Despite being an ancient practice that has existed for hundreds of years, meditation has caught the eye of the average person in only the last few years.
Meditation has its roots in the Vedic civilization. The oldest documents are from approximately 5,000 BC to 3,500 BC. Specifically, it has a long tradition in Hinduism – the Upanishads discuss it as a way to 'remove ignorance' and 'acquire knowledge and oneness with the Absolute' (1). Later on, forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhism and Jainism in India. For example, the Gayatri Mantra is translated as:
"We meditate on that desirable light of the divine Savitri, who influences our pious rites"
Meditation was originally part of religious traditions – a vehicle for enlightenment and for those on the spiritual path. However, nowadays they have found applications in day-to-day life such as business and health, as Eastern traditions gain popularity in the West and research is pursued.
The wise ancients have always been aware of the powerful benefits meditation can bring to your life. Scientifically, it has been shown to:
1. 'Strengthen and thicken the brain', which 'may allow the brain to process information faster' (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314170647.htm)
2. 'Thicken areas associated with attention and emotional integration.' (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121144007.htm)
3. 'Can promote creative thinking' (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102317.htm)
4. And its even 'linked to lower cardiovascular risk' according to survey data from more than 61,000 people (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200715135734.htm)
You may think that long durations of meditation are required for you to acquire such benefits. In reality, results like these are shown with around 10 minutes of meditation per day – the most important part is consistency, not quantity.
Forms and techniques
Meditation manifests itself in many forms and techniques, although they can be categorized in two main forms: focused and open.
Focused methods include:
1. Following the breath – observing the breath, but not controlling it
2. Mantra meditation – repetition of a mantra in the mind
3. Loving-kindness (maitri) – meditation on generous and selfless love towards ourselves and others
4. Focusing on a single point – like with a candle flame, or on the third eye
Open methods include: