Updated: Feb 4, 2021
Meditation is a formal and ancient practice adopted by certain spiritual paths or religions (Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.). The best known and concrete foundations of meditation technique came from Hinduism, including yoga (The Asanas - postures, Pranayama - breath awareness and Meditation). Oriental texts consider meditation as an instrument that leads towards liberation. Previously practiced mainly in Eastern traditions, meditation has spread throughout Western society and is being used more and more as a therapeutic modality.
Meditation is a process of awareness through which we will try to reach the highest point of our being. Seeking to know himself, training and coordinating the potential of the mind (Satyananda, 1976).
"The Taoist spiritual path aims to gradually awaken the sacred that exists in man and unite it with the sacred of Heaven. Thus, both begin to tune in and walk simultaneously. This happens through practices that seek continuous expansion. of consciousness. The meditation method adopted by the Taoist Society is the Xin Zhai Fa - Method of Purification of the Heart - which is based on stillness and silence. " (Taoist Society of Brazil- 2012)
Meditation can have different definitions according to the context, varying according to the origin of the religion or if it is used in a secular way. However, meditation practices from the East emphasize that measurement is a process that aims to unite the individual's mind, body and soul.
Some definitions that are commonly used for meditation are:
practice of focusing the mind on a single object (for example: on a religious statue, on one's breath, on a mantra);
a mental opening to the divine, aiming at the guidance of a higher power;
a state of silence that is experienced when the mind becomes empty and thoughtless;
contemplation of reality and its aspects (such as impermanence, for example),
achieve higher states of consciousness and unconsciousness.
development of a certain mental quality, such as energy, concentration, mindfulness, kindness, etc.
thought focused and reflected on a theme (as in Christian meditation)
Mindfulness, the term has become known worldwide in business, academic and media environment. Mindfulness means "a state of being conscious or aware on the present moment". The term is not linked to any religion or philosophy. Mindfulness can be practiced both informally (at any time / place) or formally (during meditation). Meditation is usually practiced for a specific period of time while mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day. If you practice meditation you will also be practicing mindfullness.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Thien Buddhist monk, started teaching mindfulness in the mid-1970s. The main vehicle for his early teachings was his books. In “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, for example, Thich Nhat Hanh gave simple instructions on how to apply mindfulness to daily life.
The energy of mindfulness helps us to touch life deeply throughout the day, whether we are brushing our teeth, washing dishes, walking to work, eating a meal or driving. We can be attentive while standing, walking or lying down; when talking, listening, working, playing and cooking. People interested in practicing meditation did not need to spend days at a meditation retreat or find a teacher. His teachings emphasized that mindfulness can be practiced at any time, even when we perform routine tasks.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh- "During the time that you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking - not just from the outside, but from the inside. The inner speech is the thought, the mental speech that comes continuously from within. True silence is the cessation of speaking - both from the mouth and the mind. This is not the type of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant type of silence, a type of very powerful silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes. "
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the most influential figure that made possible mindfulness-meditation be accepted in scientific and academic field. He is a professor emeritus of Medicine and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Full Care in Medicine, at the Medical School of the University from Massachussets. After studying Zen Buddhism with Philip Kapleau, Thich Nhat Hanh and Seungsahn Haengwon and practicing yoga he integrated all the teachings to form his own approach to teaching mindfulness.
After obtaining a doctorate in molecular biology in 1979, mindfulness began to be used as a therapeutic practice by the doctor. He started a stress reduction center at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, developing a mindfulness-based stress reduction course known as MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction). This course is a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, yoga and exploration of patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling and action that lasts eight weeks. The course aims to help patients deal with stress, pain and illness. Kabat-Zinn helped bring the practice of mindfulness meditation to traditional medicine and demonstrated that the practice can bring improvements in physical and psychological symptoms, as well as positive changes in health, attitudes and behaviors. In the book "Living the total catastrophe" he presents detailed instructions on the practice.
"Mindfulness is the awareness that arises paying attention, purposefully, in the present moment, without making judgments," says Kabat-Zinn. "And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom."
Several studies have been showing some benefits of practicing meditation or mindfulness regularly may bring. They include physical, mental, emotional and spiritual improvements:
Beneficial for cardiovascular health
Improve immune response
Improves quality of life in patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, HIV / AIDS, chronic pain (fibromyalgia) and skin diseases
Muscles relax at the same time that tension is released
More cognitive flexibility
Reduced mental rumination
Greater focus, memory, objectivity and creativity
We demonstrate more self-control and adaptability
Significant decrease in anxiety, stress, depression and mental disorders
We demonstrate greater emotional intelligence and resilience
We mirror a greater serenity
Less emotional reactivity / tolerance
Scholars believe it partly helps people accept their experiences - including painful emotions - instead of reacting to them with aversion and avoidance.
Increases self-compassion (self-acceptance) and improves well-being Spiritual (spiritual and religious paths):
"Enlightenment" (awake) - a state of perfect knowledge or wisdom, combined with infinite compassion. The understanding of the relative mode of existence (the way things appear to us) and the final mode of existence (the true nature of these same appearances) including our minds and the outside world (Matthieu Ricard)
In the next post we will talk about meditation and mindfulness techniques.
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