Meditation and WellBeing

Meditation and Mindfulness have become quite popular in recent years, yet most people cannot really define meditation, understand its purposes, or appreciate what meditation is good for.

Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness.
Meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. The practice is usually done individually.

What is the definition of meditation in Psychology?

In Psychology, meditation is defined as “a family of mental training practices that are designed to familiarize the practitioner with specific types of mental processes”.

Meditation is practiced in one of three modes:
• Concentration : focusing attention on a single object, internal or external (Focused Attention Meditation).
• Observation : paying attention to whatever is predominant in your experience in the present moment, without allowing the attention to get stuck on any particular thing (Open Monitoring Meditation).
• Awareness : allowing awareness to remain present, undistracted, and not engaged with either focusing or observing.

Other characteristics of meditation include:
• Meditation is an individual practice, even if done in groups (such as in a meditation retreat).
• Meditation is often done with eyes closed, but not always (Zazen and Trataka, for example, are open-eye styles of meditation).
• Meditation usually involves bodily stillness. But there are also ways to do walking meditation, and to integrate mindfulness in other activities.

I love meditating while working, walking, cooking, dancing, etc. It is My Second Nature.
Originally, the word “meditate” means to think deeply about something.

However, when Eastern Contemplative practices were “imported” to Western Culture, this is the term that was used to define them, for lack of a better word.

Nowadays, Meditation has more the meaning of this exercise of focusing attention than to reflect deeply.

Here are some other definitions of meditation.

In Christianity, meditation is a type of contemplative prayer that creates a sense of union with God, or the contemplation of religious themes.
In Buddhism, meditation is one of the three core practices for the purification of mind and attainment of Nirvana.
Besides focus of attention, meditation also involves mental calmness and introspection (“looking within”).

Meditation is, thus, somewhat different than other personal development or spiritual exercises, such as :
• Affirmation, self-hypnosis, or guided visualization, where the objective is more to imprint a
specific message on the mind.
• Pure relaxation, where the goal is only to release bodily tensions.
• Prayer, where there is a conscious flow of thinking and feeling, directed towards a Deity.
• Contemplation, where the thought processes is actively engaged in order to deepen the
understanding of a subject or concept.
• Trance dancing, where the main goal is usually to produce visions or an altered state of
• Breathing exercises like Pranayama and most types of Qigong, where the focus is on producing a certain pattern of breathing and purify the body.

All these practices are also good and helpful, but they are different than meditation (although some meditation techniques may make use of some of these elements).

There are hundreds of scientifically proven benefits of meditation.

Studies confirm the experience of millions of practitioners : meditation will keep you healthy, help prevent multiple diseases, make you emotionally well, and improve your performance in basically any task, physical or mental.

Some of the benefits come as soon as with 1 week of daily practice; other benefits take longer to mature and will depend on your intensity of practice.

Meditation is good for several things, different things to different people.

However, it is usually one of these three things that drive people to practice :
• Specific benefit : improving your health, wellbeing, performance, focus.
• Growth : emotional healing, self-knowledge, self-discipline, letting go.
• Spirituality : connecting with God, inner peace, and other spiritual goals.

Whatever drives you to meditate, that is good.
You will get the benefits you seek, in the proportion of your consistency and commitment to building this habit.
But the wider you cast your net, the more fish you will get, so I would encourage you to practice not only for one particular reason, but for the sake of the practice itself.
Your motivation may also evolve by time, as the practice starts to unfold in your life.