What Is Meditation?

What is meditation?

Although there are differing opinions and definitions, most forms of meditation seek to train the mind or cultivate certain states of consciousness. This may include relaxation, developing compassion, managing internal energy flow (e.g. chakra, qi, etc.) or increased wisdom or concentration. Different styles were created to achieve different goals. Belief in a particular religious or spiritual tradition is not necessary for practicing a form of meditation.

How do you meditate?

One of the more simple and straightforward meditation methods comes from the vipassana and Zen traditions. These teachings emphasize awareness of the breath as a foundational practice. Noticing the sensations during breathing (and noticing when your attention strays and returns to noticing) serves as a kind of doorway to awareness of other activities of the mind. Zen and vipassana meditation can be done in a seated position, and can be done for as little as 1 minute. It is not necessary to practice Buddhism (or any other religion) to practice these foundational and popular forms of meditation.

What kinds, types, or styles of meditation are there?

Different traditions may seek different goals, but there are practices that are common to several traditions. A few traditions involve seated with the eyes closed and observing the breath. Mantra-based meditation involves focusing the mind on a sound, word, or phrase. Body-scan, walking meditation, tai chi quan, and yoga bring the mind’s attention to the body and may also be used to manage energy flow in the body. Christian meditation employs prayer or mental concentration on a spiritual message to draw nearer to God.

See also: Choose The Best Meditation For You

What are the benefits of meditation?

Studies have been conducted using various forms of meditation practice. Some of these studies suggest that meditation can help manage stress and chronic pain, deal with difficult emotions, build stronger relationships, enhance memory and cognitive performance, and improve sleep. The research is promising, but in many cases cannot be regarded as conclusive proof.

See also: 5 Science-Backed Reasons to Meditate

Can meditation be bad for you? Are there any dangers?

Meditation can be viewed as a kind of exercise for the mind. Just as it isn’t advisable to bench press with a broken arm, those with certain mental injuries may be better speaking with a mental health professional before practicing meditation. For example, Dr. Ron Siegel¬†explains how we may become aware of signal anxiety as we meditate or become more mindful. Signal anxiety refers to anxiousness created when we become increasingly aware of a thought or feeling that the mind is working to keep out of our awareness. In these situations, a qualified guide can help you work through these emotions if they become overwhelming.

How long should I meditate?

Some techniques and practices may suggest a set amount of time per day for practice. Some people may enjoy lengthy retreats at a meditation center. It is certainly possible to begin to see some benefit from just 1 minute per day.

See also: How To Start (And Keep) A Meditation Habit

What do I need in order to meditate properly?

The beautiful thing about many meditation practices is they are designed to be as simple as possible. Most don’t require much more than time. That doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t plenty of resources, from apps for your phone to the latest tech that can help.

See also: Gear Guide: Tools for Meditation

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What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the development of the attention on the here and now. It is the opposite of being lost in thought, or  being constantly engaged in internal dialogue. Some forms of meditation are meant to cultivate mindfulness in everyday activities. The mindful awareness developed during meditation can extend to daily life.

How do you clear your mind during meditation?

The simple answer is: you don’t clear your mind. Meditation is more about noticing what your mind is doing, and what thoughts arise without becoming engaged in the thought. It is more about noticing the train of thought rather than hopping aboard and becoming a passenger on the train. At the same time, it isn’t about detachment from emotion or compassion. It is about being free from the obligation to attach to mindsets, pre-conceptions, or emotions.

Where can I learn more about meditation?

I developed this list of Top Meditation Resources

Will meditation help me sleep?

Some meditation techniques are intended to reduce stress and increase relaxation. One study in particular shows how meditation improved sleep compared to attending a sleep education class.