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Historically, meditation originated as a spiritual practice used by seekers of enlightenment. Dating back 5,000 years to the ancient traditions of Eastern spirituality, meditation practices later spread from Hindu and Buddhist philosophies to religions of the West as well. Virtually all religions have some history of meditation — through prayer, chanting, healing or devotion to a higher consciousness. Meditation is a valuable tool for anyone interested in finding a sense of inner peace and outer harmony. The history of meditation is still being written as Westerners' interest in the balance of mind and body continues to grow.
Meditation is helpful in cultivating clarity, self-awareness and mindful focus. Although at first you may find quieting the mind quite challenging, practice will help you develop the exercises that are most effective for your personal benefit. Meditation helps you experience calmness and awareness with the added benefit of relieving stress and softening tension into a more relaxed state of mind. There are also many health benefits that meditation helps enhance:
- Deeper sleep
- Slower heart rate
- Increased blood flow
- Improved concentration
- Alleviation of pain
- Relaxation of the nervous system
To get started
To begin your own journey in meditation, you should find a space or sanctuary within your modern world — a place to be present without external distraction where you feel safe and comfortable. Yoga is a wonderful way to prepare the physical body for meditation. Yoga helps meditation in centering the mind in accordance with the body and breath. Many yoga classes integrate meditation after a series of postures. One simple exercise to get you started meditating is to close your eyes and focus the mind on inhaling and exhaling. Each time your mind roams, bring it back through the simple rhythm of your breath.
Our modern world offers many resources to help you learn more about meditation, and begin or continue a practice that suits your lifestyle and your intentions. You may find meditation help or guidance in your local community through spiritual groups or religious centers, yoga studios and even some medical centers and hospitals. Videos, DVDs and audio CDs are also available to help you learn more about meditation and personalize your practice in the comfort of your own sanctuary.
For more specific tools and techniques, meditation books are an educational way to dig deep into the wisdom of many different types of meditation. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of meditation, you may choose to look for books by meditation experts or spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh. You may find meditation books written for specific religions, ailments or symptoms, such as meditation for stress. You will find meditation books in the spirituality or psychology section of your local library; check the self-help section of bookstores. For a holistic and integrative experience, sample a variety of resources to find a style that will enhance your own personal awakening.