Everyone has heard the term meditation, but many people aren’t clear on what exactly it entails. If you imagine someone sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed chanting ‘ommmm,’ you aren’t alone! But is this even accurate, and what else is there to meditation?
Let’s take a look at what the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to say:
- to engage in contemplation or reflection to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
- to focus one’s thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over
According to the Cambridge dictionary, meditation is:
- the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed
- serious thought or study, or the product of this activity
As you can see, meditation is broadly defined as working with the mind and can include relaxation, focusing, and reflection.
It isn’t about changing yourself as a person but is about improving perspective and awareness. Meditation enables you to observe your feelings and thoughts without applying any judgment to them.
What is the Meaning of Meditation and How our Mind is Involved?
Meditation is an ancient tradition and a spiritual practice that is still practiced worldwide to create a sense of inner harmony, peace, and calm. It is considered a spiritual practice but not tied to any particular religious affiliation or faith. The practice is becoming ever more popular as a way of relieving stress in our busy and often hectic modern lives.
If you are asking the question, what is meditation, you might first want to learn some common misconceptions about it. It has nothing to do with mind control, weird or wacky experiences, or zoning out.
Instead, it is about working with the mind to attain a better sense of presence, attentiveness, and calmness. It can also help improve empathy, patience, and compassion. meditation can be be your first step to understand what is spiritual awareness
Even if we are facing stress in these busy modern times and experiencing issues beyond our control, we can still control our actions and the way we respond to situations.
Most of our reactions are spontaneous – they are products of years of experience, which takes the shape of notions and beliefs. But, by observing something without getting influenced by thought, we can rise above in life. Meditation helps in silencing the mind.
What is Buddhist Meditation?
Meditation, as per Buddhism, tells us to reflect on our mind and thoughts without actually trying to control it. Connecting with the mind through the art of meditation means boosting creativity, goodness, spaciousness, and positive traits to find inner peace. In this way, the mind can focus on everything good rather than dwelling on anything negative or troubling.
Our minds contain memories, both happy and sad, records of everything we have ever experienced, all our knowledge, our creativity, motor control, and so much more! Without our minds, we would be machines. Meditation brings your focus inwards, allowing you to connect with your mind and feel relaxed and aware instead of focusing on the external world.
To do this, we need to be aware of how the mind works and learn how to keep focused. Meditation is the best way to learn these skills.
“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” – Buddha
How do we Define Meditation ?
The one word which can be used as a definition of Meditation is Awareness. It’s not something which will make you a different person, a better or a new person. It’s about observing with a better understanding of the perspective, observing incidents and happenings without the influence of our thoughts and feelings. And eventually, this will help you understand everything without judgment. This will lead you to a path where you will be able to explore the wealth of qualities hidden inside us.
According to Trinlay Rinpoche, a scholar poet and artist and a highly regarded meditation master of Tibetan Buddhism, the primary source of our happiness comes from within and has little (if anything) to do with external factors or material items.
Buddhist Meditation tells us that meditation and its benefits can be used and enjoyed by absolutely everybody. All you need is the willingness to devote time and energy to the practice. Consider it as exploring the remote territory of goodness within us. As the mind gets quiet, the fog which covers the region clears up. That fog is the noise around us coming from our daily chores, social interactions, and more. As you progress with meditation, you will train your mind in exploring this land of sunshine and happiness. You will touch our all-important qualities like modesty, empathy, and compassion. And this is the true definition of meditation.
How To Practice Meditation?
Try this simple guided meditation for beginners:
When meditating, remember the journey is more important than the destination. You will forget to focus on your breathing sometimes, or you might find your mind wandering. That is all part of the experience, and there is no such thing as ‘perfect meditation.’
Think of learning to meditate like learning any other skill. It takes consistent practice to get comfortable with it and start to enjoy the benefits. There is no such thing as ‘doing it wrong’ – meditating is different for everyone because it is so personal. The more you practice, the more benefits you will get from it, and the more you will look forward to each session.
Perhaps when you first begin, you will only manage a minute or two, and that is absolutely fine. It is a brand new experience when you first start. In time, you will get more used to it and enjoy more extended periods of meditation. There is no rush, though – everyone learns and develops at their own pace.
Different Types of Meditation
Hindu tradition from around 1500 BC. Other forms of meditation are much later mentioned around the 6th and 5th centuries BC within Taoist China and Buddhist India. Mentions of Meditation can also be found in the Torah – the Hebrew Bible. This effectively means that people had been long aware of the meaning of meditation and its benefits.
There are many ways to meditate, but they all have the same principle: meditation is being aware. Whether you prefer to do it in a class, alone, using an app, or another way, this ancient wellness practice can be done by absolutely anybody willing to practice consistently.
Types of meditation include meditating for mindfulness, spirituality, visualization meditation, using mantras or chants, transcendental meditation, loving kindness meditation and more. But they all have the same goal in common: training the mind to be both calm and aware.
How Does Meditation Work?
When we meditate, we dedicate a certain amount of time and effort to being mindful. We choose an object, such as the breath, and pay attention to it. We might decide to sit on a chair, a cushion, or the floor, and then we begin to observe our breath. As we breathe in, we focus on being aware of breathing in. The same is valid for breathing out.
This might sound easy, but the mind will start to wander! It’s only natural, especially if you’re new to meditation. One moment you are focusing on your out-breath, and the next, you’re wondering what to make for dinner or thinking about a trip you took last weekend. Oops!
The mind is the most active part of our body or rather our thoughts. It continuously makes noise and provides feedback on everything you see, listen to, or observe. At the same time, the mind is creative in its own way. Say, for example, you see a white rose. Instead of watching it as a simple flower, the mind will start projecting past images tagged in our brain. It can be some moment, or a painting or an event or anything.
“The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of peace.” J. Donald Walters
Taking Charge of the Mind
With meditation, when we realize the mind has wandered away from its focus (in this case, the breath), we gently and firmly guide it back.
As we practice meditation more and more, we discover the truth about what meditation is used for. We experience a new sense of calmness and joy. We know how it feels to relax deeply. The mind learns that being aware and calm is an enjoyable state and wants to return there.
We can harness and enjoy the state of natural happiness once we realize it doesn’t have anything to do with external factors. Practicing meditation is all about accessing the qualities that already exist inside us.
Once we can access these good, compassionate qualities, we naturally use them in our daily lives.
Happiness Really Does Come from Within
As you can realize, the essential part is to meditate consistently. This journey or meditation is exploring the hidden wealth of happiness inside us. As you practice more, you will start deriving more joy out of life. You will begin observing more, understanding more from a different perspective without your mind interfering with its knowledge bank.
As you progress, you will notice the happiness within more, appreciate it more, ignoring what’s going on around you. Your mind will be trained to appreciate everything good, ignoring minor evils, and even see the good in little things which earlier may have gone unnoticed.
Isn’t it amazing to know that happiness exists in everyone? Meditation trains the mind to explore, appreciate, be tolerant, and compassionate towards everyone. It helps us observe even the minor things and realize how beautiful life can be.
By now, you’re probably excited to get started! Every single human being has the opportunity to learn meditation techniques and access the full potential of their mind. You don’t need any special skills or equipment to get started.
It is crucial to rely on authentic organizations for guided meditation, especially if you are brand new to meditating and want your experience to be rewarding, fun, and inspirational.
Mindworks is a nonprofit to share proven, authentic meditation guidance to anyone who wants to learn how to experience increased wellbeing and genuine joy.
The 9-level Mindworks Journey to Wellbeing is your complete guide to taking charge of your mind, with the end goal of increased happiness and joy and a sense of total wellbeing.
Like J. Donald Walters says, the more I meditate the better I feel and the more I find myself acting from my center of peace. I am so calm in face of adversity and I can deal with stressful times and decisions much better. The more I meditate the more I realize that happiness comes from within myself. I can’t expect others to make me happy, I’m the only one that can do it. And meditation helps so much with that.
Hey guys and gals, how do you manage to quiet your mind? I started meditating (if I can call it that) but I can’t seem to stop my thoughts from racing in my head. It feels like I’m doing it wrong or something. Any advice?
Do not control.. first, be seated or be in whatever position you feel comfortable. Take slow deep breaths and feel relaxed. Till then just watch your breathing – it will quieten your mind. Watch your thoughts as if from a thrid person perspective – do not try and control them – just watch them as they come and go in a relaxed way. By practice, you will master it and realizations would follow.
You are not doing it wrong. It’s normal for this to happen. Things will get better with time, just hang it there and meditate daily or as often as you can. Like others have already said, keep focusing on your breath and come back to it when you feel your thoughts are racing. Try guided meditation. Try it with headphones on so you are there, in the moment. Eliminate any outside disturbance if you can and for a few minutes, try to be quiet and to stay in the present. Hope this helps you, Steven!
For most of us, exploring ourselves is the most difficult thing we will do. But it’s so rewarding. I’m so sad for the people that will never experience the moment when they are one with themselves, with nature, the Universe and all that is alive. That moment is wonderful and people who meditate get a glimpse of it each time they meditate.
Hahaha, you’ve made me imagine a group of people chanting ‘ommmm’ and it was a funny sight 🙂 That is how I first imagined meditation looking like when I started. At first, I was very skeptical about meditation, what it is and what it could do for me.
Now I realize that meditation is, like you’ve said, simply taking care of your mind space. That’s it. It might sound simple but it won’t be, at least not at first. It wasn’t for me. It took me ages to learn how to quiet my mind and not judge every thought. I’m no expert but I’m so much better now than when I started.
I have a few questions for you (or anyone else who wants to answer):
1. How often do you meditate now versus when you started? And for how long?
2. And what kind of benefits did you see from meditating?
3. Are you seeing any downsides from doing this?
Thank you so much!
When I started I could barely meditate for 2-3 minutes at a time, once every 2-3 days. It took me months to get to 5-10 minutes and to do it daily. But I never quit and I got better with time. At first I was putting a lot of pressure on myself (Why can’t I focus for a few minutes? or Why is my mind so active while doing this?). I realized complaining and overthinking it won’t help me at all so I stopped. I started being gentle and kind to myself. “I will do my best” and whatever that “best” was that day, it was enough. From this mindset I was able to grow as a person and was able to increase both the quantity and quality of my meditation.
It’s been over 3 years since my first day of meditation and I am a changed person. I can now meditate anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. 30 minutes seems like a breeze now but when I first started, that was impossible. Once or twice a month, when I can be completely alone for a longer period of time, I do a 3-hour meditation that is amazing for my focus, energy and clarity.
I can’t see any downsides from this and many, many benefits from having more clarity in everything, being able to focus faster and for longer, having more energy, being able to deal with stress effectively, etc.
Thanks for sharing, Brenda. I want to start meditating daily (if I can) so if you could share any tips or tricks for a complete beginner that would be so great. I have problems focusing both at work and at home and I constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed. I would like to get this under control, without pills if I can.
Hey, Aura, sorry for barging it but I think this may also help you. Try to start with guided meditations. For beginners, these are absolutely wonderful and will help you stay focused. You can find a lot on Youtube. Browse through a couple and see which one works for you. What works for me might not work for you so keep trying until you find the right one(s).
Be kind to yourself. Make small steps. Start with just 1 minute if you can’t do more. It won’t go very well at first but stick with it. Do it again and again, for as many consecutive days as you can. If you can’t do it in some days, that’s ok. Do it as soon as you can. After a few weeks, try meditating for a bit more time. Try to focus on your breath. Don’t think of anything else and keep your mind focused on how you’re breathing. If you find yourself drifting to “reality” and thoughts start creeping in, just gently come back to your breath.
@Connie, yes it will help a lot. Make time for it, even if it’s 3 minutes at first. No pressure. Do it because you want to, not because you have to.
Thank you so much for your lengthy reply, Brenda! I really appreciate it! I am doing my best to find time and space to meditate. I have 3 kids and it’s not often that I have time for myself. I need to make it a priority and plan it (probably at night) so it gets done. I feel like my batteries are very low right now so if this can help then why not?
Great to listen – one thing, meditation is never a control of your mind – rather a way to observe it and try to understand where the thought stems from.
In this pandemic situation, everyone should do meditation regularly. It helps peace in our minds. And we feel refreshment.
My baby children, his age is 10 years, which kind of meditation suite for him?
Kids meditation are normally story-based meditations and has to be done with some supervision initially. Read this article: https://zenlounge.in/meditation-for-kids-why-should-kids-learn-meditation/
I am full of gratitude and appreciation for your comprehensive understanding of the benefits of meditation. Many thanks.
Meditation can be so helpful for us. when I’m doing breathing exercises it can help me reduce stress anxiety and also pain. Do I need to do it regularly or I can do twice in a week.
Daily meditation is best – 15 to 20 minutes of meditation is enough. Though you can do for a much longer time.
People say, Meditation is so awesome, subtle yet makes them feel way better especially over time as they have been doing it for longer. Is it real?
For doing a long meditation, can people feel tired?
does it really provide relief?
Yes, meditation have many benefits and one never feels tired. It does provide great relief from stress, anxiety and depression.
I for one can vouch for meditation to cure migraines. My daughter used to often fall severely ill with migraines that can be triggered by anything. Even a piece of chocolate has triggered deadly migraines that have often put her in the ER. After she took up meditation, I can see a big difference in her health.
That’s great to know… every now and then we come across so many benefits of meditation. Amazing!
Daily meditation can reduce blood pressure. My father has blood pressure but when he did his meditation then his blood pressure is in control. Meditation also works as a medicine for our mind refreshed.
True, it really helps to reduce stress and anxiety and is a great tool for mental wellness.
Daily meditation can help us perform better at work. Research found that meditation helps increase our focus, lower risk of depression and attention and improves our ability to multitask.
Meditation has improved our physical health. It can improve our tolerance for pain and help fight substance addiction. I always do meditation and I also think all over the world should do meditation every day.
Yes, thanks for stopping by. It should be included in schools and colleges. It helps to build a personal morally and physically strong!
Meditation is a practice such as mindfulness or focusing the mind to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable. I regularly did my meditation and it’s given me so relief.
Nice article – meditation truly has many benefits. One must practice meditation for at least 20 minutes a day. Peace !
Thanks Vivian – do check our other articles also.
Meditation has the common goal of training the mind to be both calm and aware. Everyone needs to help to understand others without judgment, that’s why meditation also important for everyone.