What is meditation?

Meditation. The word alone conjures up images of a bearded guru, sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop, humming to himself.

But contrary to popular belief, meditation can be used practically in your everyday life and is already used by many people who are seeking serenity, calm and relaxation in their stressful lives. Although the practice of meditation stemmed from different religions, modern-day meditation need not have anything to do with religion.

When you meditate, you are exercising your mind in contemplation and are training it to pay attention. Meditation is the mental and physical state achieved from intensely concentrating on a single object until all other thoughts disappear and all that is left is an intense awareness of the object.

Meditation makes you feel less anxious and more in control. The awareness that comes with meditation can give you personal insight and self-understanding.

Why meditate?
According to metaphysical healer and counsellor, Dina Cramer, "Meditation is a powerful tool for self-development and healing. It involves quietening the mind in order to gain access to our Higher Self - that part of us that is divinely connected to a higher wisdom, a higher consciousness."

She continues, "It is in this state that we can go beyond the constant hammering of our conscious thoughts, beyond the illusions of life that keep us stuck and limited, in order to discover the deeper whisperings of our soul."

According to Cramer, "Our conscious thoughts/ego often keeps us engaged in repetitive patterns of limiting beliefs and behaviours. Once you go beyond the conscious mind, you are able to see more clearly the illusions that hold you back and are in a space to choose whether to hold onto these limiting patterns or to release them and move forward with your life."

Types of meditation
There are two main types of meditation, namely concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation:

Concentrative meditation involves focusing one's attention on a single object. That object may be a sound, a physical thing, visualisation, your own breath, movement or a mantra (a word or a phrase that is silently repeated).

Learning how to concentrate on or focus your attention on one object increases a simple awareness of the present moment. When intrusive thoughts or emotions enter the mind, the meditator gently refocuses the mind on the original object of concentration. This type of meditation has been compared to a zoom lens that narrows one's focus to a selected field.

Mindfulness meditation involves becoming aware of the entire field of one's attention. The meditator must be aware of all thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise while he/she is meditating, but must not get involved in thinking about them or reacting to them.

The secret of this type of meditation is that the meditator must be able to focus and quiet the mind. This type of meditation has been compared to a wide-angle camera lens through which one takes in the entire field of images, thoughts, sounds and memories.

- (Ingrid Bosch, Health24, updated July 2008)

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