What do you think of when you hear the word “meditation”? Some might imagine a person sitting cross-legged—perhaps in a simple room, monastery, or in front of a majestic landscape—exploring a universe of possibilities within themselves. And although this cliché has a grain of truth in it, meditation can be much more.
Author Christina Rodenbeck puts it this way: “Somewhere within each of our minds there is a sanctuary away from the noise and disruption of our own busy thought processes.” She continues, “Meditation is about calming the chatter of your mind and rediscovering that calm, still space. You have the ability to create that tranquility for yourself, during your busy day.”
Simply put, meditation has become mainstream in America in a big, big way.
Meditation was once the interest of hippies, Buddhists, mystics, and other adherents of alternative lifestyles but is now an accepted form of relaxation and treatment for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The great thing about mediation: it’s simple, costs nothing, and can have a positive influence on your mental health. Its roots go back centuries, and meditation is common among many religions and spiritual traditions, being practiced in Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism and other traditions.
There are many different type of meditation.
Some forms of meditation utilize props such as incense, candles, and water; while other forms of meditation rely on nothing but the individual’s mind. One common aspect among all forms of meditation is the awareness of one’s breath. “For many of us, controlled breathing provides the easiest gateway into a meditative state,” writes Rodenbeck, but “[b]y concentrating on the breath, we can focus our minds inwards into the body and block out the outside world.”
Most forms of meditation also focus on correct posture. On a personal note, this has always been problematic for me. Whether sitting in a chair or standing, I often find myself slumped over. Even if I am not practicing meditation, I constantly need to remind myself to sit up straight and keep my shoulders in their proper place. Meditation has helped my posture tremendously. Rodenbeck notes that one of the reasons posture is so important is because it helps with our breathing.
“Good posture is really important,” she writes. “It helps with the easy flow of energy, with breathing, and it is ultimately more relaxing for your body—although at first it may not feel like it.”
Finally, meditation may also use sounds or words to hone and focus one’s attention. In meditation-speak, these are called “mantras,” and some of the more popular ones cited by the author are “Om” (Buddhist, Hindu) and “Soham” (Hindu). The repetition of sound, again, helps to focus one’s attention on breathing and mindfulness. Of course, there are many more things to say about meditation, but overall if you’re interested in beginning a new practice or hobby, meditation remains a great way to tune out stress and begin a new, healthful you.
Rodenbeck, C. (2016). Meditation for Everyday Living. Bounty Books, London, UK.