What is meditation?
Meditation is a technique of intentionally focusing on a single thought or aspect of being, in order to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and bring about a sense of inner peace. The object of focus varies according to personal preference and the kind of meditation that is being practiced. For example, some people might focus on their breathing, or on the sensation of muscles contracting and then relaxing. Others might concentrate on a sound, a memory or a mental picture of a sunset.
Meditation is one of the most versatile practices, since it can be done alone or as part of a group setting. There is even a growing number of people who conduct and participate in online group meditation sessions.
What are the benefits?
Meditation is one of the oldest practices known to man, popular throughout the ages because of the benefits relating to physical and mental health. Examples of the benefits of meditation include the following:
- It promotes a sense of balance and calmness that translates into a general sense of overall wellbeing
- It can help you gain a new perspective on something that has been troubling you, or that you have been seeking a solution for
- It can give you the tools to identify and correct negative ways of thinking
- It can help survivors of trauma cope with memories and flashbacks
- People suffering from PTSD can use meditation to stay grounded in the present
- It can help people cope with the effects of chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension
- It can be a valuable tool in the care of people in end-of-life care
What kinds of meditation are there?
Although all forms of meditation have the common goal of promoting a sense of balance and inner peace, the method of accomplishing that varies. The different kinds of meditation include the following:
- Yoga: by performing movements, postures and breathing that require focus, your mind is kept in the moment instead of on the stresses of your life
- Mantra meditation: through repetition of a word or phrase that soothes you, you are able to block out distracting thoughts and focus your energy on a feeling of peace
- Guided meditation: this kind of meditation makes use of visualization, in which you create and focus on a picture in your head of a place or situation that is relaxing or comforting
- Mindfulness meditation: by having heightened awareness of the present moment, you are able to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, but then allow them to pass
- Transcendental meditation: through silent repetition of an assigned mantra, you allow your body to enter a state of deep relaxation to achieve inner peace with little effort
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong: often practiced simultaneously, these Chinese techniques combine gentle martial arts with breathing