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About Meditation

Some research in order to define the term Meditation and provide a simple definition.
(as simple as possible…)

Largely practiced in the western world and at all levels of society (hospitals, jails, schools, companies… Google is one of them), Mindfulness meditation is no longer presented as an awakening pathway reserved for a few chosen ones who have opted to live “apart”, it is now a technique studied in universities and research laboratories.
In addition to being a simple and free remedy that reduces stress and anxiety, aids sleeping, protects the heart, develops empathy and increases creativity, it also provides answers to a deeper and human yearning.
The practice of meditation has increased in popularity since the sixties in the United States, thanks to several masters – Chogyam Trungpa, Shuryu Suzuki among them – and more recently thanks to Pr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American and pioneer who has helped create a bridge between meditation and medicine.

To meditate is to go back to the present.

What is meditation?
Meditation as we know it comes from the East and is linked to Buddhism. We live in an era of constant attention deficit disorder with the consequences we all know: stress, depression, high blood pressure, anxiety…
Meditation helps to control the mind and brings you back in the present moment.
To meditate is to go back to the present.

Today, the most popular form of meditation is called “mindfulness”, a lovely term to describe a mind in a state of awareness, a mind in the present.

Where does the term meditation come from?
The word meditation comes from the Latin “meditari”, which is derived from “mederi” and means “to take care of” (a root we also find in the word medicine).

According to the Buddhist tradition, meditation is “to take care of”.
How? By helping us to pay attention. If I pay attention to words spoken to me by another person, and I listen to the words spoken, I can retain them. If I don’t, what has been said will be soon forgotten.
Today, the most popular form of meditation, the one we hear about in many articles and books, and the most widely known is also called “mindfulness”, a lovely term to describe a mind in a state of awareness, a mind in the present.

A FEW HINTS REGARDING THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION

Posture
In order to meditate, you should position your body on a chair or on a meditation cushion. You should feel grounded, trying to maintain a straight spine without any tension or stiffness.
The eyes should preferably be open, half-closed actually, as we can see in representations of Buddha.
You should look downward at a distance of about 5 feet (1m50) in front of you, keeping your head straight and in the axis of the body.
In this position, your look is relaxed, it is not focused on anything particular, it is simply “opened”. The legs should be parallel if you meditate on a chair, or crossed in easy pose if you meditate on a cushion (you don’t have to be in the lotus position, which can be quite painful for westerners and their backs!).
The hands are placed on the thighs; the mouth is slightly opened to relax the jaws.

The cult of the body, far from being a solution, reinforces a tendency to surrender the body to our will instead of opening ourselves to it in order to feel that we “are also (and perhaps above all…) a body”.

Why is the posture so important?
It is rather unsettling, since as men and women living in the 21st century we don’t pay much attention to our posture unless we suffer from a particular condition. We often live as if our body was an instrument in the service of the mind. We want it to serve its purpose without really getting in touch with it.
The cult of the body, far from being a solution, reinforces a tendency to surrender the body to our will instead of opening ourselves to it in order to feel that we “are also (and perhaps above all…) a body”.
Moreover, the posture, while helping us to get in touch with our body in all its uprightness and dignity, helps also to gain clarity and reinforces our spirit.

By developing awareness for the breathing, the person who is meditating can slowly synchronize the mind and the body.

Breathing
In order to “inhabit” the present, the person who meditates must focus the attention on breathing.
Breathing is the point of reference allowing you to know if you are or not in the present moment. Indeed, if you don’t follow your breathing because your attention is focused on other thoughts, emotions or sensations, (which by the way is totally normal, it is the nature of our mind), you know that you have to go back to it and start pay attention to the breathing again.
By developing awareness for the breathing, the person who is meditating can slowly synchronize the mind and the body.

The mind
Meditation often leads to two states: restlessness (the mind keeps jumping from one thought to the next) and a kind of torpor (feeling sleepy).
It is the reason why meditation is an exercise which consists of finding a balance between letting go and maintaining close control of the situation.

Meditation (of the Mindfulness type) invites you to feel present in your own being by being aware of all that makes your being alive: sensations, emotions, thoughts.
The regular practice of meditation helps us develop two major qualities: compassion and a greater sense of awareness of our actions.

Major source used for this research: La Méditation Fabrice Midal (PUF)

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