“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” – Buddha
What is meditation?
By dictionary definition, “meditation” means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. Meditation is immemorial: it was first recorded in written texts around seven thousand years ago in China. According to Dr. Ian Gawler the earliest written records of meditation being practised come from China around 5000 BC. They next appeared in Indian written records (Hindu Vedantism) around 1500 BC, and in the Greece around 750 BC.
In the yogic context, meditation, (Dhyana), is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. It is the seventh stage, or limb, of the yogic path and follows Dharana, the art of concentration.
To me, meditation is cultivating awareness and learning to observe your thoughts (and mental activity) without getting caught up in it.
Meditation- A rich and extensive history
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Where did meditation originate?” If you have, then you are asking the same question that has puzzled researchers, scientists, archaeologists and millions of others for centuries.
The briefest research will reward you with the insight that meditation is an ancient art. While written evidence of meditation has been around for thousands of years in countless forms, it is very likely that formalised practice existed even before then. Meditation has been practiced continuously in virtually all cultures and is integral to the core of all major religions and most spiritual paths in some form or another. In fact, many researchers believe that the practice of meditation comes from an instinctive and primal need to connect to the universe and to oneself. Some even suggest that if recorded history went back much further there would definitely be proof that meditation existed as long as human existence.
Meditation practices of various cultures
While this practice is often associated primarily with Eastern cultures and religions, it is apparent that meditation is a widespread and long-lasting phenomenon that is not solely limited to religions or Eastern cultures. The following are examples compiled by Terry Hurley of cultural variations of meditation:
- Native Americans sweat lodge ceremonies where they offer contemplation, prayers and offerings to the Great Spirit.
- Christian monks practice contemplation and prayer in monasteries
- “Lecto Divina” is the practice of early Christian monks method of reading the Bible. It was read very slowly as the meaning of each verse was carefully contemplated and considered.
- The Sufi religion’s dancing meditations known as Whirling Dervishes.
- The sound rituals of the Aborigines where they used dancing, singing and playing didgeridoos to keep the world in existence.
- The Islamic practice of morning prayers and meditations.
Is Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation) important?
The short answer is yes, absolutely!
Meditation is important for every human being. Humans are guided by their wants and needs- Hunger drives us toward food, thirst pulls us toward water, in the same way, the soul yearns for meditation and this tendency is in everyone. Meditation is sustenance for the soul.
Why practise concentration and meditation?
For thousands of years people have used meditation to move beyond the mind’s stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets into the peace and clarity of present moment awareness.
Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and create a sense of calm. By engaging in the practice of meditation you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
How do I start concentrating/ meditating?
You don’t have to follow Patanjali’s eight-limbed path or move away to an ashram to have yoga & meditation benefit your life. You just have to begin to practice it. Simple. Easy. Powerful.
What do I do first? Breathe.
What next? Observe.
And then? Reap the benefits.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
(May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all).