1 Hour Guided Meditation Audio Program

What is meditationWhat Is Meditation?

Meditation is a relaxation technique that has been around for thousands of years. While it has been more formalized as a spiritual discipline in the East, in recent years thousands of people have been using it in the West as a method to reduce stress levels and maintain mental focus.

Meditation is a focused contemplation and relaxation of the mind and body that promotes inner awareness and reduces stress. While many people do use meditation as part of their religious practices and prayers, it can be used without any mystical attachment as yet another tool in the arsenal against stress.

History
The first literature to mention meditation was the Rig Veda, the earliest recorded literature of northern India, which was composed around 1000 BC. It mentions the ecstasy that is achieved through meditation, but no formal techniques. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, achieved enlightenment while meditating under a bodhi tree around 500 BC. The history of meditation may be rooted in religious and spiritual movements, but this doesn't make a practitioner of meditation an automatic adherent to any one of these religions

Taoism
The first written evidence of formalized meditation appeared in the fifth century BC in the Taoist work, the Tao Teh Ching. This text, still in wide circulation today, emphasizes breath control and presents meditation as a skill to be acquired in stages. The final goal of Taoist meditation involves "fetal breathing", in which one breathes without inhaling or exhaling.

Hinduism and Yoga
Most of the meditative techniques in practice today in Yoga come from a highly creative period in Hinduism as a response to Buddhism between 200 BC and AD 200-400. These techniques and the psychology of meditation are mentioned in the Hindu texts called the Upanishads.

Buddhism
The most detailed Buddhist meditation guide is the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification). This text is a guidebook to meditation and includes how to prepare the surroundings for meditation, specific meditative states, and the consequences of reaching nirvana. Specifically, the text recommends fixing the mind on a single object to assist with focus. The student uses this focus to master meditation to where they reach eight jhanas, or states of absorption. The master meditator, in Buddhism, reaches nirvana for longer successive periods by burning away ego and desires. This path of meditation can allow the adherent to become an awakened being, or arahant, who is freed from the wheel of rebirth.

Christianity
The very first Christian monks of the fourth century were hermits who lived in the Egyptian desert. They used to meditate on top of stone pillars in the desert in order to purify their bodies and become closer to God. They were called the Desert Fathers, and instead of mantras they used phrases from the Scriptures.

In the Catholic tradition, the path to God is through purification, asceticism, prayer, and contemplation, most of which are meditative techniques.

Judaism
Judaism also features contemplative techniques in its worship, but it has a sect who call themselves practitioners of the Kabbalah, who practice meditative techniques specifically. Many of their exercises are built upon those of the Eastern religions.

Islam
Sufism is a mystic sect of Islam in which meditative techniques are also practiced. Ritualized dhikr ceremonies, or sema, often feature some kind of meditation.

Modern Day Western Practice

Yoga is the most widely practiced form of meditation in North America, with many practitioners taking part in classes and at-home exercises in order to realize the fitness and stress reduction benefits. Yoga became popular in the sixties through the hippie or counterculture movement's fascination with Eastern religion and "tuning in and turning on".

"Yoga" is a Sanskrit word derived from the root "yuj", which means to harness horses to a chariot. Through Yoga, the practitioner is taking conscious control of their bodies in order to relax them. Yoga is experiential and often anti-intellectual. Unlike Buddhist techniques where one is supposed to focus on a particular object or thing, Yoga instead encourages practitioners to relax and let go in order to relax the mind and capture the true essence of the self.

Hatha Yoga is specifically the most popular Western form of Yoga. In Hatha Yoga, one practices thousands of postures known as asanas. Other forms of yoga are centred around spiritual and intellectual focus. Mantra Yoga, for example, is the path of sacred sound through the use of mantras, a technique that is also frequently used in yogic meditation.

Tibetan yoga takes the practice even further as a method to cure illness, prepare oneself for death, and recall dreams.

Physical Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is being increasingly used hand-in-hand with Western medicine to alleviate chronic pain, reduce stress, and for its psychological benefits. While there have not been any conclusive studies into the efficacy of meditation, it can be argued that it is simply not possible to quantify the benefits of such an internal practice. Practitioners of meditation often ascribe massive benefits to the practice, including a healthier emotional life, ability to deal with everyday stress, and a deeper mind/body connection.

Guided MeditationBreath control is a huge part of meditation and as such meditation has been shown to produce lasting benefits for asthmatics or anyone else who suffers from a respiratory illness. Western doctors are beginning to advise patients with respiratory issues to follow a regular course of meditation with breath control exercises. In essence, meditation can help those who have trouble breathing to re-learn how to breathe properly.

Guided Meditation
Beginners who are just getting into the practice of meditation often find it easier to use the assistance of a teacher or audio recordings in order to follow along to something during the course of a meditation. Simply performing one hour of guided meditation per week can have huge effects on your breath control, fitness level, and general emotional wellbeing.

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