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What is Meditation?
Meditation can be described as a mental and physical process that helps a person dissociate himself / herself from every thought and feeling to achieve a state of complete awareness. This process plays an important role in every religion though the word 'meditation' may not be used describe it on every occasion.
Meditation does not always have religious connotations attached to it. It is a natural part of the human experience and is increasingly used as a therapy for promoting good health and boosting the immune system. Practicing meditation helps a great deal in achieving inner calm and sharpness of mind and perception.
Successful meditation simply means being aware. It also means living each moment as it unfolds without bringing in judgment or rational thought into the picture.
What is Buddhist meditation?
Meditation involves both the body and the mind. This is particularly important for Buddhists since they want to avoid 'duality.' Therefore, when they meditate, Buddhists try to involve the body and the mind as a single entity. The most common definition of meditation is to take control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful and focused and makes the meditator more aware. The express purpose of meditation is to make the mind stop rushing about in an aimless thought. No wonder, people often say that the aim of meditation is to still the mind. There are many methods of meditating, some of which have been in use for a long time and have benefited many.
People can meditate on their own or in groups. Meditating in a group is a good way to remind a person about he/she belonging to a larger Buddhist community and part of the larger community of beings of every species.
Buddhist meditation helps turn our awareness away from the world of activity that usually connects us to the inner experience of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. For Buddhists, the realm of meditation comprises mental states such as calm, concentration and one-pointedness (which comprises the six forces: hearing, pondering, mindfulness, awareness, effort and intimacy). Meditation consciously employs different techniques that encourage these aforementioned states to arise.
Practiced by the Zen school of Buddhism, Zazen involves sitting one of several available positions and meditating till we become fully in touch with the true nature of reality. Every Zen school practices Zazen in a different way. For instance, Soto meditators face a wall as they meditate whereas Rinzai meditators sit in a circle facing each other.
Any stable posture that keeps the spine straight is suitable for meditation. One can practice meditation even while sitting on a chair. The classic posture for Zen meditation is the Lotus position that involves sitting cross-legged with the left foot on top of the right thigh and vice-versa. However, beginners may find this posture quite difficult. In that case, the half lotus position can come handy (only one foot is put on top of the opposite thigh). Simply sitting cross-legged or sitting on a cushion with knees bent and lower legs tucked under upper legs would also help achieve the desired end.
Methods of Meditation
Some of the classic methods of meditation just concentrate on the meditator's own breathing. The person may sit and concentrate on his/her breathing without doing anything to alter the way of breathing. It just means following the breathing and becoming one with it.
However, this method of meditation is not as easy as it sounds. Therefore, some meditators try keeping count of the breaths. In case of any distraction, they can stop for a moment and go back to their exercise again.
There are many other methods of meditation practiced by people all around the globe. Some of these methods involve chanting mantras or even concentrating on particular objects like a flower or a candle flame. Meditation doesn't only involve keeping still. In fact, walking meditation is a popular Zen way of doing it. Besides, repetitive movements using beads or prayer wheels are used in other faiths.
The most important lesson taught by meditation is self-discipline. The meditator learns to keep going, no matter how bored or uncomfortable he/she may be.
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