RELIGION AND MEDITATION
We find numerous forms of meditation and yoga offered/taught by hundreds of preachers all over the globe. Many times we find the confusing mixture of religious prayers, yoga and meditation/dhyana being propagated by so called gurus, abas, maas or priests. What is the best form of meditation? What is the relationship between meditation and religion? Whatever your reasons, whether religious or physical, you will be able to avail yourself of the benefits of meditation it provides. It can be a relaxing activity that stimulates the mind, body and spirit of the user. Meditation has been used in various forms by people all around the world for thousands of years. Some use it in a religious context, for others it is a way to reach a spiritual goal and still others use it for purely for its physical benefits. Whatever the reason behind using it, no one can deny the many benefits it can bring. Learning to use it as a tool to relaxation and cleansing can work wonders in a person’s life and is not as difficult as it may initially seem. There are a host of programs, courses, and schools that specialize in teaching the art of meditating in its various forms. Meditation is often used in several eastern religions as a way to clear one’s mind, align the chakras and harness positive energy. Buddhism, Hinduism, Hari Krishnas and various other offshoot religions make use of this tool in their ceremonies and practices. In some eastern faiths religious leaders and gurus have been said to meditate for several days on end. These trances were often said to be the means of achieving enlightenment and oneness with the source of positive energy. The best meditation conditions are usually a quite spot where one can be alone and still. A place surrounded by nature is often ideal. Some use candle, incense, small idols or pictures and other items to help them to find a focus. Some meditation also includes specific forms or poses that can help positive energy to flow better through your body. Even without its religious significance meditating has many good properties. Healing meditation is recommended by many doctors for a variety of ailments and ills. You can find a variety of exercises online that can be used to heal and rejuvenate your body. In Tibet the monks practice a form of healing meditation that has had positive results. People practice healing meditation in order to heal the soul and bring good health to the body. This type of meditation operated on the premise that the body and spirit are connected and that by healing one you heal the other. Other benefits include clearer thought processing, relief from stress, greater energy, balance and calm. Yoga meditation guidance was described thousands of years ago by ancient and mystical sages. Since civilized societies began to emerge, meditation has evolved into a structured practice. Although there is not a lot of recorded information dealing with the history of meditation, its roots can be traced back to ancient times. Some meditation experts suggest thinking of your mind as a glass of muddy water and meditation helps bring clarity. Many forms of meditation result in the clearing of one’s mind. Meditation promotes a sense of calm and heightened awareness. And that’s the real benefit of meditation: teaching your mind to accept whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations come along, without judging them or yourself. Scientific studies show that the regular practice of meditation can be a powerful healing tool. Meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve concentration, clarity and creativity. Additionally, many studies have shown meditation can significantly lower stress, chronic pain and anxiety. From the dawn of time, meditation has been a vital part of self-transformation and holistic health. Many physicians consider meditation a key element of an integrated health program. While scientists are studying whether meditation may afford meaningful health benefits, they are also looking at how it may do so. Researchers say that meditation works at least in part by lowering your body’s responsiveness to the stress hormone norepinephrine. But meditation interrupts that flood of stress chemicals, so you don’t feel on guard or tense. As your entire being becomes absorbed in meditation, every stress and strain of daily life will fall from your shoulders. Through meditation, one can cultivate a wonderful inner quiet that will melt away stress and nervousness. In general, meditation produces a reduction in multiple biological systems, resulting in a state of relaxation. This is accomplished as Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes the healing state. One of many benefits of meditation is that it opens your mind to new ideas. What is more important is the acquisition of the purity and concentration of mind in moments of meditation. Purity of the mind achieved during meditation is essential to gain access to Higher Self. The modern era has changed people’s perspectives on spirituality, religion, and meditation. While it is difficult to assign any clear date as to when the “modern world” became “modern,” one thing is clear: religion is not what it used to be. One possible replacement for religion in many Western societies is meditation, an amorphous, ambiguous term to refer to how one feels spiritually without having to associate with greater religious institutions. It could be said that meditation and religion, could be two sides of the same coin for some modern inhabitants of this world. No longer do some people practice religion but rather they might say that they practice meditation, a type of solitary inner contemplation that can literally be done nearly anywhere. No longer constrained by physical structures such as Churches, Temples, etc., a person can practice at home, in a hotel room, at the office, or even on an airplane. Meditation, as opposed to religion, enables a person to engage his or her own self at an interesting and fascinating rate. This is something that religion, as practiced in physical locations, has a difficult time in adapting to the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Religion is often used as a type of coping mechanism for crises. Nevertheless, how can a person discuss the crises with their priest if they are in the middle of their work day and won’t see their priest until Sunday? Alternatively, how can a person who is stressed out investigate their emotions, feelings, and twisted behavioral patterns while on vacation in Italy when their priest and therapists are in the United States? Meditation, whatever form that might take, definitively allows a person to take their inner reflection techniques and coping mechanisms on the go. Some people might turn to prayer to assist in sorting out complicated mental distractions. Others practice hatha yoga. Others might simply sit in silence to calm their mind, nerves, and untangle their emotions. Another difference between meditation and religion in the modern world is the practical, physiological effect on the body. Religion, even more so than meditation, is a difficult term to define simply because it’s a theoretical mental construct. The only concrete places one can define religion are in places of worship or home shrines. Religion in this form may prove to be difficult in having any effect on one’s physiological body since these physical places of worship are often simultaneously defined by their distractions, whether they are social, monetary, or activity based. Meditation can easily be practiced by oneself allowing the body to deeply explore itself through isolation and contemplation. Whereas practicing religion may prove to be more stressful than helpful in some instances, practice meditation, even in its most social atmospheres such as yoga class, is almost always relaxing, giving the body and mind much needed boosts of good chemicals, such as endorphins. Religion as a conceptual space for negotiation between the spiritual world and one’s inner world is no longer adequate for many modern people. Reasons for this breakdown could be numerous, owning blame to the modern breakdown of the supernatural with the exploration of the sciences or just humanity’s natural skepticism and curiosity. Regardless, meditation offers a viable, modern alternative that is not linked to supernatural belief or a belief in a Zeus-like figure. Meditation places emphasis on one’s own self, which some might consider to be the only concrete part of his or her own existence. Through a cultivation of this self, then, and not negotiating peace with an unseen presence, modern people may feel more comfortable being spiritual. Being aware of how we think and react requires that we give greater priority to pausing from our often rushed and harried existence, and instead contemplating. Meditation is, among other things, the means by which we can “stare” at ourselves. Meditative introspection is a means by which we can first notice harmful patterns of thinking, realize they are not inevitable, and then work to correct them. By developing this ability will also enable us to step back from a situation and be aware of personal emotions, feelings, motivations, etc., as well as those of others, before making important decisions. Too often, however, we simply react. Revealing the path to the true God—not a feeling or a sensation, not a vague notion, not an entity of our own imagining, and certainly not something that exists within ourselves, but rather the self-existing, self-sustaining Creator of all things—is the major aim of the Bible. Through its pages God reveals Himself, on His own terms and by His own definitions, clear and unequivocal. God is described as being synonymous with love (1 John 4:16), and His actions back up this claim. He demonstrated it by allowing His own Son to die so that humanity could be reconciled to Himself (John 3:16–17). As we embark on this path, we realize that a relationship with God involves conforming to a way of life that, when put into practice, leads to happiness and joy, to peace and patience, to a truly rewarding and fulfilling life. Talking of God, the psalmist said: “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And to his instruction on meditation, Paul added, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). The starting point to inner peace is awakening to the reality that we should not look to ourselves for the answers but rather defer to God (Proverbs 3:5–8); that is the true expression of sacrificing self and ego. Meditation can have many practical benefits and holds out the hope of a variety of positive outcomes. Part of this undoubtedly involves looking within ourselves, challenging the way we think and creating new and better mental attitudes. But if we wish to attain the source of love, true peace of mind and the path to God, we will need to embark on more than a mystical self-improvement program. God declares: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6). This crystal-clear and pure water is freely available to all, but to find it we must first acknowledge our thirst and then seek to quench it in the right place.