Meditation has gone main stream. Today, 18 million Americans practice some form of meditation. And with contemporary medical experts claiming that regular practice of this ancient activity improves well-being and health, the trend well continue. But what is meditation; why has it increased in popularity and credibility; and can it be a partner to a physical fitness program? Let’s look at the roots of meditation, some common misconceptions about its purpose, a few examples of meditation techniques, and the benefits of practice.
The Roots of Meditation
East Asian philosophers have studied the science of mind, consciousness and emotions for thousands of years. Hindu texts dating back more than 4,000 years describe meditation. Buddhist monks formalized ritual meditation about 2,500 years ago. And by 200 AD, Christian monks were meditating to draw closer to God.
In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate purpose of meditation is to liberate the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated, or “enlightened,” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calmness of mind and sense of inner balance. This mental discipline is honed through years of practice and is challenged daily by life’s experiences.