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What is Meditation? Plus Why and How to Meditate

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What is Meditation?

from our Angel Messenger Creative Team

Meditation is a word that is often misunderstood in the Western world. A lot of people think of it as worship or prayer, or loosely associate it with contemplation, daydreaming, visualization or fantasizing. Although these aspects may be beneficial, they are not what meditation is all about. Meditation is a natural state of the human mind – relaxed, open, and alert.

The roots of meditation can be traced back to ancient times, where cave paintings in the Indus Valley depict people sitting in a traditional cross-legged meditation postures. About 5000 years ago Indian scriptures first mention meditation techniques; and Buddha, one of the most famous proponents of meditation, introduced his mindfulness techniques around 500 B.C. Today, almost all the world cultures and religions have their own aspects of meditation. Meditation is not one thing and there are countless individual variations and systems in the world today.

The two most popular systems in the West are Vipassana or Mindfulness Meditation, and Transcendental Meditation which uses Mantras to calm the mind. The concept of meditation in our modern western world has its origins in the early 20th century but did not start to gain popularity until the 1960s and 1970s. Today almost everyone is aware of meditation and its benefits; even our skeptical western science is starting to see the health and psychological benefits of meditation.

So Why Meditate?

In our modern world, life is full of stress and our minds are running in multiple directions. Stress is basically trying to do or think about something in the future or past that you have no control of in the present moment. Meditation is really about being fully in the moment in a relaxed and calm way. Meditation is rest, an absolute calm, that is a full stop to all activity – both physical, mental, and emotional.

If we practice meditation regularly, our mind will gradually become calmer and peaceful; we will also experience a deeper sense of happiness and compassion towards others and the world. There are many things in our life that are beyond our control, but through meditation, we can learn to take responsibility for own states of mind.

In fact, recent research demonstrated that meditation actually changes the gray matter of our brains in positive ways. The discovery of this was carried out in part by the University of Massachusetts Medical School where they took MRI’s before and two weeks after the participants joined a mindfulness meditation program.

In addition, a large meta-analysis research study from John Hopkins University looked at 47 individual studies with 3515 participants, and they found that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.

How to Meditate

Meditation is the practice of turning one’s attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily senwhat-is-meditation1sations, on sounds, on a flame, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra.

Contrary to popular belief, meditation does not necessarily have to be practiced in the traditional sitting posture and can, in fact, be practiced while walking in a park, lying down or doing dishes. The idea is to start by practicing around 20 minutes a day, but the ultimate goal is to be able to bring meditative awareness into all areas of your life.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to primarily discuss the basic techniques of Mindfulness Meditation and Mantra Meditations. We will start with Mantra meditation as this is a bit easier to practice, but in reality, both can be practiced together in the same meditation session.

Mantra meditation uses a particular sound, phrase, or affirmation as a point of focus to calm the mind. The roots of mantra meditation have its origins in both Yogic and Buddhism practices, and traditionally a mantra is given to you by a spiritual teacher that understands your specific needs and temperament.

The key to using a mantra is that you are supposed to repeat it over and over again in a calm and relaxed way. Chanting is an extension of mantra meditation, and your mantra can be repeated silently or out loud. Please use a mantra that feels right for you. Two popular mantras are the Om sound, also pronounced Aum and this is the primordial sound of the universe. A variation of this is Om Namah Shivaya, which loosely translates to I surrender to my higher self that is a part of all. The key is to keep repeating the mantra over and over again, and when your mind wanders just come back to your mantra.

Mindfulness meditation also has a single focus of intention, but the focus can be on any object; most beginners start out by concentrating on watching their breath. The most simple of these being to just be aware of your breathing, and sense the breath going in and out of your nostrils, or watch your stomach rise and fall as you breathe. Try to remain relaxed and as thoughts, feelings and body sensations arise, just acknowledge them and come back to watching your breathing. Just think of your thoughts as birds or clouds in the sky and just watch them pass, and try not to let them hook together and distract your meditation session.

If you practice meditation regularly you will soon find that you will become more calm and relaxed, more open and connected, and will generally be less caught up in the chatter of your mental thoughts.

Much Love & Angel Blessings,

Angel Messenger

About Angel Messenger Creative Team

Our team includes spiritual writers and practitioners who desire to help people on their path toward spiritual growth and enlightenment. We create based on Rev. Sheri's ideas as well as questions received from our audience.

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