Meditation means awareness. Whatever you do with awareness is meditation. "Watching your breath" is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation, walking in the garden or park silently is meditation, sitting still looking at the sky is meditation, looking out into the ocean absorbing it's beauty is meditation. Meditation can be practiced doing simple repetitive tasks. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation..
The word meditation, is derived from two Latin words : meditari(to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind) and mederi (to heal). Its Sanskrit derivation 'medha' means wisdom.
Here's a wonderful explanation of the types of meditation I came across from health care online:-
Concentration Meditation focuses the attention on the breath or an image in order to still the mind and allow a greater awareness and clarity to emerge. This is like a zoom lens in a camera; we narrow our focus to a selected field.
The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus the attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one's breath and one's state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated, or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid, and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, focused, and composed, the breath will tend to be slow, deep, and regular. Focusing the mind on the continuous rhythm of inhalation and exhalation provides a natural object of meditation. As you focus your awareness on the breath, your mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, your breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind becomes more tranquil and aware.
Mindfulness Meditation , according to Dr. Borysenko, "involves opening the attention to become aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them." The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear, and non-reactive state of mind. Mindfulness meditation can be likened to a wide-angle lens. Instead of narrowing your sight to a selected field as in concentrative meditation, here you will be aware of the entire field.
Here are the physical benefits of meditation:-
- Deep rest-as measured by decreased metabolic rate, lower heart rate, and reduced work load of the heart.
- Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate-two chemicals associated with stress.
- Reduction of free radicals- unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage. They are now thought to be a major factor in aging and in many diseases.
- Decreased high blood pressure.
- Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels.
- Drop in cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease.
- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients.
- Younger biological age. On standard measures of aging, long-term Transcendental Meditation (TM) practitioners (more than five years) measured 12 years younger than their chronological age.
- Higher levels of DHEAS in the elderly. An additional sign of youthfulness through Transcendental Meditation (TM); lower levels of DHEAS are associated with aging.
- Increased brain wave coherence. Harmony of brain wave activity in different parts of the brain is associated with greater creativity, improved moral reasoning, and higher IQ.
- Decreased anxiety.
- Decreased depression.
- Decreased irritability and moodiness.
- Improved learning ability and memory.
- Increased self-actualization.
- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
- Increased happiness.
- Increased emotional stability.
Breath awareness is to meditation what good lighting is to fine photography. The cost of stressful reactions is that they give negativity a foothold in the nervous system, which is then translated into unpleasant symptoms. During meditation, breath awareness short circuits this translation process. It does not eliminate the conflict, but helps prevent it from taking up residence. The phrase ' I need to go out, get some fresh air and clear my head." is exactly what meditation tries to do. When breathing remains relaxed and a steady focus of attention, problems are not so easily oversold to the nervous system and are less likely to overwhelm us.
Breath awareness is associated in yoga with a particular function of the mind, a function variously described as the ability to the inner witness of experience, to remain detached in the face of discomfort, and to act decisively.
I have personally used meditation in a positive manner. It's not hard to do, if you put your mind to understand what's going 'through' psychologically. In the classes, I would ask the students at the end of the physical exercises, to relax on the mat and focus their attention to their breaths again. If they had any thoughts coming through while relaxing, to either focus back on their breaths, and if they can't, to try and turn those thoughts into positive thinking.
I don't see meditation as religious. You can look at it from all different angles and choose how it will best help you. Meditation is universal. In Wikipedia Dictionary online, this is how it describes Meditation:- Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference. It is recognized as a component of almost all religions, and has been practiced for over 5,000 years. It is also practiced outside religious traditions.
Last but not least:- There are all sorts of meditation. Be decisive and choose wisely and base your decision on facts rather than opinions, understand what it truly is before commenting.
Okay, getting late now, night night and see ya later alligators.