What is Meditation?

Meditation (also referred to as “mindfulness”) is a practice used primarily to increase calmness, focus and physical relaxation within the mind and body. These benefits are provided by learning techniques such as awareness of the breath, mindful postures, focused attention, open mental attitudes, mantras, and more. There are many varieties of meditation that are practiced and taught throughout the world.

Origins in History

Meditation is of ancient Eastern origin and primarily started within the Buddhist religion. It has been practiced for thousands of years, but more recently has grown in popularity and become a mainstay practice in Western culture. Meditation is not only used as a spiritual practice, but for clarity of mind and a number of other health-related purposes.


While there are many different ways to meditate, there is no one right way to meditate. The type of meditation a person chooses to practice is dependent upon what is right for them. Some of the more common types of meditation are:

Transcendental meditation is the most common form of mantra-based meditation. Mantras are verbal phrases that are repeated over and over, either out loud or in the mind. The goal of Transcendental meditation is the eventual leaving of the body, making it one of the more advanced forms of meditation. It focuses on the breath as well, and changes the breath to change a person’s state of being in order to rise above all that is impermanent.

Mindfulness meditation, also called ‘Vipassana’, is of Buddhist origin. Mindfulness meditation focuses on the practice of being present, letting the mind wander, while practicing detachment from each thought. Mindfulness also teaches an observational awareness of breath. The ultimate goal of mindfulness is to cultivate a sense of mental calmness and clarity.

Zen meditation is the practice of relaxing the body and opening the mind to discovering insight into the nature of one’s being. In this practice, various postures are taught as well as learning to close the mind to thought and images. The goal is to slow the heart rate and become mindful of the present, completely unaware of one’s subconscious.

Kundalini is a practice of meditation named for the rising stream of energy that exists in human beings. The intention is to become aware of the rising stream of energy that has its root in the kundalini chakra, and concentrate on the breath and flow of energy moving upward to the top of the head.

Guided Visualization
Guided visualization involves concentration on imagery or an imaginary environment, which is usually presented via a recording or a meditation teacher. The goal of guided visualization is to help one to relax and quiet the body and mind. Sometimes repeated guided visualization is used to help achieve personal or professional goals.

Heart Rhythm
Heart Rhythm meditation focuses on breath and the heart beat. All of the focus of this type of meditation is on the heart as the center of the body’s source of energy. Through this style of meditation, one learns to direct their breath and feel the circulation of breath as your pulse. The objective is to become more powerful and sensitive.

What is care like?

Health Benefits
Meditation has many benefits, many of which cannot be physically measured but many of which have been validated through clinical studies in recent years. Many people find that meditation practice helps with emotional issues such as:

  • depression
  • managing stress
  • increase of self-awareness
  • focus on the present
  • reducing negative emotions

Among physical health, some of the most common conditions that meditation has been shown to help are:

  • allergies
  • anxiety disorder
  • asthma
  • binge eating
  • cancer
  • fatigue
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • pain
  • sleep problems
  • substance abuse

Actions & Experiences During a Session
Depending on what type of meditation you would like to try and what your goals are, your sessions with a meditation teacher will vary. The instructor will teach you various techniques to help you get the most out of your meditation experience. Meditation can be studied in an individual or group setting. Some people will find that practicing meditation in a group setting can help foster community feelings and promote wellness.

Duration of Care
The duration of your experience with a meditation teacher can last as long as you and he/she would like. Once you learn basic meditation techniques and feel comfortable meditating on your own, you may feel that you don’t need to continue sessions with your teacher or you may enjoy meditating with a group to deepen or broaden your practice.

Resources & References

WebMD: Meditation

NCCAM: Meditation

Mayo Clinic: Meditation

8 Basic Kinds of Mediation

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

What next?

Search Find Wellness to find a meditation teacher in your area. There is no national certification program for meditation teachers. Make sure that your meditation teacher has experience and expertise that meets your expectations. How well he or she is able to communicate with you to convey meditation teachings is also important.