meditation promises a host of verifiable benefits, and maybe others yet undiscovered, it remains shrouded in mystery. However, as mysterious as it may seem to the beginner, over 20 million Americans are now practicing some form of meditation. Are you interested in joining this growing number of people who are practicing meditation to improve their quality of life? If so, this article will attempt to unveil some of those mysteries for you, and offer good, balanced information which will help you unlock the secrets of mediation, and be able to take advantage of its unique benefits.

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I strongly believe that meditation can be a powerful tool for personal growth and healing for everyone who practices it. However, some meditation techniques are not appropriate for most people, and in some cases are self-hypnosis programs which, in my opinion, you want to stay as far away from as possible. Be cautious as you begin your meditation journey, and keep your meditations as simple as possible. Any meditation program that calls for long hours, complicated breathing techniques, or asks you to buy lots of materials or go on long retreats, is not necessary for beginners. However, where you go on your meditation journey is up to you. My advice at the beginning is to keep it as simple and easy to use as possible. This will ensure you get off to a good, positive start.

One last disclaimer. The mind is very powerful and you may find that once you start to spend time exploring the deep recesses of your mind, you are becoming aware of strong emotions, or issues which you had long ago repressed, or forgotten about. You may find that these issues are causing you distress. If so, you may need to seek professional help, or the help of a member of the religious clergy of your particular spiritual tradition to deal with the problem. Meditation is a tool to help guide us to good health. Sometimes it functions as a sign post to point us in the direction we need to go to get the help we need. Be aware of what you need, and do not substitute meditation for the help of qualified professionals who can further guide you towards serenity and peace of mind.

How to Begin Meditating. Is it AUM or is it OM?

At its most basic level, meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on a particular object. All meditation practices which are common today are rooted in a particular spiritual tradition, and were developed around focusing the mind on the divine, however the divine was conceived to be in that particular tradition. Most of the more advanced meditation practices of these traditions were kept secret (although they can now widely be found all over the internet). They were only available to priests, monks, nuns, and other adepts who had given up everything to learn these secret techniques and achieve enlightenment. By giving up all worldly pursuits, and submitting to the discipline of a master, guru, or church, a person showed his/her worthiness to be trusted with these secret teachings, among them specific methods of meditation and breathing which were designed to bring a person into an altered state of consciousness. Eventually, if the student faithfully practiced and followed the advice and teachings of his spiritual teacher or church, he/she could achieve a state known as divine union. This state of divine union is called many different things like satori, nirvana, or Kingdo m of Hea ven, however, while the names are different, the experience of divine union is always the same for those who achieve it. The practitioner who achieves divine union experiences an expanded state of consciousness where he/she feels completely submerged into another reality, one of which he/she is a part of, yet is completely beyond them as well.

It is impossible to avoid the fact that all meditation methods are rooted in a particular religious tradition. If you are an atheist, it will be difficult to find practices which do not, at some level, point to something beyond as the source of all existence. And even if you are not an atheist, you need to come to grips with this fact before beginning meditation, otherwise you will find yourself confused and frustrated. For example, some westerners can easily incorporate eastern meditation practices into their lives. However, eastern practices are centered around certain fundamental principles; like Karma and Reincarnation. Eastern meditation also demands, in some traditions, total detachment from all worldly pursuits. Westerners, (like myself, I have problems with these beliefs), may find it difficult to accept these teachings, affecting the quality of the meditation.

What do you believe? Are you a Christian who wants to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus? Or are you suspicious of organized religion, but open to the possibility of some reality that exists as the source of all life, but are unready to commit to a particular religious tradition? Be honest, because the answers you get will determine what kind of meditation practice you use, and how effective it is.

About the Author

Dave Wilcox writes articles on topics such as self-improvement, spirituality,diet, and fitness.

If you would like to learn more about meditation please go to:

http://www.squidoo.com/meditation-for-self-improvement

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