Developed and practiced in Eastern cultures for hundreds of documented years, meditation is an art that science has found to be the most effective in eliminating stress and evoking a state of deep relaxation in the person. Meditation has no religious connotations and can be done by any person following any religious belief. Western science and cultures have been actively studying it for the past 70 years and are consistently conceding that the technique of meditation is indeed effective in helping people with a range of physical and mental problems.
What is Meditation?
Meditation has the potential to help you reach a state of complete peace and contentment.
It is the art of reaching self-awareness by calming the mind so that it is entirely devoid of all thoughts. To meditate means to stop the constant thought processes of the mind, but at the same time become aware of the self and your surroundings. If you can attain this state, you can reach a higher level of awareness and begin to transform yourself. To learn how to reach this state, you might have to isolate yourself, but as you train your mind to relax, you can meditate even when conducting your day-to-day activities.
History of Meditation
While recorded history does not indicate the exact date when meditation first came to be practiced, researchers speculate that people from the hunter-gatherer ages possibly discovered the technique. They could have learned to develop a heightened sense of self-awareness as they gazed into the fires that were lit at night. Ancient Indian texts dating back to 5,000 years talk about meditation and its approaches. Buddha is considered as the most famous icons from 500 B.C. who preached the benefits of meditation. Various cultures across the world developed their own forms of meditation and the methods in use today are probably an amalgamation of these methods carried through the ages.
How Meditation Works
When you conduct meditation, the levels of activity of the gamma waves in the brain begin to accelerate in the areas that govern happiness, learning, and memory. In addition, these gamma waves also control attention, focus, and concentration in addition to the perception of the consciousness. For this reason, Buddhists monks that practice meditation have more of positive feelings such as contentment and happiness.
When you attain the state of self-awareness, you’ll feel a sense of warmth, calm, and utter relaxation come over you. If you cannot reach this state on your own, you can get an expert to guide you or enroll in a class where you can learn and practice the techniques. In the initial stages, you’ll be given exercises like deep breathing, yoga, or repeating a specific word, prayer, or phrase that can help you concentrate. You could also be asked to focus on a particular object or concept by way of visualization exercises.
Learning the Technique of Meditation
To learn meditation, here are the steps you can take:
- Enter a state of relaxation of the mind and body. To help concentrate, use words, phrases, postures, music, or any other tool that helps you.
- Try to empty your mind of the thoughts. You can expect to feel tense about some unfinished tasks, or worry about some upcoming events. You might have emotions, memories of the past few days or longer, or remember tasks that you need to take care of. Train yourself to detach from the thoughts and instead see them come and go like an outsider would view them without reacting.
- Concentrate on a word, object, or just on the sound of your breathing. Your attention is likely to wander, but each time that happens, bring your mind back to the focus. As you continue to practice, you’ll find that doing this becomes easier and easier.
- Over time, you’ll learn to blank out your mind completely so that it is empty of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. You will be aware of your surroundings but in a calm state.
Benefits of Meditation
As you continue to practice the techniques, you’ll start to experience many positive mental benefits such as:
- Better control over your emotions so you react to any kind of situation neutrally.
- Develop compassion and feel empathy towards others, their pain and problems.
- Learning capabilities and memory are improved
- Better brain function and quicker response to situations
- Enhanced ability to concentrate and maintain attention
- Improved ability to solve problems and come up with solutions
- Learning to multitask so you have better productivity and performance levels
- Lowered anxiety, depression, and stress
- Enhanced mood and happiness
In addition to these psychological and mental benefits, you can also expect better health and wellness.
- Better pain management with lowered sensitivity levels
- Healthier heart with better function and heart rate
- Lower blood pressure levels
- Increase in brain activity that regulates heart rate and metabolism
- Better immunity from illnesses, ailments, and infections
- Relief from symptoms of menopause
- Improved lactation
- Better fertility
- Improved energy levels
Research on the Effectiveness of Meditation
Several scientific studies have proved that meditation can help people in many different ways. Here are some test results.
- A report published in the Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging talked about how 16 test subjects were tested with brain scans before and after meditation sessions. After the sessions, the brains showed changes in the gray matter related to emotions, learning and mental processes, and a better understanding of perspectives.
- A study was conducted on a group of 18 patients who were taught the art of Zen meditation. Over a few years of training, the patients developed a lower sensitivity to pain that is related to a thicker cortex of the brain that controls pain.
- In 2007, 17 test subjects were given a training course that lasted for 8 weeks. At the end of the course, the subjects learned meditation with a special focus on stress reduction. It was found that at the end of the training, they were able to concentrate better and were more attentive.
With some dedicated practice and if needed, under the supervision of an expert instructor, you can learn the art of meditation. This ancient form of concentration can help you remain relaxed, stress-free, and content. All of these factors are essential for maintaining good health and happiness.
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- Holzel, Britta, K., Carmody, James, et al. “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging. 6 Aug. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
- Grant, Joshua A., Courtemanche, Jérôme, et al. “Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators.” Feb. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
- Jha AP., Krompinger J., et al. “Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 7 June 2007. Web. !1 Dec. 2016.
- Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “Meditation Balances the Body’s Systems.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
- “Meditation Basics.” Free Meditation. n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2016
- “ From East to West.” Meditation: History. n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2016