Meditation

Definitions

Meditation: a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as mindfulness or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state

Mindfulness: is the ability to be present, to be in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever you are doing (not thinking about the past or the future)

Common Questions    

Why should I meditate?

The majority of thoughts are repetitive and negative, not serving a purpose, but a programmed subconscious loop in the brain. The constant dialogue in your mind is draining energy from you in this present moment. Incessant thoughts take you to the past (which no longer exists) or the future (that does not exist yet). While your thoughts are in the past or future with regret, guilt, shame, worrying, or planning, you are missing the full experience and joy of right now.

All we have is the present moment. To truly be present now means you are devoting all your attention and energy to the experience that is currently happening. This leads to more loving interactions and deeper connections with others and the world around you. When you stop focusing on the past and future, depression, stress, and anxiety disappear.

How do I meditate?

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and hands on your lap. It is common to sit cross-legged on a cushion or blanket, and a chair is an option as well.

What is the difference between silent and guided meditation? 

Silent meditation has no facilitator verbally guiding the meditation and is done in silence.

Guided meditation involves a facilitator verbally guiding the meditation, sometimes accompanied by calming music.

What kinds of meditation are there?

  • Silent
    • Zen
      • In meditation, you observe and let go of thoughts and feelings that arise, while maintaining an awareness (thinking about not thinking)
      • Buddhist meditation
    • Vipassana
      • In meditation, you follow the flow of your breath and bodily sensations
      • Buddhist meditation
    • Mindfulness
      • In meditation, you observe the flow of your breath and bodily sensations

The difference between vipassana and mindfulness is the intention.

Vipassana’s goal is through awareness one will ultimately see their true nature.

Mindfulness is based on stress relief, relaxation, and the ability to be present.

  • Guided
    • Mantra
      • In meditation, you repeat mentally or verbally a sound, word, phrase, or prayer
      • Originally a Hindu meditation technique
      • Transcendental Meditation is a form of mantra meditation.
        • You meet with an instructor one-on-one, and a mantra is assigned to you
        • You chant this mantra mentally twice a day for 20 minutes
    • Body Scan
      • In meditation, you pay attention to different parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sweeping of attention through the body from feet to head
    •  Visualization
      • In meditation, you visualize something positive, such as a future goal, and experience the feelings associated with this desire
    • Loving Kindness or Metta
      • In meditation, you mentally send goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others by silently repeating a series of mantras
      • Originally a Buddhist meditation technique

How do I stop thinking when I meditate? 

Your brain does not automatically stop thinking when you sit down to meditate. It is easy to expect that you should be in complete stillness and peace when you meditate. Just as you don’t learn how to play an instrument in a few lessons, meditation takes consistent practice.

Thoughts still come, perhaps regularly. Do not judge them or try to silence them. Just observe as you would clouds floating by in the sky.

What is the difference between prayer and meditation?

Prayer is when you talk to God/Source/the Universe/your Higher Power.

Meditation is when you listen in stillness or are tuning in to a higher vibration of consciousness and connection.

What are the benefits of meditation?

  • Physical Health
    • Decreases blood pressure
    • Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
    • Treats adrenal fatigue
    • Decreases inflammatory disorders
    • Reduces age-related memory loss
    • Improves sleep
    • Minimizes pain
  • Mental Health
    • Improves information processing and decision making
    • Reduces stress
    • Relieves anxiety
    • Decreases symptoms of depression
    • Decreases symptoms of panic disorder
    • Promotes emotional health
    • Enhances self-awareness
    • Lengthens attention span
    • Reduces alcohol and substance abuse

History

  • Ancient
    • The oldest record about meditation was written in 1500 BCE in India within a Vedic (Hindu) text
    • In the Torah (also the first 5 books of the Old Testament in the Bible) it states that Isaac went to the field to meditate
    • From 301-600 AD the Chinese Taoist and Indian Buddhist traditions began their meditation practices
  • 20th Century
    • In the 1960s, American scientists began researching meditation with the religious components removed
    • In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
    • In 1981, the first Vipassana meditation centers outside India and Myanmar were established in Massachusetts and Australia
    • In 2000, the first clinical trial of mindfulness with cancer patients was conducted,  indicating beneficial outcomes for the MBSR programs

Resources

My favorite app for meditation is Insight Timer, and it is free! The app provides a timer for silent meditation and has thousands of guided meditations that vary by time and theme.

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