What is Meditation?

Although meditation has undergone a resurgence in popularity recently, it's still a concept that isn't thoroughly understood by many. Most folks have a vague idea that the practice involves calming the mind, but they may be unsure of the ways in which that occurs. It's also a bit of a mystery to many people what benefits can come from meditating. Meditation usually involves sitting quietly for various lengths of time, while focusing on controlled breathing and mindfulness. The benefits are far reaching and may actually surprise you. Let's take a moment to delve a little deeper into this ancient technique and try to unravel some of its mysteries.

Types of Meditation

There are a vast number of meditation types. I'll address two of the most common and overarching categories for now. The first is concentrative meditation. This is the category under which transcendental meditation, or TM, falls. The name of this form implies its meaning. During TM, a practitioner will focus their concentration on a single element, which could be a sound, image, words or even their own breathing. Mindful meditation is the other most popular form of the tradition. This form doesn't place its emphasis on just one thing. Instead, it requires a practitioner to be aware of all that is passing through their mind in the current moment. The purpose is to notice the thoughts, feelings, images and sounds as they occur in order to center one's self in the here and now.

Purpose of Meditation

The overarching purpose of meditation is to provide the practitioner with self-awareness and calmness of mind. A goal of reaching a higher plane of existence is cited by many. Often, people pursue a meditation practice in order to enhance their spirituality or personal development in some way. However, there are some very specific reasons some folks choose this path. A regular habit of meditating has been shown to lessen anxiety, along with depression and overall stress. It's also believed to help with pain management, lower blood pressure and manage hot flashes. Those with addictive behavioral issues like alcohol, drug and smoking addiction may be assisted in keeping relapse at bay through a meditation routine. There are other proven benefits of meditation, which we'll discuss in future posts.

Considerations Prior to Beginning Meditation

As long as you are relatively healthy, the chances are good you'll be able to practice meditation without issue. There are some folks who may not be suited for this sort of activity, and you should always speak with your doctor before adding a new regimen to your routine. Seated meditation may be problematic for those with certain flexibility or joint issues. In addition, practices that required focused breathing might not be appropriate for anyone with a respiratory condition. Certain mental health diagnoses such as schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could hinder one's ability to engage in meditating also. In any case, talk to your physician and never forego traditional medical treatment in favorite of any type of alternative therapy without prior physician approval.

These are the basics of meditation. There are many reasons to begin a practice of your own. The type you choose will be based on your preferences, goals and lifestyle. We'll discuss these more as the challenge progresses.

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