Meditation has become extremely popular in western society
Meditation has become extremely popular in western society
in the recent years however; it has existed for thousands of years and has obviously passed the test of time in various other cultures. Meditation has in fact survived 4500 years of political upheaval and socioeconomic transition (Andreson, 2000). If meditation was not beneficial would it still be around and being practiced thousands of years later? Probably not.
The word meditation tends to cause confusion in many people due to it being unknown or regarded as somewhat metaphysical, new age, or associated with a special dogma or religion. Well as just discussed there is nothing new about meditation and I believe that the foundation for meditation in its purity is not confusing or complex. The very essence of meditation is simplicity, but as Ayaja states in his psychotherapy text, “simplicity is often the most complicated thing” (Ajaya, 1983, 126). I genuinely believe this statement to be accurate in especially western society’s way of life.
Life consists of simple principles, however human beings tend to complicate them within their minds rather than living and being from the soul. I know for my life, I choose to keep meditation and living as simple as possible. I think Stephen Levine says it best when he discussed meditation in his book, A Gradual Awakening, “meditation is for many a foreign concept, somehow distant and foreboding, seemingly impossible to participate in. But another word for meditation is simply awareness. Meditation is awareness” (Levine, 1989, 1). Now, this explanation is indeed workable and practical to an individual wanting to become involved in meditation.
Within this paper, I will offer a simple explanation of the process of meditation, its psychological, physiological, and spiritual benefits as well as a brief description of my personal experience.
There are several types of meditation, however Levine states that “differences in these techniques are basically due to the primary object which is concentrated on through the process” (Levine, 1989, 8). Thus, I will base this paper on mindfulness meditation (Vipassanna) which involves directly participating in each moment as it occurs with as much awareness and understanding as possible. In my opinion this is the simplest and most effective form of meditation and actually a very enlightened way to live your daily life. We live “now” right in this moment and that is what this type of meditation proposes. After all, as Goleman (1972a) states, “the goal of all meditation systems, whatever the ideological orientation or source…is to transform the waking state through the fruits of practice – to die to the life of the ego and be reborn to a new level of experience” (155).
As previously discussed, the focus of this paper will be mindfulness meditation rather than concentration meditation which is what usually comes to mind when the word meditation is mentioned. While concentration meditation focuses on the attention of a single object, mantra, or deity, mindfulness meditation includes a more dynamic inclusive field of observation. It is inclusive of the depth that surrounds us rather than shutting the world out, which is more practical for the average participant in western society (Tacon, 2003 ). It was also suggested by Kabat-Zinn (1994) that mindfulness may be beneficial to many people in western society who might be unwilling to adopt Buddhist traditions or vocabulary. Thus, mindfulness meditation is considerably more appropriate for our society than discussing the full range of meditation techniques from eastern traditions, due to its simplicity, practicality and perceived detachment from eastern philosophies and religions.
Rather than try to choose one definition to describe what mindfulness meditation is, I will present a variety of views from those familiar with this specific practice in order to get the point across more succinctly. First of all, mindfulness meditation is more specifically called “insight meditation” in Buddhist traditions, or vipassanna which is sanskrit and means “to see clearly.” Mindfulness meditation is a large part of Buddhism as well as Zen practice; however it can be successfully practiced detached from these traditions. As previously mentioned it is not necessary to be a practicing Buddhist to enjoy the fruits of mindfulness meditation (Levey & Levey, 1999). At this time I will present varied definitions or descriptions of what mindfulness meditation actually is.
Tacon (2003) describes mindfulness meditation as a “form of meditation that involves stimuli from the field of consciousness rather than the exclusion of stimuli, as in concentration meditation” (67).
Kabat-Zinn (1994) states that mindfulness meditation is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” (108).
Levey and Levey (1999) describe mindfulness meditation in the following way: “mindfulness liberates us from memories of past and fantasies of future by bringing reality of the present moment clearly into focus” (89). They also state that “mindfulness makes us more aware of life’s everyday miracles” (89).
Dunn, Hartigan, and Mikulas (1999) state that “mindfulness practice involves open receptivity and awareness to all stimuli, while evaluation, analysis or classification of those stimuli is suppressed” (p.148).
Ruth Baer states “mindfulness is the nonjudgmental observation of the ongoing streams of internal and external stimuli as they arise” (2003, p. 125).
Although each of these passages utilize different terminology to articulate what mindfulness meditation is; the overall consensus comes down to “being present in life.” In my personal opinion, this may well be the secret that all human beings have been searching for outside of themselves. Being present in the moment is very simple, yet profound. Most people will likely say, “There has got to be more to living than this.” Is there?
Mindfulness meditation focuses on all areas of our being. Levey and Levey (1999) present a variety of these areas in their book, Simple Meditation and Relaxation. These elements of the human being include being mindful or aware of your sense without judgement, being aware of your emotions with acceptance, maintaining awareness of your thinking and allowing thoughts to flow by, just noticing. Another two vital areas include being aware of your breathing as well as what is going on with your body (pp. 95-97).