Meditation used to be the purview of the Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern Religions. In the last several decades meditation has made a journey to front and center in the Western world. Whatever one’s religions orientation, meditation in one of its many forms is likely to play a part in our lives.
Do you take a yoga class? Yoga and its focus on breathing is a form of active meditation. Have you done any guided imagery lately? That’s meditation too. Have you taken a few minutes to stop, focus on your breath and just relax? Following your breath in and out is one of the most popular forms of meditation. Maybe you’ve been using a relaxation tape for stress reduction? Yes, that falls into the meditation category.
Many define meditation as awareness. So, really, anything that is done with awareness can be a meditation – dance, writing, walking, cooking, listening to music. A dictionary definition is continued or extended thought, reflection or contemplation. A second definition adds for spiritual purposes.
Focusing on your breath for an extended period fits this definition. How you breathe – the rhythm of your breath may also be important. For example yoga meditation authorities believe that a shorter in breath and a longer out breath bring about relaxation in a way that relieves stress. Some breathing meditations call for counting the number of seconds of in-breath and out-breath. For example a stress relieving breath might be a count of 4 on the in-breath and a count of 6 or 8 on the out breath.
Chanting a mantra or a word like love or God is a form of meditation. Directing your full attention to the sound vibration and the repetition of the word produces relaxation. Dance with an inward focus becomes meditative. It can either be slow and flowing or intense patterned movements. Even free-form writing or the focus of asking a question and then doing free form writing brings extended contemplation and awareness and thus can be considered as meditative processes.
Guided imagery guided meditation and guided hypnosis tapes all are s part of the many faces of meditation. Prayer, to, in some of its forms can be considered meditation. The important part is that you take time from the often fast-paced days that each of us lives and spend that time for awareness and contemplation.