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Meditation

Meditation

Definition

Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress , promote relaxation , and enhance personal and spiritual growth.

Origins

Meditation techniques have been practiced for millennia. Originally, they were intended to develop spiritual understanding, awareness, and direct experience of ultimate reality. The many different religious traditions in the world have given rise to a rich variety of meditative practices. These include the contemplative practices of Christian religious orders, the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation, and the whirling movements of the Sufi dervishes. Although meditation is an important spiritual practice in many religious and spiritual traditions, it can be practiced by anyone regardless of their religious or cultural background to relieve stress and pain .

As Western medical practitioners begin to understand the mind's role in health and disease, there has been more interest in the use of meditation in medicine. Meditative practices are increasingly offered in medical clinics and hospitals as a tool for improving health and quality of life. Meditation has been used as the primary therapy for treating certain diseases; as an additional therapy in a comprehensive treatment plan; and as a means of improving the quality of life of people with debilitating, chronic, or terminal illnesses.

Benefits

Meditation benefits people with or without acute medical illness or stress. People who meditate regularly

have been shown to feel less anxiety and depression . They also report that they experience more enjoyment and appreciation of life and that their relationships with others are improved. Meditation produces a state of deep relaxation and a sense of balance or equanimity. According to Michael J. Baime, "Meditation cultivates an emotional stability that allows the meditator to experience intense emotions fully while simultaneously maintaining perspective on them." Out of this experience of emotional stability, one may gain greater insight and understanding about one's thoughts, feelings, and actions. This insight in turn offers the possibility to feel more confident and in control of life. Meditation facilitates a greater sense of calmness, empathy, and acceptance of self and others.

Meditation can be used with other forms of medical treatment and is an important complementary therapy for both the treatment and prevention of many stress-related conditions. Regular meditation can reduce the number of symptoms experienced by patients with a wide range of illnesses and disorders. Based upon clinical evidence as well as theoretical understanding, meditation is considered to be one of the better therapies for panic disorder , generalized anxiety disorder, substance dependence and abuse, ulcers, colitis, chronic pain, psoriasis , and dysthymic disorder. It is considered to be a valuable adjunctive therapy for moderate hypertension (high blood pressure), prevention of cardiac arrest (heart attack ), prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), arthritis (including fibromyalgia ), cancer, insomnia , migraine, and prevention of stroke . Meditation may also be a valuable complementary therapy for allergies and asthma because of the role stress plays in these conditions. Meditative practices have been reported to improve function or reduce symptoms in patients with some neurological disorders as well. These include people with Parkinson's disease , people who experience fatigue with multiple sclerosis , and people with epilepsy who are resistant to standard treatment.

Overall, a 1995 report to the National Institutes of Health on alternative medicine concluded that, "More than 30 years of research, as well as the experience of a large and growing number of individuals and health care providers, suggests that meditation and similar forms of relaxation can lead to better health, higher quality of life, and lowered health care costs." A study of health care professionals published in 2002 indicates that the majority of physicians, nurses, and occupational therapists in the United States accept meditation as a beneficial adjunct to conventional medical or surgical treatments.

Description

Sitting meditation is generally done in an upright seated position, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. The spine is straight yet relaxed. Sometimes the eyes are closed. Other times the eyes are open and gazing softly into the distance or at an object. Depending on the type of meditation, the meditator may be concentrating on the sensation of the movement of the breath, counting the breath, silently repeating a sound, chanting, visualizing an image, focusing awareness on the center of the body, opening to all sensory experiences including thoughts, or performing stylized ritual movements with the hands.

Movement meditation can be spontaneous and free-form or involve highly structured, choreographed, repetitive patterns. Movement meditation is particularly helpful for those people who find it difficult to remain still.

MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI 1911


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is one of the most recognized spiritual leaders of the world. Almost single-handedly, the Maharishi (meaning great sage) brought Eastern culture into Western consciousness. He emerged in the late 1950s in London and the United States as a missionary in the cause of Hinduism, the philosophy of which is called Vedantaa belief that "holds that God is to be found in every creature and object, that the purpose of human life is to realize the godliness in oneself and that religious truths are universal."

By 1967, the Maharishi became a leader among flower-children and an anti-drug advocate. The Maharishi's sudden popularity was helped along by such early fans as the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and Shirley MacLaine. These people, and many others, practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM), a Hindu-influenced procedure that endures in America to this day.

When the 1960s drew to a close, the Maharishi began to fade from public view. The guru still had enough followers, though, to people the Maharishi International University, founded in 1971. One of the main draws of Maharishi International University was the study of TMSidha, an exotic form of Transcendental Meditation. Sidhas believe that group meditation can elicit the maharishi effecta force strong enough to conjure world peace.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of meditation. These types are concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation. Concentration meditation practices involve focusing attention on a single object. Objects of meditation can include the breath, an inner or external image, a movement pattern (as in tai chi or yoga ), or a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated silently (mantra). The purpose of concentrative practices is to learn to focus one's attention or develop concentration. When thoughts or emotions arise, the meditator gently directs the mind back to the original object of concentration.

Mindfulness meditation practices involve becoming aware of the entire field of attention. The meditator is instructed to be aware of all thoughts, feelings, perceptions, or sensations as they arise in each moment. Mindfulness meditation practices are enhanced by the meditator's ability to focus and quiet the mind. Many meditation practices are a blend of these two forms.

The study and application of meditation to health care has focused on three specific approaches: 1. transcendental meditation (TM); 2. The "relaxation response," a general approach to meditation developed by Dr. Herbert Benson ; and 3. mindfulness meditation, specifically the program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Transcendental meditation

TM has its origins in the Vedic tradition of India and was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi . TM has been taught to somewhere between two and four million people. It is one of the most widely practiced forms of meditation in the West. TM has been studied many times; these studies have produced much of the information about the physiology of meditation. In TM, the meditator sits with closed eyes and concentrates on a single syllable or word (mantra) for 20 minutes at a time, twice a day. When thoughts or feelings arise, the attention is brought back to the mantra. According to Charles Alexander, an important TM researcher, "During TM, ordinary waking mental activity is said to settle down, until even the subtlest thought is transcended and a completely unified wholeness of awareness..is experienced. In this silent, self-referential state of pure wakefulness, consciousness is fully awake to itself alone.." TM supporters believe that TM practices are more beneficial than other meditation practices. A group of Australian researchers has recently recommended TM as a preventive strategy for heart disease .

The relaxation response

The relaxation response involves a similar form of mental focusing. Dr. Herbert Benson, one of the first Western doctors to conduct research on the effects of meditation, developed this approach after observing the profound health benefits of a state of bodily calm he calls "the relaxation response." In order to elicit this response in the body, he teaches patients to focus upon the repetition of a word, sound, prayer, phrase, or movement activity (including swimming, jogging, yoga, and even knitting) for 1020 minutes at a time, twice a day. Patients are also taught not to pay attention to distracting thoughts and to return their focus to the original repetition. The choice of the focused repetition is up to the individual. Instead of Sanskrit terms, the meditator can choose what is personally meaningful, such as a phrase from a prayer.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation comes out of traditional Buddhist meditation practices. Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn has been instrumental in bringing this form of meditation into medical settings. In formal mindfulness practice, the meditator sits with eyes closed, focusing the attention on the sensations and movement of the breath for approximately 4560 minutes at a time, at least once a day. Informal mindfulness practice involves bringing awareness to every activity in daily life. Wandering thoughts or distracting feelings are simply noticed without resisting or reacting to them. The essence of mindfulness meditation is not what one focuses on but rather the quality of awareness the meditator brings to each moment. According to Kabat-Zinn, "It is this investigative, discerning observation of whatever comes up in the present moment that is the hallmark of mindfulness and differentiates it most from other forms of meditation. The goal of mindfulness is for you to be more aware, more in touch with life and whatever is happening in your own body and mind at the time it is happeningthat is, the present moment." The MBSR program consists of a series of classes involving meditation, movement, and group process. There are over 240 MBSR programs offered in health care settings around the world.

Meditation is not considered a medical procedure or intervention by most insurers. Many patients pay for meditation training themselves. Frequently, religious groups or meditation centers offer meditation instruction free of charge or for a nominal donation. Hospitals may offer MBSR classes at a reduced rate for their patients and a slightly higher rate for the general public.

Precautions

Meditation appears to be safe for most people. There are, however, case reports and studies noting some adverse effects. Thirty-three to 50% of the people participating in long silent meditation retreats (two weeks to three months) reported increased tension, anxiety, confusion, and depression. On the other hand, most of these same people also reported very positive effects from their meditation practice. Kabat-Zinn notes that these studies fail to differentiate between serious psychiatric disturbances and normal emotional mood swings. These studies do suggest, however, that meditation may not be recommended for people with psychotic disorders, severe depression, and other severe personality disorders unless they are also receiving psychological or medical treatment.

Side effects

There are no reported side effects from meditation except for positive benefits.

Research & general acceptance

The scientific study of the physiological effects of meditation began in the early 1960s. These studies prove that meditation affects metabolism, the endocrine system, the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system. In one study, three advanced practitioners of Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices demonstrated the ability to increase "inner heat" as much as 61%. During a different meditative practice they were able to dramatically slow down the rate at which their bodies consumed oxygen. Preliminary research shows that mindfulness meditation is associated with increased levels of melatonin . These findings suggest a potential role for meditation in the treatment and prevention of breast and prostrate cancer.

Despite the inherent difficulties in designing research studies, there is a large amount of evidence of the medical benefits of meditation. Meditation is particularly effective as a treatment for chronic pain. Studies have shown meditation reduces symptoms of pain and pain-related drug use. In a four-year follow-up study, the majority of patients in a MBSR program reported "moderate to great improvement" in pain as a result of participation in the program.

Meditation has long been recommended as a treatment for high blood pressure; however, there is a debate over the amount of benefit that meditation offers. Although most studies show a reduction in blood pressure with meditation, medication is still more effective at lowering high blood pressure.

Meditation may also be an effective treatment for coronary artery disease. A study of 21 patients practicing TM for eight months showed increases in their amount of exercise tolerance, amount of workload, and a delay in the onset of ST-segment depression. Meditation is also an important part of Dean Ornish's program, which has been proven to reverse coronary artery disease.

Research also suggests that meditation is effective in the treatment of chemical dependency. Gelderloos and others reviewed 24 studies and reported that all of them showed that TM is helpful in programs to stop smoking and also in programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Studies also imply that meditation is helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and in treating anxiety-related disorders. Furthermore, a study in 1998 of 37 psoriasis patients showed that those practicing mindfulness meditation had more rapid clearing of their skin condition, with standard UV light treatment, than the control subjects. Another study found that meditation decreased the symptoms of fibromyalgia; over half of the patients reported significant improvement. Research by a group of ophthalmologists indicates that nearly 60% of a group of patients being treated for glaucoma found meditation helpful in coping with their eye disorder. In addition, meditation was one of several stress management techniques used in a small study of HIV-positive men. The study showed improvements in the T-cell counts of the men, as well as in several psychological measures of well-being.

Training & certification

There is no program of certification or licensure for instructors who wish to teach meditation as a medical therapy. Meditation teachers within a particular religious tradition usually have extensive experience and expertise with faith questions and religious practices but may not have been trained to work with medical patients. Different programs have varied requirements for someone to teach meditation. In order to be recognized as an instructor of TM, one must receive extensive training. The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center offers training and workshops for health professionals and others interested in teaching mindfulness-based stress reduction. The Center does not, however, certify that someone is qualified to teach meditation. The University of Pennsylvania program for Stress Management suggests that a person have at least 10 years of personal experience with the practice of mindfulness meditation before receiving additional instruction to teach meditation. Teachers are also expected to spend at least two weeks each year in intensive meditation retreats.

Resources

BOOKS

Astin, John A., et al. "Meditation." In Clinician's Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited by Donald Novey. St. Louis: Mosby, 2000.

Baime, Michael J. "Meditation and Mindfulness." In Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited by Wayne B. Jonas and Jeffrey S. Levin. New York: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 1999.

Benson, Herbert, M.D. The Relaxation Response. New York: William Morrow, 1975.

Kabat-Zinn, John. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York: Dell, 1990.

Roth, Robert. TM Transcendental Meditation: A New Introduction to Maharishi's Easy, Effective and Scientifically Proven Technique for Promoting Better Health. Donald I. Fine, 1994.

PERIODICALS

King, M. S., T. Carr, and C. D'Cruz. "Transcendental Meditation, Hypertension and Heart Disease." Australian Family Physician 31 (February 2002): 164168.

Rhee, D. J., G. L. Spaeth, J. S. Myers, et al. "Prevalence of the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Glaucoma." Ophthalmology 109 (March 2002): 438443.

Schoenberger, N. E., R. J. Matheis, S. C. Shiflett, and A. C. Cotter. "Opinions and Practices of Medical Rehabilitation Professionals Regarding Prayer and Meditation." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8 (February 2002): 5969.

ORGANIZATIONS

Insight Meditation Society. 1230 Pleasant, St. Barre, MA 01005. (978) 355-4378. FAX: (978) 355-6398. <http://www.dharma.org>.

Mind-Body Medical Institute. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. One Deaconess Road, Boston, MA 02215. (617) 632-9525. <http://www.mbmi.org>.

The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. Stress Reduction Clinic. University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care. 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655. (508) 856-2656. Fax (508) 856-1977. jon.kabat-zinn@banyan@ummed.edu <http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm>.

Linda Chrisman

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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Chrisman, Linda; Frey, Rebecca. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chrisman, Linda; Frey, Rebecca. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 2005. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435100516.html

Meditation

Meditation

Definition

Meditation or contemplation involves focusing the mind upon a sound, phrase, prayer, object, visualized image, the breath, ritualized movements, or consciousness in order to increase awareness of the present moment, promote relaxation, reduce stress , and enhance personal or spiritual growth.

Purpose

Meditation can benefit people who are ill or overwhelmed by stress. It also promotes well-being in healthy people. In general, people who meditate regularly experience less anxiety and depression. They also report more enjoyment and appreciation of life, as well as better social relationships. Meditation produces a state of deep relaxation and a sense of balance, or equanimity. According to Michael J. Baime in Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, meditation allows one to fully experience intense emotions without losing composure. The consequence of emotional balance is greater insight regarding one's thoughts, feelings, and actions. Insight, in turn, promotes confidence and awareness. Meditation also facilitates a greater sense of calmness, empathy, and acceptance of self and others.

Meditation is sometimes suggested as a complement to medical treatments of disease; in particular, it is an important complementary therapy for both the treatment and prevention of many stress-related conditions. Regular meditation may reduce the number of symptoms experienced by patients with a wide range of illnesses and disorders. Based upon clinical evidence, as well as theory, meditation is seen as an appropriate therapy for panic disorder , generalized anxiety disorder , substance dependence and abuse, ulcers, colitis, chronic pain, psoriasis, and dysthymic disordera disorder that involves a steady, depressed mood for at least two years. Moreover, meditation is a valuable adjunct therapy for moderate hypertension (high blood pressure), prevention of cardiac arrest (heart attack), prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), arthritis (including fibromyalgia), cancer, insomnia , migraine, and stroke . It is a complementary therapy for moderating allergies and asthma because it reduces stress, which is prevalent in these conditions. Additionally, meditation may improve function or reduce symptoms of patients with neurologic disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

In 1995, the authors of a report to the National Institutes of Health on complementary or alternative medicine reviewed 30 years of research and reports of individuals and health care providers. They concluded that meditation and related methods for the enhancement of relaxation are cost-effective ways to improve health and quality of life.

Precautions

Meditation appears to be safe for most people. There are, however, case reports and studies noting some adverse effects. For example, 33% to 50% of people who participated in long, silent meditation retreats (two weeks to three months) reported increased tension, anxiety, confusion, and depression. On the other hand, they also reported that meditation was associated with very positive effects. It has been noted, however, that these studies failed to differentiate between serious psychiatric disturbances and normal mood swings. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that meditation may not be appropriate for people with psychotic disorders, major depression, or severe personality disorders . Some researchers point out that the relaxed, trance-like state that characterizes deep meditation is similar to a hypnotic trance. Hence, meditation, as well as hypnosis, may be contraindicated for people who have difficulty giving up control, such as people who are obsessive and compulsive.

Description

Background

Meditation has been practiced for millennia. Historically, meditation or contemplation was intended to develop spiritual understanding, awareness, or gratitude. It also was meant to help the person commune with God, or ultimate reality. The many different religious traditions in the world have given rise to a rich variety of meditative practices. These include the contemplative prayers and chants of Christian religious orders, the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation, and the whirling movements of the Sufi dervishes. Although meditation is an important spiritual practice in many traditions, it can be practiced by anyone to relieve stress and pain regardless of religious or cultural background.

In recent decades, a holistic approach to medicine has become increasingly popular. This approach developed in response to the ideas that health care providers treat whole persons, and that wellness and illness are better understood in terms of the body, mind, and soul. Some refer to this type of medicine as integrative, (that is, the Western biologic model of disease) and notions of appropriate treatment are modified by knowledge garnered from other culturesespecially those of China and India. When foreign ideas are tested in the U.S. both clinically and scientifically, if found to be valid, they are integrated into Western medicine.

With the increasing acceptance of holistic medicine, there has been more interest in the use of alternative or complementary therapies, such as meditation, hypnosis, and progressive relaxation. As a result, training in meditation and meditation sessions are offered in medical clinics and hospitals. Meditation has been used as primary therapy for treating certain diseases and as complementary therapy in a comprehensive treatment plan. Moreover, it has been employed as a means of improving the quality of life of people with debilitating, chronic, or terminal diseases.

When people are dying, they often cope with enduring pain, anxiety and fear, and end-of-life spiritual concerns. Meditation can be a way for the patient with terminal illness to self-manage pain and anxiety. This can partially reduce the amount of drugs required for effective pain control. People who are dying sometimes reject narcotics in an effort to preserve their consciousness and their communication with people who are important to them. Meditation is a means of preserving consciousness and life as the dying patient knows it. Also, meditation can be tailored to the religious or spiritual needs of the patient, and may be a means to spiritual solace.

In general, there are two main types of meditation: concentration, and mindful meditation. Concentration meditation involves focusing one's attention on the breath, an imagined or real image, ritualized movements (as in Tai chi, yoga , or qigong), or on a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated silently or aloud (mantra). In the Christian tradition, chanting and saying the rosary are forms of meditation. (A rosary is a string of beads used to keep track of the prayers recited.) One purpose of concentration meditation is to fully experience the present moment with serenity. The benefit of being fully present is that worries and anxieties fade, and a feeling of peace ensues. It is the feeling of peace that has physiological benefits, and has been referred to as the relaxation response. When thoughts or emotions arise, the person gently directs his or her mind back to the original focus of concentration.

In comparison, mindfulness meditation involves becoming aware of the entire field of attention. There is an awareness of all thoughts, feelings, perceptions or sensations as they arise from moment to moment. Mindfulness meditation is enhanced by the person's ability to quiet the mind and to accept all that is perceived with composure. Many approaches to meditation are a blend of concentration and mindfulness.

Meditation may involve a quiet, relatively motionless seated posture or it may involve ritualized movement. Sitting meditation is generally done in an upright position, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion or mat on the floor. The spine is straight, yet relaxed. The eyes may be closed or open and gazing softly into the distance or at an object. Depending on the tradition, the person may be concentrating on the sensation of the movement of the breath; counting breaths; silently repeating a mantra; chanting a prayer; visualizing a peaceful and meaningful place; focusing awareness on the center of the body; or increasing awareness of all sensory experiences.

Movement meditation may be spontaneous and free form or it may involve highly structured, choreographed, repetitive patterns, as in the practice of Tai chi or qigong. (Tai chi and qigong are ancient Chinese forms of meditation with movement; both are believed to promote health by preserving or restoring the life force, or qi.) Movement meditation is particularly helpful for those people who find it difficult to remain still.

Meditation in health care settings

The use of meditation in health care settings often involves one of the following: transcendental meditation (TM); methods developed by Dr. Herbert Benson to elicit the relaxation response; or adaptations of the program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Transcendental meditation (TM) has its origins in the Vedic tradition of India and was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM has been taught to several million people and is one of the most widely practiced forms of meditation in the West. Much of what is known about the physiology of meditation is based on studies of TM. In transcendental meditation, the person sits with closed eyes and concentrates on a single syllable or word (mantra) for 20 minutes, twice a day. When thoughts or feelings arise, the attention is brought back to the mantra. According to Charles Alexander, a TM researcher, the experience of TM involves a calming of thoughts and ordinary wakefulness, which is transcended and replaced by fully aware consciousness.

Eliciting the relaxation response involves a similar form of mental focusing. Dr. Herbert Benson, one of the first Western doctors to conduct research on the effects of meditation, developed his approach after observing the profound health benefits of a state of bodily calm (the relaxation response). In order to elicit this response, he teaches patients to repeat a word, sound, prayer, phrase, or activity (including swimming, jogging, yoga, or even knitting) for 10 to 20 minutes, twice a day. Patients also are taught not to pay attention to distracting thoughts and to return their focus to the original repetition. What is repeated is up to the individual. For example, instead of Sanskrit terms, the person may choose something personally meaningful, such as a phrase from a Christian or Jewish prayer.

Mindfulness meditation stems from traditional Buddhist meditation practices. Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn has been instrumental in bringing this form of meditation into medical settings. In formal mindfulness practice, the person sits with eyes closed, focusing the attention on the sensations and movement of the breath for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, at least once a day. Informal mindfulness practice involves bringing awareness to every activity in daily life. Wandering thoughts or distracting feelings are simply noticed, without resistance or reaction. The essence of mindfulness meditation is not that on which the individual is focusing, but rather the quality of dispassionate awareness the person brings to each moment. According to Kabat-Zinn, the purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become aware of one's body and mind in the present moment. Discerning observation differentiates mindfulness from other types of meditation. The MBSR program consists of a series of classes involving meditation, movement, and group participation. There are over 240 MBSR programs offered in health care settings around the world.

Meditation is not considered a medical procedure or intervention by most insurers; therefore, if there is a cost associated with training, patients pay for it themselves. Frequently, religious groups or meditation centers offer meditation instruction free of charge or for a nominal donation. Hospitals may offer MBSR classes to their patients for a reduced fee, and to the general public for a somewhat higher fee.

Normal results

The scientific study of the physiological effects of meditation began in the early 1960s. These studies demonstrated that meditation affects metabolism, the endocrine system, the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system. In particular, there is a slowing of cardiac and respiratory rates, a decrease in blood pressure, and an increase in alpha brain waves. These effects are typical of reduced anxiety.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the medical benefits of meditation. For example, meditation is particularly effective as a treatment for chronic pain. Researchers have found that meditation reduces symptoms of pain and reliance on drugs used to control pain. For example, in one four-year follow-up study, the majority of patients in an MBSR program reported improvement in the experience of pain as a result of participation in the program.

For many years, meditation has been recommended as a treatment for high blood pressure; however, there is a debate over the effectiveness of meditation compared with medical treatment. Although most studies show a reduction in blood pressure as a result of meditation, medication is relatively more effective.

Meditation may be an effective treatment for coronary artery disease (CAD). For example, a study of 21 patients practicing TM for eight months increased their tolerance of exercise and their capacity for work. Also, meditation is an important part of Dr. Dean Ornish's program for the prevention or reversal of CAD. His program involves a low-fat vegetarian diet, moderate exercise (for example, walking 30 minutes per day), and techniques for reducing stress, including meditation.

Researchers have found that meditation is effective in the treatment of chemical dependency. Gelderloos and others reviewed 24 studies and concluded that TM is helpful in programs that target smoking behavior and drug and alcohol abuse.

The scientific evidence also suggests that meditation is particularly helpful in treating anxiety-related disorders and in reducing symptoms of anxiety triggered by stress. For example, researchers conducted a study in 1998 of 37 patients with psoriasisa chronic, stress-related skin condition. They found that patients who practiced mindfulness meditation and who received standard ultraviolet light treatment experienced a more rapid clearing of their skin condition than the control subjects. Another study found that meditation moderated the symptoms of fibromyalgia (a chronic condition where people suffer diffuse muscular pain at several sites on the body); over half of the patients reported significant improvement. Meditation was one of several stress management techniques used in a small study of HIV-positive men. The study showed improvements in immune function and psychological well-being.

In sum, holistic practitioners speak about the body's capacity for healing itself; since meditation leads to a peaceful, relaxed state with measurable physiological benefits. Healing is facilitated presumably by moderating the state of arousal generated by chronic stress. There is a variety of stress-reducing techniques available, such as hypnosis, progressive relaxation, biofeedback , guided imagery, and aerobic exercise. Health consumers are encouraged to investigate the various techniques and seek referrals to good physicians, therapists, or stress counselors who are willing to design a flexible program that meets their needs.

Resources

BOOKS

Astin, John A., and others. "Meditation." In Clinician's Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited by Donald Novey. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 2000.

Baime, Michael J. "Meditation and Mindfulness." In Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited by Wayne B. Jonas and Jeffrey S. Levin. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1999.

Benson, Herbert, M.D. with Miram Z. Klipper. The Relaxation Response. New York: Avon Books, 1975.

Kaplan, Harold I., and Benjamin J. Sadock. "Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry." In Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences / Clinical Psychiatry. 8th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1998.

Turpin, Graham C. H., and Michael Heap. "Arousal Reduction >Methods: Relaxation, Biofeedback, Meditation, and Hypnosis." In Comprehensive Clinical Psychology, edited by Alan S. Bellack and Michel Hersen. Volume 6 edited by Paul Salkovskis. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science, 1998.

PERIODICALS

Li, Ming, Kevin Chen, and Zhixian Mo. "Use of Qigong >Therapy in the Detoxification of Heroin Addicts." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 8, no. 1 (January/February 2002): 50-59.

ORGANIZATIONS

Insight Meditation Society. 1230 Pleasant, St. Barre, MA >01005. (978) 355-4378. <http://www.dharma.org>.

Mind/Body Medical Institute. 110 Francis Street, Boston, MA >02215. (617) 632-9530. <http://www.mbmi.org>.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. >NCCAM Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 7923, Gaithersburg, MD 20898. (888) 644-6226. <http://www.nccam.nih.gov>.

Linda Chrisman Tanja Bekhuis, Ph.D.

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Chrisman, Linda; Bekhuis, Tanja. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Chrisman, Linda; Bekhuis, Tanja. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405700243.html

Chrisman, Linda; Bekhuis, Tanja. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3405700243.html

Meditation

Meditation

Definition

Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.

Purpose

Meditation benefits people with or without acute medical illness or stress. People who meditate regularly have been shown to feel less anxiety and depression. They also report that they experience more enjoyment and appreciation of life and that their relationships with others are improved. Meditation produces a state of deep relaxation and a sense of balance or equanimity. According to Michael J. Baime, "Meditation cultivates an emotional stability that allows the meditator to experience intense emotions fully while simultaneously maintaining perspective on them." Out of this experience of emotional stability, one may gain greater insight and understanding about one's thoughts, feelings, and actions. This insight in turn offers the possibility to feel more confident and in control of life. Meditation facilitates a greater sense of calmness, empathy, and acceptance of self and others.

Meditation can be used with other forms of medical treatment and is an important complementary therapy for both the treatment and prevention of many stress-related conditions. Regular meditation can reduce the number of symptoms experienced by patients with a wide range of illnesses and disorders. Based upon clinical evidence as well as theoretical understanding, meditation is considered to be one of the better therapies for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, substance dependence and abuse, ulcers, colitis, chronic pain, psoriasis, and dysthymic disorder. It is considered to be a valuable adjunctive therapy for moderate hypertension (high blood pressure), prevention of cardiac arrest (heart attack ), prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), arthritis (including fibromyalgia), cancer, insomnia, migraine, and prevention of stroke. Meditation may also be a valuable complementary therapy for allergies and asthma because of the role stress plays in these conditions. Meditative practices have been reported to improve function or reduce symptoms in patients with some neurological disorders as well. These include people with Parkinson's disease, people who experience fatigue with multiple sclerosis, and people with epilepsy who are resistant to standard treatment.

Overall, a 1995 report to the National Institutes of Health on alternative medicine concluded that, "More than 30 years of research, as well as the experience of a large and growing number of individuals and health care providers, suggests that meditation and similar forms of relaxation can lead to better health, higher quality of life, and lowered health care costs "

Description

Origins

Meditation techniques have been practiced for millennia. Originally, they were intended to develop spiritual understanding, awareness, and direct experience of ultimate reality. The many different religious traditions in the world have given rise to a rich variety of meditative practices. These include the contemplative practices of Christian religious orders, the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation, and the whirling movements of the Sufi dervishes. Although meditation is an important spiritual practice in many religious and spiritual traditions, it can be practiced by anyone regardless of their religious or cultural background to relieve stress and pain.

MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI (1911)

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is one of the most recognized spiritual leaders of the world. Almost single-handedly, the Maharishi (meaning great sage) brought Eastern culture into Western consciousness. He emerged in the late 1950s in London and the United States as a missionary in the cause of Hinduism, the philosophy of which is called Vedantaa belief that "holds that God is to be found in every creature and object, that the purpose of human life is to realize the godliness in oneself and that religious truths are universal."

By 1967, the Maharishi became a leader among flower-children and an anti-drug advocate. The Maharishi's sudden popularity was helped along by such early fans as the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and Shirley MacLaine. These people, and many others, practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM), a Hindu-influenced procedure that endures in America to this day.

When the 1960s drew to a close, the Maharishi began to fade from public view. The guru still had enough followers, though, to people the Maharishi International University, founded in 1971. One of the main draws of Maharishi International University was the study of TM-Sidha, an exotic form of Transcendental Meditation. Sidhas believe that group meditation can elicit the maharishi effecta force strong enough to conjure world peace.

As Western medical practitioners begin to understand the mind's role in health and disease, there has been more interest in the use of meditation in medicine. Meditative practices are increasingly offered in medical clinics and hospitals as a tool for improving health and quality of life. Meditation has been used as the primary therapy for treating certain diseases; as an additional therapy in a comprehensive treatment plan; and as a means of improving the quality of life of people with debilitating, chronic, or terminal illnesses.

Sitting meditation is generally done in an upright seated position, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion on the floor. The spine is straight yet relaxed. Sometimes the eyes are closed. Other times the eyes are open and gazing softly into the distance or at an object. Depending on the type of meditation, the meditator may be concentrating on the sensation of the movement of the breath, counting the breath, silently repeating a sound, chanting, visualizing an image, focusing awareness on the center of the body, opening to all sensory experiences including thoughts, or performing stylized ritual movements with the hands.

Movement meditation can be spontaneous and free-form or involve highly structured, choreographed, repetitive patterns. Movement meditation is particularly helpful for those people who find it difficult to remain still.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of meditation. These types are concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation. Concentration meditation practices involve focusing attention on a single object. Objects of meditation can include the breath, an inner or external image, a movement pattern (as in tai chi or yoga ), or a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated silently (mantra). The purpose of concentrative practices is to learn to focus one's attention or develop concentration. When thoughts or emotions arise, the meditator gently directs the mind back to the original object of concentration.

Mindfulness meditation practices involve becoming aware of the entire field of attention. The meditator is instructed to be aware of all thoughts, feelings, perceptions or sensations as they arise in each moment. Mindfulness meditation practices are enhanced by the meditator's ability to focus and quiet the mind. Many meditation practices are a blend of these two forms.

The study and application of meditation to health care has focused on three specific approaches: 1. transcendental meditation (TM); 2. The "relaxation response," a general approach to meditation developed by Dr. Herbert Benson; and 3. mindfulness meditation, specifically the program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Transcendental meditation

TM has its origins in the Vedic tradition of India and was introduced to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. TM has been taught to somewhere between two and four million people. It is one of the most widely practiced forms of meditation in the West. TM has been studied many times; these studies have produced much of the information about the physiology of meditation. In TM, the meditator sits with closed eyes and concentrates on a single syllable or word (mantra) for 20 minutes at a time, twice a day. When thoughts or feelings arise, the attention is brought back to the mantra. According to Charles Alexander, an important TM researcher, "During TM, ordinary waking mental activity is said to settle down, until even the subtlest thought is transcended and a completely unified wholeness of awareness is experienced. In this silent, self-referential state of pure wakefulness, consciousness is fully awake to itself alone." TM supporters believe that TM practices are more beneficial than other meditation practices.

The relaxation response

The relaxation response involves a similar form of mental focusing. Dr. Herbert Benson, one of the first Western doctors to conduct research on the effects of meditation, developed this approach after observing the profound health benefits of a state of bodily calm he calls "the relaxation response." In order to elicit this response in the body, he teaches patients to focus upon the repetition of a word, sound, prayer, phrase, or movement activity (including swimming, jogging, yoga, and even knitting) for 10-20 minutes at a time, twice a day. Patients are also taught not to pay attention to distracting thoughts and to return their focus to the original repetition. The choice of the focused repetition is up to the individual. Instead of Sanskrit terms, the meditator can choose what is personally meaningful, such as a phrase from a Christian or Jewish prayer.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation comes out of traditional Buddhist meditation practices. Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn has been instrumental in bringing this form of meditation into medical settings. In formal mindfulness practice, the meditator sits with eyes closed, focusing the attention on the sensations and movement of the breath for approximately 45-60 minutes at a time, at least once a day. Informal mindfulness practice involves bringing awareness to every activity in daily life. Wandering thoughts or distracting feelings are simply noticed without resisting or reacting to them. The essence of mindfulness meditation is not what one focuses on but rather the quality of awareness the meditator brings to each moment. According to Kabat-Zinn, "It is this investigative, discerning observation of whatever comes up in the present moment that is the hallmark of mindfulness and differentiates it most from other forms of meditation. The goal of mindfulness is for you to be more aware, more in touch with life and whatever is happening in your own body and mind at the time it is happeningthat is, the present moment." The MBSR program consists of a series of classes involving meditation, movement, and group process. There are over 240 MBSR programs offered in health care settings around the world.

Meditation is not considered a medical procedure or intervention by most insurers. Many patients pay for meditation training themselves. Frequently, religious groups or meditation centers offer meditation instruction free of charge or for a nominal donation. Hospitals may offer MBSR classes at a reduced rate for their patients and a slightly higher rate for the general public.

Precautions

Meditation appears to be safe for most people. There are, however, case reports and studies noting some adverse effects. Thirty-three to 50% of the people participating in long silent meditation retreats (two weeks to three months) reported increased tension, anxiety, confusion, and depression. On the other hand, most of these same people also reported very positive effects from their meditation practice. Kabat-Zinn notes that these studies fail to differentiate between serious psychiatric disturbances and normal emotional mood swings. These studies do suggest, however, that meditation may not be recommended for people with psychotic disorders, severe depression, and other severe personality disorders unless they are also receiving psychological or medical treatment.

Side effects

There are no reported side effects from meditation except for positive benefits.

Research and general acceptance

The scientific study of the physiological effects of meditation began in the early 1960s. These studies prove that meditation affects metabolism, the endocrine system, the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system. In one study, three advanced practitioners of Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices demonstrated the ability to increase "inner heat" as much as 61%. During a different meditative practice they were able to dramatically slow down the rate at which their bodies consumed oxygen. Preliminary research shows that mindfulness meditation is associated with increased levels of melatonin. These findings suggest a potential role for meditation in the treatment and prevention of breast and prostrate cancer.

KEY TERMS

Dervish A member of the Sufi order. Their practice of meditation involves whirling ecstatic dance.

Mantra A sacred word or formula repeated over and over to concentrate the mind.

Transcendental meditation (TM) A meditation technique based on Hindu practices that involves the repetition of a mantra.

Despite the inherent difficulties in designing research studies, there is a large amount of evidence of the medical benefits of meditation. Meditation is particularly effective as a treatment for chronic pain. Studies have shown meditation reduces symptoms of pain and pain-related drug use. In a four-year follow-up study, the majority of patients in a MBSR program reported "moderate to great improvement" in pain as a result of participation in the program.

Meditation has long been recommended as a treatment for high blood pressure; however, there is a debate over the amount of benefit that meditation offers. Although most studies show a reduction in blood pressure with meditation, medication is still more effective at lowering high blood pressure.

Meditation may also be an effective treatment for coronary artery disease. A study of 21 patients practicing TM for eight months showed increases in their amount of exercise tolerance, amount of workload, and a delay in the onset of ST-segment depression. Meditation is also an important part of Dean Ornish's program, which has been proven to reverse coronary artery disease.

Research also suggests that meditation is effective in the treatment of chemical dependency. Gelderloos and others reviewed 24 studies and reported that all of them showed that TM is helpful in programs to stop smoking and also in programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Studies also imply that meditation is helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and in treating anxiety-related disorders. Furthermore, a study in 1998 of 37 psoriasis patients showed that those practicing mindfulness meditation had more rapid clearing of their skin condition, with standard UV light treatment, than the control subjects. Another study found that meditation decreased the symptoms of fibromyalgia; over half of the patients reported significant improvement. Meditation was one of several stress management techniques used in a small study of HIV-positive men. The study showed improvements in the T-cell counts of the men, as well as in several psychological measures of well-being.

Resources

BOOKS

Astin, John A., et al. "Meditation" in Clinician's Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited by Donald Novey. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 2000.

Baime, Michael J. "Meditation and Mindfulness" in Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, edited Wayne B. Jonas and Jeffrey S. Levin. New York: Lippencott, Williams and Wilkins, 1999.

ORGANIZATIONS

Insight Meditation Society. 1230 Pleasant, St. Barre, MA 01005. (978) 355-4378. FAX: (978) 355-6398. http://www.dharma.org.

Mind-Body Medical Institute. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. One Deaconess Road, Boston, MA 02215. (617) 632-9525. http://www.mindbody.harvard.edu.

OTHER

Videos are available from the organizations listed above.

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Chrisman, Linda. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chrisman, Linda. "Meditation." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. 2006. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3451601037.html

Meditation

Meditation

A traditional spiritual exercise in both Eastern and Western mystical systems, usually involving a static sitting position, a blocking of the mind from normal sensory stimuli, and a concentration upon divine thoughts or mystical centers in the human body.

In Christian and some Eastern traditions, meditation was often enhanced by asceticismprolonged fasts and other physical mortification practiced in order to assert the supremacy of the soul over all physical and sensory demands. Certain well-defined stages of spiritual growth are recorded by saints and mystics, notably the awakening of the soul, contemplation, the dark night of the soul, illumination, and spiritual ecstasy.

Several basic types of meditation can be distinguished by the particular nature of the alteration of consciousness sought. For example, Zen meditation tends to produce a focused concentration in the present. The person who meditates in this way is perfectly alert but takes no notice of surrounding noises or other phenomena. Instead of blocking outside distractions, the meditator allows them to come and go as quickly as they arise, always retaining perfect concentration.

In Hindu-based meditation forms, an attempt is made to distance oneself from the "illusionary" outside world of noise and distractions and retreat completely into the "real" world of the inner self, which causes a trancelike state. In such a condition one can easily step into a state of ecstacy and lose consciousness of the outside world.

Meditation in the West is frequently identified with contemplation of a religious symbol or pious story. That is, the consciousness remains awake and alert as in Zen, but also shut off from the outside world in total concentration upon a predetermined thought. Roman Catholics, for example, have a number of meditative practices built around contemplation of particular episodes in the life of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or the saints, while Protestants have extolled the value of contemplating verses of Scripture.

Eastern meditation traditions are numerous and complex. In Hinduism, for example, meditation was usually taught by a guru only to a properly qualified pupil who had already followed a pathway of sadhana, or spiritual discipline that ensured purification at all levels. The various yoga systems describe such spiritual disciplines in detail, with special emphasis on moral restraints and ethical observances. Meditation without such preliminary training was considered premature and dangerous.

The most generally known system has been that of the sage Patanjali (ca. 200 B.C.E.), who taught that in order to experience true reality one must transcend the body and mind. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines a program of physical exercises (to strengthen a meditation posture), breathing techniques (to purify the body), withdrawal of the senses, concentration, and meditation, culminating in mystical experience.

In this process supernormal powers might be manifested, but were to be ignored. The ultimate goal of meditation was spiritual illumination transcending individuality and extending the consciousness beyond time, space, and causality, but also interfusing it with the everyday duties and responsibilities of the individual. Thus it was not necessary for an illuminated individual to renounce the world, and there are stories in Hindu scriptures of kings and princes who did not forsake their mundane tasks after transcendental experience.

It is clear from consideration of the practices of many religions that meditation may be active or passive, depending upon the techniques employed and the degree of purification of the meditator. Fixed concentration upon one mental image, sound, or center in the body is a passive mechanical technique that may bring relaxation, a sense of well-being, and other benefits, but is not in itself spiritual or transcendental in the traditional sense of those terms. The popular so-called transcendental meditation technique of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi appears to be of this order, hence criticism from practitioners of other systems.

In active meditation systems, there must be purification at all levelsphysical, mental, emotional, and spiritualand the mind is exercised creatively before it can transcend its own activity. Meditators who have attained stages of higher consciousness or mystical illumination testify that there is a gradual process of refinement arising from the activity of a mysterious energy that Hindu mystics call kundalini that modifies the entire organism.

Today the variety of meditation techniques practiced throughout the world all have their advocates and practitioners in the West. Both teachers and texts are available to the aspiring student, and psychologists have dedicated research time to exploring the variant effects of the differing systems, from Zen meditation to Sufi dancing to drug-enhanced states of consciousness to Christian contemplative practices. Each of the meditation practices has particular benefits, though the majority of those benefits are only received as the practice is placed within a larger system of spiritual activity, with which it is normally integrated.

Sources:

Augustine of Hippo. Confessions of St. Augustine. Edited by Francis J. Sheed. New York: Sheed, 1943.

John of Ruysbroeck. Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage. Translated by P. Synschenk. London, 1916.

Gopi Krishna. Kundalini, the Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1970.

. Kundalini for the New Age: Selected Writings. Edited by Gene Kieffer. New York: Bantam, 1988.

Luk, Charles. The Secrets of Chinese Meditation. London: n.p.,1964.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Ways of Meditation. Evanston, Ill.: Stellium Press, 1974.

Patanjali The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. Translated by M. N. Dvidedi. Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1890.

Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness. London: n.p., 1911.

Van Over, Raymond. Total Meditation. New York: Collier Books, 1978.

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meditation

meditation as covered by this entry refers primarily to Buddhist meditation, that is the set of techniques within Buddhism known by the Sanskrit term bhāvanā and its cognates. These techniques are varied, and mostly involve both ‘mind’ and ‘body’ in Western terms. Thus ‘mental’ imagery may be used to affect the ‘body’, and ‘bodily’ techniques such as breath control may be employed to calm or direct the ‘mind’. All these techniques have come to be known in modern English as ‘meditation’, while equivalent techniques in Hinduism are more frequently referred to as yoga. In fact, present-day Hindu and Buddhist practices have many similarities, both going back to a common body of Indian ascetic procedures. The term ‘yoga’ is used within some Buddhist traditions, and some modern Hindu teachers use the term ‘meditation’ (e.g. the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ‘transcendental meditation’). Related techniques are also found in East Asia (qigong, etc.), in Islam (among the Sūfis), and in Judaism and Christianity.

As with other aspects of Buddhism, one can make a general distinction between the Southern (Theravāda) schools (found today in Śrī Lanka and South-East Asia), the Northern schools (Tibet and Mongolia), and the Eastern Schools (China and East Asia). Theravādin Buddhist societies tend to use relatively simple methods, and place emphasis on breathing practices and body mindfulness. Codified by the fourth-to fifth-century author Buddhaghosa in the Visuddhimagga, they were mostly not taught to lay people until modern times. Tibetan methods employ the full range of ‘Tantric’ yogic practices, involving complex imaginal transformations of the self and environment and the use of ritual formulae (mantra) and gestures (mudrā). Tibetan Tantra also includes procedures involving visualized and actual use of sexual intercourse, but these have never been common in Tibet or Mongolia, since most practitioners are monks and such practices are believed to require a very high degree of mind–body training for successful performance.

Tantric techniques are known in East Asia (e.g. Shingon in Japan), but the most common form of meditation in East Asia, known in Chinese as Ch'an (Japanese Zen), involves simple sitting for prolonged periods and, in some traditions, contemplation on paradoxical statements (Japanese kōan); both are intended to force a breakthrough to non-conceptual insight. While Theravādin meditation traditions were practised primarily in monastic and ascetic contexts until the growth of lay meditation centres in the twentieth century, Tibetan meditation has a longer tradition of lay involvement, going back to the early days of Buddhism in Tibet. East Asian traditions, which represent a synthesis of Buddhist and indigenous (Daoist, etc.) meditation tradition, have been incorporated to some degree into martial arts and other aspects of secular life, although the ‘Zen’ nature of Japanese flower-arranging, tea ceremonies, etc., has been exaggerated by Western popularizers.

Two terms widely used in both Theravādin and Tibetan contexts are śamatha (Pali samatha) and vipaśyanā (Pali vipassanā). They may be translated roughly as ‘calm meditation’ and ‘insight meditation’. Śamatha meditation is directed at the attainment of a series of mind–body states (dhyāna, Pali jhāna; also samādhi) characterized by calmness, reduction of involvement with sensory input, one-pointedness of mind, etc. Vipaśyanā is aimed at insight into the true nature of reality, ultimately leading to the duplication of the enlightenment or awakening (bodhi) of the historical Buddha. Śamatha is regarded as a necessary precursor to vipaśyanā, but it may also be practised for its own sake, since it is held to lead to the attainment of siddhi (psychic or magical powers).

Dominant forms of Theravāda meditation in the West today emphasize vipaśyanā and downplay śamatha, but monastic and recluse traditions in South-East Asia employ complex śamatha practices which are associated with the ascription of magical powers to highly-attained monk meditators. In the Tibetan context, śamatha and vipaśyanā are usually regarded as preliminary practices to Tantra. The contrast between the attainment of specific mind–body states and the attainment of insight into reality nevertheless forms part of Tantra too. There is a great elaboration of specific states associated with particular Tantric deities and practices, often intended to bring about specific this-worldly results (health, protection, prosperity).

Skilled meditators can undoubtedly develop a high level of conscious control over bodily processes (e.g. body temperature, breathing process). Indigenous theoretical models treat body–mind processes as aspects of a single whole, and may provide useful pointers to the direction a Western scientific understanding of these processes might take.

Geoffrey Samuel

Bibliography

Beyer, S. (1973). The Cult of Tārā: magic and ritual in Tibet. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Nyanaponika, T. (1969). The heart of Buddhist meditation. Rider, London.


See also Buddhism and the body; relaxation; religion and the body; yoga; Zen.

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COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "meditation." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Meditation

Meditation. A form of mental prayer. In Christianity, the term has been used since 16th cent., in distinction from contemplation, as a discursive activity, which involves thinking about passages from scripture and mysteries of the faith with a view to deeper understanding and a loving response. Many methods of meditation were taught, especially by the Jesuits. Outside this historical context, the term meditation is used more widely, embracing contemplation; and in this wider sense, is applied to practices of many different kinds in virtually all religions.

Judaism

The Heb. terms hitbonenut, kavvanah, and devekut all refer to concentration on the spiritual world; they were much used by the kabbalists. The merkabah mystics strove for a contemplative vision of the merkabah, and the later kabbalists attempted to commune with the world of the sefirot (emanations from God). The meditative practices of the ḥasidim were influenced by the kabbalists of Safed, whose doctrines were largely handed down orally.

Hinduism

See DHYĀNA.

Buddhism

Meditation in Buddhism is the process of training, developing, and purifying the mind, which is likened to an animal (especially an elephant or an ox) which is dangerously destructive when wild, but supremely useful when tamed. It is the third element in the triple training (Skt., triśikṣā) along with conduct or ethics (Skt., śīla) and knowledge or wisdom (Skt., prajñā), and as such is essential to Buddhist practice. General terms for it include dhyāna/jhāna (Skt., Pāli, ‘thinking’), concentration (Skt., samādhi), and mindfulness (Skt., smṛti). There are two aspects, calming the mind (Skt., śamatha) and using the calm mind to see reality clearly (vipassanā). These are distinguishable but not distinct.

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JOHN BOWKER. "Meditation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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meditation

meditation, religious discipline in which the mind is focused on a single point of reference. It may be a means of invoking divine grace, as in the contemplation by Christian mystics of a spiritual theme, question, or problem; or it may be a means of attaining conscious union with the divine, e.g., through visualization of a deity or inward repetition of a prayer or mantra (sacred sound). Some forms of meditation involve putting the body in a special position, such as the seated, cross-legged lotus position, and using special breathing practices. Employed since ancient times in various forms by all religions, the practice gained greater notice in the postwar United States as interest in Zen Buddhism rose. In the 1960s and 70s the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi popularized a mantra system known as Transcendental Meditation. Meditation is now used by many nonreligious adherents as a method of stress reduction; it is known to lessen levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. The practice has been shown to enhance recuperation and improve the body's resistance to disease.

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Meditation

Meditation


Meditation, from the Latin word meditari (to meditate), means deep or continued reflection and is often seen as preparatory to contemplation, a state of direct spiritual or intuitive seeing. Meditation is found in all religious traditions but varies as to method, focus, and religious objectives. Practices range from the apophatic, an emptying procedure to clear consciousness (via negativa ), to the cataphatic, where a specific image, idea, or deity is kept in mental focus (via positiva ). Apophatic practices tend to be more cognitive and intellectual (mind), whereas cataphatic practices are more emotional and devotional (heart). Meditation is the focus of scientific research to determine the neurophysiological conditions productive of meditative awareness.


See also Prayer and Meditation; Spirituality

ernest simmons

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SIMMONS, ERNEST. "Meditation." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Meditation

267. Meditation

See also 59. BUDDHISM ; 285. MYSTICISM

omphaloskepsis
a form of religious meditation practiced by Eastern mystics who stare fixedly at their own navels to induce a mystical trance. Also called omphalism .
thanatopsis
a survey of or meditation upon death.
TM
the abbreviation for transcendental meditation, a form of contemplation in which the mind, released by the repetition of a mantra, becomes calm and creative.

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