Types and Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions, often as part of the path towards enlightenment and self realization. The earliest records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health.
Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and increasing peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being.Meditation is under research to define its possible health (psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular) and other effects.
Types of meditation
1. Mindfulness meditation Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and is the most popular meditation technique in the West. In mindfulness meditation, you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You simply observe and take note of any patterns. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it helpful to focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, thoughts, or feelings. This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practiced alone.
2. Spiritual meditation Spiritual meditation is used in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Daoism, and in Christian faith. It’s similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe. Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience. Popular options include:
Spiritual meditation can be practiced at home or in a place of worship. This practice is beneficial for those who thrive in silence and seek spiritual growth.
3. Focused meditation Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses. For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or you can bring in external influences to help focus your attention. Try counting mala beads, listening to a gong, or staring at a candle flame. This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus. As the name suggests, this practice is ideal for anyone who requires additional focus in their life.
4. Movement meditation Although most people think of yoga when they hear movement meditation, this practice may include walking through the woods, gardening, qigong, and other gentle forms of motion. It’s an active form of meditation where the movement guides you. Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.
5. Mantra meditation Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.” It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you will be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness. Some people enjoy mantra meditation because they find it easier to focus on a word than on their breath. This is also a good practice for people who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition.
6. Transcendental meditation Transcendental meditation is the most popular type of meditation around the world, and it’s the most scientifically studied. This practice is more customizable than mantra meditation, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner. This practice is for those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.
Benefits of meditation
1. Meditation enhances empathy
Loving-kindness or compassion meditation fires neural connections to brain sites that regulate positive emotions like empathy and kindness. The deep state of flow that meditation induces builds social connection and make us more affectionate and amicable as a person.
2. Meditation improves cognition
Researchers agree that an excellent way for professionals to increase the likelihood of success is to keep meditation practice as a part of their daily routine. Studies have revealed that both transcendent and mindful meditation practices improve the brain’s problem-solving and decision-making strategies, which can bring a desirable shift in our professional life.
3. Meditation is a natural stress stabilizer
Stress is the body’s response to unforeseen adversities. Encountering immediate threats increase the level of cortisol, or stress hormone in the body, and activates the Autonomic Nervous system, which is responsible for fight-or-flight responses. Brain studies of regular meditators revealed that they have lower cortisol level in their brains, which explains their resilience and insightful nature.
4. Meditation promotes emotional health and well-being
Studies have shown that meditation improves self-image and self-worth. When we meditate, we get a clear picture of our mind and become aware of the thoughts that drive our emotions and actions at the moment.
A large-scale study found that regular meditation decreases the likelihood of developing depression and mood-related disorders . Besides some forms of meditative practices which also promoted positive thinking, as researchers stated, and could improve the overall emotional health of an individual.
5. Meditation increases attention by inducing a state of flow
Have you noticed how meditation absorbs you into the moment? Mindful awareness comes naturally to us when we meditate, and we reach ‘flow’ state where our mind is in complete harmony with itself. A study on the effects of an eight-week mindful meditation course found that people who are regular meditation practitioners had heightened attention and concentration span. Even people who meditated for short durations showed more focus than individuals who did not meditate at all .