Meditation is a drug-free method of achieving relaxation, energy, and focus. It can be used in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as an adjunct practice, as well.
History and Types of Meditation
Meditation helps people train their mind in order to promote relaxation, build energy, or to work on a variety of spiritual pursuits (i.e., spiritual guides, connecting with God, astral projection, or receiving “psychic visions”). The exercises involved allow the practitioner the opportunity to have emotional healing, such as patience, compassion, and forgiveness. Most meditate in a sitting position, and some use prayer beads or other “ritual objects”. The origins of this relaxation method come from the Old Testament Hebrew phrase that referred to “sigh or murmur”, which translated into the Greek word melete, and eventually the Latin Bible term meditatio (meaning “to think contemplate, devise, ponder”). It has been historically used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Taosim, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, New Age, and many other spiritual and religious practices and traditions. Secularly, this therapy is also used in the West, in order to achieve “mindfulness”. It can be used for multiple purposes. For example, prayer and meditation are linked in the Bahá’í Faith, where prayer is for “turning toward God”, while meditation is a “communion with one’s self”. Buddhism focuses on these techniques in order to achieve “serenity or tranquility” as well as “insight”. Certain religions perform meditation in order to deepen the spiritual connection to God. The New Age practice is to blank out the mind from conscious thinking, often by “chanting a mantra or focusing on an object”. In Taoism, it is incorporated into “internal martial arts” in order to achieve calmness in the “tai chi form”. It can disperse “qi” (life energy) throughout the body.1
Mantra meditation uses chanting words that are repeated throughout the session. The sounds become the focus. Focused meditation uses objects (or sounds, mantras, or thought) in order to stay committed to that key object instead of various other thoughts and stressors. Spiritual meditation is about communicating with God, while becoming calm and quiet before focusing on questions or problems. The Movement type involves incorporating flowing movements into the sitting position. The movements are repetitive, and they (with the breathing) become the focus of the session. Mindfulness is the most common form of the practice known. It is when the person doesn’t focus on any particular thought; instead thoughts “flow”. There is an awareness of the surrounding sensory input, but it isn’t dwelled upon.2
“Meditation may…increase calmness and…relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being,” according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s modern form of achieving mindfulness (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program), helped people become aware of daily practices in a way that removed judgmental thoughts. In doing so, depression and anxiety could be reduced, and happiness and emotional balance could be increased. Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation assisted people in tensing and releasing muscle groups “in a sequential pattern while concentrating” on their feelings. This could help to reduce anxiety. Today, this treatement is incorporated into therapy and counseling. The relaxation techniques used now include hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation. Mindfulness Meditation has demonstrated researched benefits including the reduction of depression, headaches, blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. This therapy has also been shown, in research, to improve memory, focus, and attention span.3