Meditation – The History, The Benefits & How to Get Started

Most people will have heard of meditation – some will have made it part of their daily practice, some will have thought of starting it when they get time and others may have heard of it but decided for whatever reason that it’s just not for them.

So, let’s explore a little more into the history of meditation, why it is so important, what its benefits are and why at The Sound Temple we are blessed to be able to work with some amazing facilitators who bring their gift of meditation and mindfulness to our space here in Sawyers Valley.  If you fall into the category of having made the decision that meditation is not for you, perhaps we can gently remove any resistance to giving it a try by providing more information and an absolute assurance that we welcome with open arms and open hearts anyone who would like to start on this amazing journey.  Right now is the best time to start!

THE HISTORY OF MEDITATION:

Firstly, let’s delve into the history from East to West.  Although there’s a lack of recorded history on meditation, its roots travel back to ancient times.  Researchers speculate that primitive hunter-gatherer societies may have discovered meditation and its altered states of consciousness while staring at the flames of their fires.  Over thousands of years, meditation evolved into a structured practice.  Indian scriptures called “tantras” mentioned meditation techniques 5000 years ago.

Buddha, “one of history’s major proponents of meditation” and a major meditation icon, first made his mark around 500BC.  His teachings were spread far and wide across the Asian continent.  Separate countries or cultures adopted different forms of the word “meditation” and they each found their own unique way of practicing it.

As Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh clearly indicates, “Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.”

Meditation was spread to Western society thousands of years after it was adopted in the East.  It finally started to gain popularity in the West in the mid-20th century.  In the 1960s and 1970s, many professors and researchers began testing the effect of meditation and learned about its multitude of benefits.

THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION:

Meditation is a practice that gives balance emotionally, physically and spiritually.

The emotional benefits of meditation are many. Today people are using meditation to treat anxiety, stress, and depression. The “deep rest” meditation gives a person dissolves stress and enables him or her to makes better choices through clear thinking. Those who meditate report higher levels of self-esteem. The practice has also been used to help people quit smoking, conquer drug and alcohol addictions, reduce blood pressure and reduce symptoms of pre-menstrual and menopause symptoms.

Buddha was asked “What have you gained from meditation”?  He replied, “Nothing but let me tell you what I have lost – anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death”

Physically, meditation aids in lowering heart rate and blood pressure by slowing down breathing, which reduces the amount of oxygen needed. Along with the mind, muscles gently relax. Through experiments and tests using practiced meditators, Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School, discovered that meditation counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system – the one that gives humans the desire to fight or flee in any conflict situation. While primitive people needed this response in hunting situations, today it is the reason for many of our everyday stresses. During meditation, blood flow is directed to the parasympathetic nervous system instead. This is the part of the brain that triggers relaxation, a slower pulse and energy conservation – the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system.

Meditation offers us a way to explore our own spirituality – we can enter our own inner world where it helps us to realise who we really are at the core of our being.  Some of the spiritual benefits of meditation are:

  • Helps keep things in perspective
  • Helps in attaining peace of mind, happiness
  • Helps you discover your purpose in this world
  • Increased self-actualisation
  • Increase in compassion for all beings
  • Improves one’s thoughts and wisdom
  • Helps you to understand yourself and others deeply
  • Helps to learn and understand the importance of forgiveness
  • Allows you to experience a deeper relationship with your God
  • Leads you to the path of enlightenment
  • Creates a widening and deepening capacity for love
  • Experience a sense of “oneness”
  • Helps you to discover the power of consciousness beyond the ego

With regular meditation practice, we see each living thing as a part of The Universe which brings out a change in the way we live.  We begin to love everyone equally and consider them part of our own family.  A great transformation takes place in us and as a result we give out love and compassion.

If each of us attains inner peace through meditation and develops a love for all, then unity, harmony and peace prevails on our planet.  How amazing would that be!

If you would like to start on your own journey into the wonderful world of meditation, we offer a guided meditation session on Monday evenings from 7.15 pm at The Sound Temple which is a beautiful place to start.  To reserve your place, go to our Events page and choose the best date for you.  Wishing you peace and love.

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