Meditation A brief History
The benefits of meditation are both vast and incredibly varied. The practice has been around for years and experts believe it could even date back as far as the year 3000 BC. Some of the earliest records of meditation are from around 1500 BC known as Vedantism, a Hindu tradition from India. There are also other records of ancient meditation techniques from Taoist China and Buddhist India for example Dhyana from early Buddhism takes many influences from Vedanta.
By the year 20 BC there are records of meditation appearing in the west. Philo of Alexandria wrote pieces around ‘spiritual exercises’ involving attention and concentration and by the 3rd century Plotinus had developed meditative techniques which were widely adopted, although not among Christian meditators. This could be down to Saint Augustine who claimed to have use the methods of Plotinus and failed to achieve any state of enlightenment or ecstasy.
Meditation nowadays takes many forms. It is still practiced often in Buddhist circles as well as by day to day people. Yoga, as an example, is a form of meditation and was introduced to the west by Vivekanada and other gurus around the 1890s. The tradition of Yoga has become extremely popular in recent years with many different types, although there is a considerable amount of different types or branches of Yoga. Generally, the 9 most popular types are as follows:
1. Hatha Yoga
2. Vinyasa Yoga
3. Iyengar Yoga
4. Ashtanga Yoga
5. Bikram Yoga
6. Hot Yoga
7. Kundalini Yoga
8. Yin Yoga
Meditation isn’t just used in this kind of way however, as much as historically meditation is used in a sequence to push toward reaching a state of enlightenment, it is also common for people to use the basic principles of meditation to bring a sense of relaxation into an otherwise busy and stressful life.
One of the most common techniques used in modern meditation is a form of ‘spacing out’. This is basically a game you can play with yourself where you sit in a relaxed position and pick a spot on a wall or other surface and just focus on it. This allows you to clear your mind of the stresses surrounding you and brings all of your focus on to one thing. You may find at first you can’t focus your mind for very long, but the more often you practice the longer you will find you are able to ‘space out’. The longer you can achieve this state for the better, you’ll feel everything else around you disappear and it gives your brain and spirit a piece of time to just relax. Almost like putting the outside world to sleep, however, as we all know when we sleep we dream and sometimes we can wake up feeling like our mind is more tired than it was when we went to bed! Give this technique a try and see how long you can keep focus, repeat it daily or every couple of days and you will begin to feel the benefits of having a relaxed mind. You may find your breathing slows as well, this is perfectly normal and in fact reduces your heart rate allowing you to feel less stressed. You can do this at home, at work or even In a busy shopping centre. It’s a great technique with some real benefits. Look out for our next blogs on meditation where we’ll take you through some different techniques and styles!