(Last Updated on : 12/06/2013)
"Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity."- Swami Sivananda Meditation is an intense spiritual as well as personal experience. Meditation may be described as a state of concentrated attention on a thought, or on awareness. This thought process is, to turn the attention inward, to the mind itself. Meditation is considered to be the component of Eastern religion, where it has been practiced for more than 5000 years. Meditation is believed to be a mental activity, which encompasses a variety of spiritual activity. Meditation is used for personal development, better concentration, to achieve peace and harmony, for spiritual closeness to God, to become healthier and even to impart calmness, love, purity, well being and truthfulness.
The word Meditation comes from the Latin word 'meditatio', which originally indicated any physical or mental exercise done scientifically. Meditatio in Latin thus originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise. Later the concept evolved into the more specific meaning, "contemplation", where awareness is brought forward on the reality of the present moment without deliberately encouraging imagination. Meditation makes one to feel detached from the world but somehow still keeping him intact with the present. One of the meanings of the word meditation is to control the activities of the mind, speech and body. Steadying the mind or focusing the concentration is one of the prime objectives of meditation.
Meditation thus can be termed as any one of the following:
* A state of relaxed concentration over one's mind while keeping the reality of the present moment intact
* A state of freedom of the mind, when the peron's mind is free of any kind of thoughts
* A state of spiritual concentration, which brings one closer to God.
* A state of concentration which helps one focus the mind on a single object or thought
* A state of detachment from the outside world, pressure and tensions
* A state of attaining not only a healthy mental condition but physical growth as well, and finally
* A process, which makes one look towards the positive side of the world, keeping all the negativity behind
All of the above teamed with the various types and process of meditation go a very long way in enhancing ones personality, changing ones attitude towards life, encouraging someone and building inner growth related to self-confidence and motivation. Posture, preparation, length of the period of the practice of meditation all contribute to the various forms of meditation like the Transcendental Meditation, yoga nidra, vipassana and mindfulness meditation. While meditation is a continuous process, it can be said to have three stages: relaxation, Interiorization and expansion. Paramahansa Yogananda defined meditation as "deep concentration on God or one of his aspects". The great scripture Bhagavada Gita says "Even a little practice of this inward religion will save one from dire fears and colossal sufferings".
Very simply therefore the process of meditation could be described as
* Relaxing the body and the mind,
* Concentrating single pointedly on the object of meditation
* Expanding the sense of identity until the person realizes the unity with all creation.
There are a number of meditation techniques which supports in feeling that sheer personal and spiritual experience. The desired purpose and the aim of each meditation technique are to channel the cognizance into a rather positive direction whilst entirely transforming one's state of mind. The main objective of meditation is therefore to turn inwards whilst concentrating on the inner self. The whole process of meditation thus connotes the three stages of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and enlightenment or absorption (samadhi). Since turning inward is the crux of meditation technique, hence focusing the mind onto certain object, while meditating, is important. Once the attention gets intermeshed then concentration slowly turns into meditation or dhyana. And it is then the person effortlessly merges with the object of concentration, which might either be the present moment or could be the Divine Entity.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation has great health benefits. It is one of the best possible antidotes to deal with the excessive stress of modern life. Stress pushes the body into a "fight or flight" response. Meditation gives one the respite from pressure. With the recent growth of stress and strain, meditation as a unique way to calm the mind is therefore indeed the need of the hour. Quite ideally therefore humanity is increasingly turning towards various meditative techniques in order to cope with the increasing stress of modern-day lifestyles. Modern medicine and psychotherapy have thus begun to discover the various therapeutic benefits of meditation practice. Meditation has been found to strengthen the immune system, which helps ward off diseases before they actually affect the human body. Meditation helps create a healthy mind, one that is positive, alert and calm; this in turn helps produce a body filled with health and vitality. Researches have shown that meditating twice a day for 20 minutes can reduce blockages in ones blood vessels and can lower the risk of heart attacks and sudden strokes.
Meditation also helps foster a healthy mind as it allows one to release negative mental states such as fear, worry and anger and replace them with positive attitudes. The daily practice of focusing within gradually gives one the control over the flow of life force, while letting one turn inward. Control over ones mind- is the gift one receives from meditation. Meditation allows one to have a healthy and positive attitude towards life, away from any negative thoughts. It helps one to live in peace and harmony, with oneself as well as with the people around.
Barriers of Meditation
One of the major barriers to mediation is the unsteadiness of the mind. Some people lack concentration power, their mind is unsteady; hence they face problems in meditating in a proper manner. According to Acharya Somaprabha, "If any person wants to pursue religion by becoming cruel, wants to acquire fame by vicious means, wants to acquire wealth nor remaining indolent, wants to write poetry without having the genius for it, wants to become an ascetic without controlling the senses and showing compassion, wants to seriously study the scriptures without the requisite intelligence, wants to see things without the eyes and wants to meditate on them when his mind is unsteady cannot succeed. Similarly, the person who desires his beatitude by giving up the contact with the virtuous people can never succeed." However, to think that a person with an unsteady mind cannot mediate and a person who has a steady mind does not need meditation is not true. Just as one cannot learn how to swim without actually getting into the water similarly one cannot learn to meditate without actually sitting down and trying it. The best times to meditate are in the morning and in the evening before going to bed. However, meditation can be done anywhere and anytime whenever one feels the urge to be quiet, inward and to have a rendezvous with the inner self. Mediation should be practiced in complete silence, preferably in fresh, open air, close to natural surroundings to get the maximum benefit. Silence allows one to get closer to one's own self whilst supporting him in hearing the inner voice, to get to know oneself better and to experience the sheer spiritual closeness
Meditation requires faith, determination and endeavor. If one develops faith, in oneself as well as in meditation, and if it is combined with firm determination then one can overcome the barrier of unsteadiness of ones mind. Meditation is the path to attain closeness to oneself- to one's soul. Meditation cleanses the soul, the person from within and this change can be seen physically in a person, on the outside.