Meditation is an ancient practice that hinges on contemplation and seeks to relax the mind and the body. The classic meditation posture allows the human body to sit on the ground with folded legs and hands rest on the knees. The eyes are closed because meditation seeks to focus the mind on only one activity; for instance, breathing. Popular cultures note that the practice of meditation emerged in India thousands of years ago. However, almost all religions and cultures have professed the practice in many forms at various stages of their evolution. In modern times, human beings continue to practice meditation as a form of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Dr Herbert Benson states, "The term meditation is difficult for some people to grasp because it may connote exotic Eastern cults or Christian monks who spend most of their waking hours in monastery cells contemplating God."
A lot of research has sought to answer the question as to who discovered the process of meditation. Some people believe Gautama Buddha was the first to practice the art in India, thousands of years ago. However, recent findings note that meditation has been practiced for many thousands of years in different parts of the world in different religious practices and cultures. Some people hold the view that the enlightened Buddha did not discover meditation, but did codify a set of practices geared toward self-transformation. Breathing techniques, chanting, self-denial, and silence are some of the methods of meditation in practice around the world today.
Historical records indicate that meditation has been practised in cultures as varied as the Indus Valley civilisation and in ancient Mesopotamia. Hindu scriptures dating back to five millennia have cited meditation techniques, systems, and processes. Carved clay seals depicting meditative figures from the Indus Valley civilisation emerged in the 1920s. Certain forms of written historical records also note the occurrence of meditative practices in Mesopotamia in 4000 BC. These facts lead us to think that a single person or civilisation did not find access to meditation. Ongoing historical research and archaeology may uncover different points of view in this regard.
As per historians, Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment after meditating under a sacred tree for 49 days. Modern Buddhist meditation focuses on the attributes of mindfulness, concentration, insight, and tranquility. Many other schools of thought have embraced this practice because it enables the practitioner to relax and undergo detoxification of mind and body. Health experts have noted the soothing effects of meditation on the human body. Meditation helps people deal with the stresses and strains inflicted by modern lifestyles on their minds and bodies. It finds prominence and pride in the practices of Native Americans, Christian monks, among the Aborigines of Australia, in Islam, and other religions. Each religion prescribes different forms of meditation including mindful contemplation, singing, dancing, and morning prayers.
Records from ancient China indicate Chinese Taoists evolved their own form of meditation during the 5th century BC. Their teachings were partly based on Buddhist preaching; they valued the attributes of concentration and knowledge to attain liberation. In Christian theology, Philo of Alexandria, Saint Augustine and Plotinus practised some early forms of meditation.
The world's history is vast, to the extent of being infinite. We may probably never know for sure as to the emergence of meditation in this world. We could, however, instil the millennia-old practice in our lives and get to cleanse our mind and body. Next time you feel stressed, skip those pills for some MEditation.
Happy 'me' time, guys.