Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s attention on one thing at a time. The actual object of one’s attention is not important and varies from one form of meditation to another. Some meditation styles involve the use of a mantra, which is a word or phrase that is repeated over and over by the meditator as a way to anchor the attention.
Gazing is another technique used in some meditation styles as a way to focus the attention. The experience of breathing itself is often used as a focal point or anchor during some meditations.
Meditation is used in the treatment of many medical conditions and certain mental health conditions such as obsessive thinking, anxiety, depression and hostility.
Products of Meditation
During the act of meditating, a person will have thoughts coming and going in his mind. Each time the meditator realizes that his mind has drifted, he will move his mind back to the original focal point (the breath, an object, a mantra, etc). Strengthening his ability to re-divert his attention will, over time, help the meditator make these important realizations:
- It is not possible to have troublesome thoughts or emotions when the mind is focused on something else.
- A person does not have to think about everything that comes to his mind. He can choose what he will think about.
- The overall themes of a person’s thoughts fall into just a few distinct categories such as fearful thoughts, angry thoughts, wanting thoughts, planning thoughts, memories, etc.
- A person’s behaviors result from his thoughts. Habitual, non-productive thoughts loss their power to control behavior when the person is more aware of the existence of those thoughts.
- Emotions are physical sensations in one’s body.
- Strong emotions can be managed by focusing on the physical sensation of the emotion in the body, not on the event or person that triggered the emotion.
- Thoughts and emotions are not permanent. They pass in and out of the body and mind and leave no trace.
- When a person is consistently mindful of what is happening right now, he will begin to shed emotional ups and downs that can be distressful to deal with.
In addition to its cognitive benefits, meditation also serves to physically relax the body and discharge physical stress. Meditation is a great tool for reducing stress. There are many different styles of meditation and many different meditations within each style. Different meditations have been created to fulfill different goals. When beginning to explore the practice of meditation, a person must find a style of meditation that works for him.