Meditation as a discipline is considered to have begun over 6000 years ago, and is a practice that takes many varieties of form in the present.
Some meditation techniques involve focusing on the breath, such as Vipassna, while other practices advocate chanting of a mantra such as Om to focus the mind and keep it in the present.
These meditation practices are passive and take a lot of practice, although the benefits of mastering these specific types of meditation are long lasting and profound. These types of meditation are usually considered more spiritual than other types, although you can certainly practice these methods without a spiritual inclination.
Other types of meditation are more activity based – my sister meditates every day while washing dishes at the kitchen sink, as she allows her mind to de-focus and relax and finds this very soothing. There are also practices such as dynamic meditation, which involves shaking the body vigorously and making spontaneous sounds, which is said to release deep buried emotions and will ultimately benefit the physical and mental health of the individual.
And then there are guided meditations which take the individual on a guided imagery journey with the purpose of achieving deep relaxation without the danger of being sidetracked by the ego. If you’ve ever tried to meditate and found yourself making shopping lists or to-do lists you’ll know why this type of meditation might be useful.
Regardless of which type of meditation you choose, the practice itself has enormous health benefits – improvements are typically experienced with heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, adrenal gland function, immune system function, and so on. Other benefits of meditation include a clearer mind, becoming more aligned with one’s life purpose, improved presence (or being in the Now) and increased feelings of wellbeing.
And unlike other treatments for stress, like medication, meditation has no side effects to speak of.