What is meditation?

The term meditation refers to a number of varied practices. The main aim of meditation practices is to voluntarily alter the mental state and traits. Nevertheless, the way in which this goal is pursued in the variety of methods differs from each other. In short, we can define meditation as a complex emotional and attentional; regulatory practices affecting mental events by engaging a particular attentional set. It has to be cultivated to bring a sense of well-being and emotional balance and for religious reasons.

Different types of meditation

Meditative practices are classified into two categories: concentrative (focused attention) and mindfulness (open monitoring) mediation.

The neuroscientific study of meditation

Mediation has constantly been a subject of scientific research since the 1950’s. The scientific interest in meditation research shows a recent change in cognitive science towards viewing first-person experience and consciousness as an important topic in scientific investigations.

Effects of meditation on the brain

1. State vs trait effects

Based on the assumption that different mental states are followed by different neurophysiological states, mediation may induce two kinds of brain changes. State changes may involve experiences of perceptual clarity, conscious awareness, a deep sense of peacefulness or calm attentional focus towards what is being meditated upon. Trait changes grow with constant practice and are changes that are available when the practitioner is not actively engaged in meditational practices. It is outside the formal pool. Examples of trait changes include a heightened awareness of sensory perceptions, eradication of negative states, peacefulness, feelings and self-awareness.

2. Attention

Just like physical training makes your muscles strong, mental training may strengthen certain circuits in your brain. Since mediation involves a form of attentional training, the cognitive function that may be affected is paying attention.

3. Emotion

In many meditative sessions, practitioners are instructed to keep calm, balanced, non-judgmental state of mind and to notice effects without unpleasant emotions. This feature leads to a state of reduced emotional reactivity resulting in a bigger emotional stability for facing life events. This increases positive feelings and well-being. This helps in dealing with negative encounters.

4. Consciousness

An important aspect of meditation is to willingly induce a changed state of mind during repeated practice. This leads to change in traits in mental states. These changes are experienced and reportable and reflect a change in conscious subjective perception. This leads to a state whereby one feels there is a “self’ that is experiencing the world, emotions, and sensations.

Five easy steps to start your meditation

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place with privacy.
  2. Start very slowly. Sit for 2-3 minutes and increase that time as days continue.
  3. Rise and meditate at intervals.
  4. For consistency, use the same time and place to meditate in the morning or at night.
  5. Be guided; try guided meditations which are great and free.

Meditation is very therapeutic, very many people are joining the bandwagon daily. Famous individuals who use this include Sam Allardyce (football manager), Jennifer Aniston (actress), Ellen DeGeneres (talk-show host), Yukio Hatoyama (former PM of Japan), Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman, and a lot more just to mention a few. They have all said meditation helps them in various ways.

Personally, I tried the guided meditation course from Head Space 10 days trial program and it is pretty good. If you want to start you can give them a try.

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