What is meditation? And types, benefits and history of it?

meditation om

What comes into your mind when you think about meditation?

is it some devotional process where we sit cross-legged, eyes closed, and try to be in sync with the one who has created this universe and everything on it?

Or is it some awakening process where all the energy points inside our body start activating?

Or a process where we attentively start noticing our thought pattern without judging or labeling them? 

Or a tool where we just try to focus on our breathing as long as possible with a purpose to calm our mind and stop it from doing baseless meandering?

Or some mantra which we keep chanting in a hope that all the despondency and suffering bestowed upon us would be revoked and finally we would be in a state of utter peacefulness and serenity?

meditation history
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Whatever it is. But I believe when we try to understand meditation and strive to find out empirical formulas of it then we get totally entangled because this process is something to be felt, to be experienced, to be consumed, and subsequently attain of state of tranquility where gaining or losing something doesn’t hold much of value and where something bright or gloomy is just a fleeting occurrence which doesn’t affect life as a whole, profoundly.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
Marcus Aurelius

What is meditation?

To reiterate again, meditation is not something to be defined but to be experienced. But if we have to do it anyhow then the simplest and most effective definition would be, “Being in this very moment, completely aware of all the things around”.

But this definition is greatly in contrast to what we usually hear. This process, that was supposed to be simple, being presented in such a way that as if we are trying something impossible.

But in reality, if you are meditating then the first and foremost condition is, you must be at ease with yourself. Absolutely free of any crumpling. Deprived of any stiffness. 

meditation om
Photo from Unplash

Why should we meditate?

Several studies have been conducted where the outcomes of these studies clearly concluded that one who tends to meditate frequently, deals with far lesser stress, anxiety, and depression as compared to those who don’t.

Meditation also helps people suffering from physical and psychological pain, reduced blood pressure, and heart rate. On top of that, it also helps in improving memory and efficiency, emotional health, breathing pattern, and attention span.

These are a few of the health benefits out of many already discovered or yet to be discovered but let’s not forget the profound effects of mediation, if done precisely and regularly, on the mind and its stability.

And a stable mind is surely one of the very rare virtues which only a handful of people possess in the modern chaotic world. Finding a person who can stay calm and composed even in an overwhelming situation is a very rare sight to behold. 

Meditation might not be the quick fix for all the mind-made problems but certainly is the first step towards it.

“Meditation is like giving a hug to ourselves, getting in touch with that awesome reality in us. while meditating we feel a deep sense of intimacy with God, a love that is inexplicable.” Paramhamsa Yogananda

meditation types
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Types of Meditation

Over a period of time, there are plenty of organizations and spiritual leaders who came out with their own way of doing and teaching meditation and proclaimed it as the best, which subsequently made this process even more enigmatic. Now, It is really hard to differentiate whether a process is actually bona fide or just a marketing gimmick.

“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.” Sakyong Mipham

But there are methods which are there for ages and still do wonders if done properly.

Focus on breathing

Focusing on the breath is still the most famous and effective way to meditate. 

The process is very simple. We need to inhale and exhale steadily and try to be mindful of our breathing. If our mind deviates and unnecessary thoughts and noise creep in. We just need to acknowledge the distraction and try to focus on breathing again.

We can do this while standing, laying on a bed, or sitting on a chair but the recommended position is, sitting on a mat or floor, cross-legged, both the hands-on the knee, back absolutely straight and eyes closed.

In the beginning, you might feel that our mind is getting distracted constantly and you are unable to focus. But it is completely fine as with consistency, this will improve substantially. 

Transcendental Meditation

It is a form of meditation in which practitioners focus on a mantra, or a repeated word or a series of words to attain mental stillness, focus, and clarity.

The word Om in Hinduism is one of the most famous mantras to practice meditation.

Mindfulness meditation

This form of meditation is really intriguing. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere, anytime. And it is remarkably effective. 

All we need to do is, bring our attention to the present moment from the continuous mental chattering our mind normally dwells in. 

And the present means, this very moment. Not even 5 seconds before or 8 seconds after.

And when we do it, then there are no problems, no anger, no suffering, no stress, no anxiety but absolute peacefulness, calmness, and tranquility. 

Practicing this might seem like a herculean task in the beginning but eventually, it will improve and a new habit (and probably one of the most significant ones) would be assimilated.

meditation mantra
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The power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is great a book that has been written entirely on this topic.

How often to meditate?

Since this is something we do for our wellbeing. We ought to do it daily. 

The duration of the session predominantly depends on the availability and schedule of a person.

But surely, any meditation is better than no meditation. Even if we are doing it once a week, this should not refrain us from practicing. We can try doing a few sessions per week and build up the momentum to one session per day. If we can be able to do it at the same time every day, then incorporating this habit is even easier.

Meditating in Hampi
Meditating in Hampi, India

“Meditation is not to escape from society but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.” Thich Nhat Hanh

When and where did meditation originate?

Uprightly, there is no substantial proof that can certainly proclaim the origination of meditation.

Every tradition such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Greek philosophers, Zen philosophers, Christian mysticism, Jewish, Sufism, claims about the emanation of meditation, differently. 

But the earliest documentation can be found in India from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BCE, where cave yogis and Vedic sages pictures and wall arts, seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes, can be traced.

Greek philosophers, which mostly lived under the influence of Indian sages and yogis, developed their own version of meditation during 327–325 BCE.

Christian mystics too developed their own form of meditation called Jesus Prayer during the 10th to 14th centuries.

Zen is a form of Buddhism which was established by an Indian/Persian monk Bodhidharma, who traveled to China to teach meditation in the 8th century.

In the modern world, especially in the united states, yoga and meditation were introduced by an Indian sage called swami Vivekanand in the 20th century, who during his charismatic, thoughtful, and intellectual presentation in Chicago in 1893 triggered an immense interest across America to explore eastern philosophy and spirituality.

“In the same way that rain breaks into a house with a bad roof, desire breaks into the mind that has not been practicing meditation.” – Buddha

meditation position
Photo from Unplash

What scriptures and ancient texts say about meditation?

Several Hindu ancient texts such as Upanishads, Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita mention the meditation ( and uttering the word Om ) and the benefits one gets after doing it consistently.

Transcendental meditation which still is one of the most famous forms of meditation in India always encourages and emphasize uttering the word, Om (exact pronunciation AUM) with the root sounds as “Aa”, “Oo” and “Mm” for a specific number of times such as 21 or (the best 108 times), daily.

Because in Hinduism Om is considered a primordial sound from which all other sounds and subsequently all creations in the universe emerged, which signifies its supreme capability when it comes to meditation.

“If we can make just 1% of the population meditative, this world will be a different place.” Sadhguru

The bottom line

Meditating just mere 5 mins a day enhances mental clarity, rejuvenates the body from within, brings peacefulness, and eventually improves the quality of life.

This is not just on paper, but there are people around the globe who are living proof of this, who started meditating in their miserable times and even the odds were heavily stacked against them, and the mind was trying really hard to go back to the state of peacelessness and affliction, but somehow they stuck to the process and stayed consistent, only to come out as more peaceful, blissful and easeful being, later on.

Meditation history in calm app
I meditate almost daily. Sometimes using an app called Calm.

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Ranjan

A blogging and traveling aficionado. Guitar is the only possession I care about. Whatever I have learned after reading and implementing tons of strategies on productivity & wellness, I jot down here on this blog. Instagram @ Yogi.in.jeans.

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