MEDITATION

Meditation is a mental discipline that induces a state of total relaxation and inner harmony. Various techniques of meditation are available. These all involve focusing the mind on an object or activity.

In Eastern societies it is used as a means of spiritual enlightenment. In Western society's it tends to be used as a means of dealing with stress. Meditation is a useful self help technique that can be used without any adherence to any religion. Meditation is a state of heightened mental awareness. Meditation is however practised in the worlds major religion's including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Meditation was mainly introduced to the West through Indian Yoga practises which were brought to England in the 19th century. Meditation involves withdrawing from external reality and achieving deep relaxation. Meditation has been shown to reverse the damaging effects of stress.

When you are under pressure the brain will tell the adrenal glands to produce certain hormones. This will cause your blood pressure and muscle tension to increase. The state of altered awareness experienced during meditation is associated with certain electrical activity in the cortex of the brain. This activity may be charted as brain wave patterns on a graph.

The normal states of consciousness such as being awake, sleeping and dreaming can be detected in the wave patterns produced by the brain. However the state of meditation differs from these. Brain waves associated with quite, receptive states are called alpha waves. EEG graphs show that meditation produces alpha waves of a much higher intensity than those that occur during your sleep.

Mantra Meditation : A word or a phrase that is continually repeated. It may be repeated aloud or in silence. It may be a positive statement or relate to personal beliefs.

Rosaries : Rosary beads may be used in the meditation process to count repetitions.

Tibtan Prayer Wheel : Each rotation of this cylinder will stand for one recitation of a mantra.

On : A sacred mantra widely used in meditation.

Breath Awareness : Focus your attention on your breathing. You think of a peaceful word with each outward breath.

Meditation is a holistic discipline by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation is a component of many religions, and has been practiced since antiquity. It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and non-spiritual goals; achieving a higher state of consciousness or enlightenment, developing and increasing compassion and lovingkindness, receiving spiritual inspiration or guidance from God, achieving greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply cultivating a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind. Eastern meditation techniques have been adapted and increasingly practiced in Western culture.

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History of meditation
The word meditate comes from the Latin root meditatum, i.e. to ponder. In the Old Testament, means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate. The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th century monk Guigo II. Caravans on the Silk Road helped spread meditative practices from India. It is difficult to trace the history of meditation without considering the religious context within which it was practiced. Data suggest that even at prehistoric times older civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some of the earliest written records of meditation date to 1500BC in Hindu Vedantism. Around 500-600BC Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop meditative practices. The Pali Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other oriental countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Japan. Returning from China around 1227, Dogen wrote the instructions for Zazen. Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century. In Concentration meditation the meditator holds attention on a particular object (e.g., a repetitive prayer) while minimizing distractions; bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object. In mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process (such as the breath; a sound, such as a mantra, koan or riddle-like question; a visualization; or an exercise). The meditator is usually encouraged to maintain an open focus or monitoring.

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