What is Meditation
There are many definitions of meditation. There might be as many definitions as there are traditional, cultural, and religious histories of the practice. We’ll explore several of these definitions together and draw on similarities and common threads in an effort to find a useful understanding.
Definitions of Meditation
According to Merriam-Webster, to meditate is “to engage in contemplation or reflection.” Also, to meditate is to “engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines meditation as “the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”
In a 2009 article from BBC, “Meditation is a mental and physical course of action that a person uses to separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings in order to become fully aware.” In that same article, Buddhist meditation is defined as “a way of taking control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful and focused, and the meditator becomes more aware.” And a definition for Zen meditation is “living in the present with complete awareness. Which is mindfulness.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR), describes mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” Since 1979, he has offered training in mindfulness, or meditation, in the form of MSBR at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
In a 2016 article from Military Medicine, the authors tell us that “Neuroscientists define meditation as a combination of emotional and attentional training regimes developed to cultivate well-being and improve emotional regulation.”
Mindful Helpdesk Definition
In our efforts to find useful understanding, the Mindful Helpdesk defines meditation as the practice of mindful focusing, through quiet relaxation or contemplation, to strengthen the mind in an effort to gain a higher level of awareness and understanding of our mind, body and soul.
Types if Meditation
As there are many definitions of meditation, there are quite a few versions of the different types of meditations as well. Some popular meditation practices include Guided, Reflective, Visualization, Body Scan, MBSR, Yoga and Transcendental Meditation.
Mindful Helpdesk Types of Meditation
To simplify the different types for a better and more useful understanding, Mindful Helpdesk narrows the many types into three basic categories: attached, detached and active.
From the Christian Meditation website, “in the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה), which means to sigh or murmur, and the other word for meditate, and sîḥâ (Hebrew: שיחה), which means to muse, or rehearse in one’s mind.” By our definition, these could be considered as an attached type of meditation.
Mindful Helpdesk recognizes that making sounds such as humming, reciting prayers, repeating mantras, or affirmations are all methods of attached meditation. Attaching your thoughts to the powerful meanings or sacred practices can help energize our mind, body and soul.
Chanting “Om,” for example, may be a sound as well as a mantra. “When you chant Om, a vibration sound is felt through your vocal cord,” according to The Times of India. The benefits of chanting Om include reducing stress from the mind, clearing and opening up the sinuses, improving cardiovascular health, reducing stress, and relaxing your body. Additionally, according to the Hindu scriptures, “Om connects all living beings to nature and the universe. Om is not just a sound, it’s a wave of the universe.”
If you ever signed up for any one of the many Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra 21-day challenges, you are familiar with Sanskrit phrases, which are also mantras.
I’m defining detached meditation with a term that may not exist: still-mindedness. Detached meditation would be quiet, calm, tranquil, undisturbed breathing while detaching from any thoughts. Just focus on breathing to find the stillness of your mind. You may have heard a comparison of thoughts to clouds. During meditation, if your mind wanders from thought to thought, just let the thoughts float by like clouds. Don’t analyze or react to these thoughts. Don’t attach any meaning or judgment to the thoughts, or to yourself for having the thoughts. Simply let thoughts float by like clouds in the sky. Then, return your focus to your breathing. Detached from your thoughts, you can still your mind.
The third Mindful Helpdesk category of meditation is active meditation. Active meditation is when you’re using mindfulness with daily activities or chores. Tai Chi and Yoga can also fall under the Mindful Helpdesk umbrella of active meditation.
In the book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about a book he had to memorize as a young monk. This book was called The Essential Discipline for Daily Use by Doc The, which contained thoughts used to awaken one’s mind while doing any task. The goal was to assist beginning practitioners to take hold of their own consciousness or mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to the Sutra of Mindfulness which states that, “When walking, the practitioner must be conscious that he is walking. When sitting, the practitioner must be conscious that he is sitting.” Thich Nhat Hanh states that “meditative mindfulness can be used with almost any task” and extrapolates this idea to his task of washing dishes and to his relaxation of drinking tea, or even eating a tangerine. “While washing the dishes one should be completely aware of washing the dishes.” He explains that if he were to wash the dishes while thinking about the cup of tea he’d drink later; he is not in the moment. He explains that when washing the dishes to wash the dishes, he is “completely myself, following my breath, conscious of presence… thoughts and actions.”
You might find a similar meditative state of mind when exercising, doing yoga, or even while gardening.
Whether it’s just breathing without attaching to thoughts, praying, repeating mantras or affirmations, or being in ‘a zone’ with your exercises or chores, I strongly encourage you to try one or all three meditation practices. Make it part of your daily routine. Benefits of meditation are far-reaching.
Benefits of Meditation
There are many benefits to meditation, including scientifically proven health benefits. Other benefits may be classified as spiritual, mental, physical, psychological, and emotional. The most commonly listed benefits are reducing stress and anxiety.
According to the Mayo Clinic, emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Mindful Helpdesk is not a medical website, and I would never suggest meditation as a replacement for any medical treatment. I strongly suggest that you consult with your medical or health care provider before beginning any new breathing and meditation techniques.
“If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.”
~ Nikola Tesla
Resolutions are a popular way to start the new year. Depending on which study you find, research suggests at least 50% of adults in the U.S. make at least one New Year’s resolution. According to an article from last year on Inc.com, “only about 8% of us achieve them.”
What is a resolution? Essentially, it’s a promise one makes to start doing something good, or maybe to stop doing something not-so-good, in the upcoming year. In other words, it’s a wish for the future. How often do we simply wish for something and sadly, never really follow through with the actions necessary to make that wish come true?
Affirmations are stronger than resolutions. Affirmations are statements we repeat to ourselves daily, while resolutions might only be mentioned a few times and forgotten.
Definitions of Affirmation
Affirmations are, according to Success Consciousness, “positive statements, which use the power of words to program the subconscious mind, build new habits, free you from negative habits, motivate and attract success.”
From MindTools.com, “Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.”
In an article found on PsychologyToday.com, an affirmation “can serve to focus attention on goals throughout the day, which, in and of itself, has the potential to promote positive and sustained self-change.”
In her book, The Power of the Positive, author Colleen Archer states that affirmations “are short, positive, present-tense statements about yourself, your life, and the world, that are meant to create positive change in your life.”
Mindful Helpdesk Definition
Mindful Helpdesk defines an affirmation as a short, one or two-sentence statement in the present tense, expressed with emotion, about a specific goal or a positive change you want to see in yourself or in the world around you.
It is important to add that repeating your affirmations should be a daily practice. Set some time aside to recite your affirmations to yourself. This time could be in the morning after you awake or in the evening before going to bed. Perhaps setting calendar reminders while at work, listing your affirmations in the notes section, might be a useful approach. You might text some affirmations to yourself and read them from your smartphone during your commute or at times throughout the day. You can print your affirmations to post them in your room, on your mirror, or in your office or cubicle wall at work to read them as you pass by those frequently traveled locations. You may also consider keeping a journal of affirmations you found or that you’ve even created yourself.
Examples of Affirmations
Have you ever heard of the serenity prayer? Written in the 1930s by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the prayer has slightly changed over the years and has become a popular 12-step affirmation. It reads, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Do you say grace before or after a meal? That, too, can be considered as a positive affirmation.
“Thank you for the food we eat. We are grateful for our home, family and friends, our health, and our work.”
“I am grateful for what the Universe provides, and I am grateful for all that I am.”
“I am open, deserving, and grateful to receive abundance from the Universe.”
There are hundreds of examples of positive affirmations. You’ll find a short list at the end of this blog. Feel free to review and use these. Or, research for your own list. Think of positive changes you’d like to see in your life and create your personal list of affirmations.
Benefits of Affirmations
The Power of the Positive cites four main benefits from an affirmation practice: change negative thoughts to positive thoughts, achieve higher self-esteem, help focus on goals, and help to accept that which you cannot change.
It may have been Lao Tzu who originally said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” This powerful quote has been attributed to several others, including Buddha. Dr. Wayne Dyer may have best summarized this with, “Change your thoughts, change your life.”
Our thoughts, our imagination, and our words send vibrations into the universe. From The Secret, “the Law of Attraction … does so through the magnetic power of your thoughts.” Additionally, “cutting edge science has confirmed that every thought is made up of energy and has its own unique frequency. And when this energy and frequency of a single thought radiates out into the Universe… it attracts the energy and frequencies of like thoughts, like objects, and even like people, and draws those things back to you.”
From Lao Tzu and the Buddha to The Bible to The Secret, and to many other scientific beliefs; the story of thoughts and vibrations and manifestations and receiving what we desire has been reworded and repeated for centuries. There just might be some truth to this idea. Whether through prayer, meditation, mantras, or affirmations, it’s worth giving this idea some serious contemplation. Think positively and send your vibrations.
List of Affirmations
I am patient love.
I am absolute compassion.
I am increasingly understanding.
I am seeing souls on their paths.
I am grateful for what the universe provides.
I am grateful for all that I am.
I am open to and accepting of change.
I am flexible and resilient.
I am resourceful. I draw on my strengths of past achievements to accomplish my goals.
I conquer my challenges. My potential to succeed is extraordinary.
I am aware and I enjoy the abundance in my life.
I feel blessed for the people I attract into my life.
I attract positive friendships with a beautiful sense of humor.
I receive and reflect loving kindness.
I am filled with peace, love and gratitude.
Dear Lord, thank you for your guidance and protection.
Dear Lord, thank you for health and strength.