When you are a kid, you lay in the grass and watch the clouds going over, and you do not have a thought in your mind. It is purely meditation, and we lose that.Dick Van Dyke
One of the boons our Ancient Indian Knowledge Systems gave to this world is Yoga and Meditation. Societies are exploring ways to internalise the practices of Yoga and Meditation. India should be at the forefront to benefit from what our ancestors practised and passed on to us. When the world is going through a crisis, to cope with the COVID pandemic, calming down internally to gain strength is essential. Meditation goes a long way in getting that strength. Meditation and yoga have been sought after by people across the world for stress management. Wellbeing needs to be looked at holistically and beyond physical and mental and synergistic with a spiritual thought process. Anxiety remains one of the leading mental health conditions. In severe cases, medication is prescribed and helps, and a more holistic approach needs to be adopted. Meditation is a holistic way to treat the symptoms of anxiety.
On 21st May 2021, World Meditation Day is observed. It is a recognition of the role and impact of meditation on the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of individuals and communities. The English word “meditation” stems from meditatum, a Latin term meaning “to ponder.” It is not easy to trace back when people began to ponder (meditate). It must have been thousands of years ago, much before the birth of so-called modern civilisation. Meditation has been practised throughout history by adherents of all the world’s religions. Eastern religious practices that involve thinking in a controlled manner is described as meditation in the West. Yoga practice, dhyana (Sanskrit: “concentrated meditation”), became Buddhist thought in China or Zen in Japan.
The oldest documented evidence of meditation practice is wall arts in the Indian subcontinent from approximately 5,000 to 3,500 BCE, showing people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes. Ancient Indian scriptures of Vedas have the written evidence of meditation. The Upanishads discuss meditation to remove ignorance and to acquire knowledge and oneness with the Absolute. The way to achieve liberation is to ponder and contemplate.
Meditation has spread in the West since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. The World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893, was the landmark event that increased Western awareness of meditation. Swami Vivekananda introduced Hinduism. It is symbolic of recalling what he said in his address while greeting the youngest of the nations on behalf of “the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance”. It was the first time. Western audiences on American soil received Asian spiritual teachings from Asians themselves (Wikipedia).
The 1960s have seen enhanced interest in meditative practices in the West. Philosopher’s attribute this to a lack of means to contemplate and satisfy spiritual hunger. It is somewhat perplexing to see the words like secular forms of meditation. The inability to differentiate between being spiritual and religious led to confusion. Contemplation and meditation are looking inwards and nothing to do with the tags attached to materialistic attributes, including which religion belongs.
Research on meditation began in the 1930s, with the quantum of research increasing dramatically during the 1970s and 1980s. Despite all the work still, the researchers wonder about what makes mediation works. It may be something to do with an attempt to quantify the emotions or lack of them.
Though it aims to ensure one living comfortably, modern lifestyles and the pursuit of worldly comforts took people away from it. It made people more outward thinking and made Contemplation that much difficult. Information overload, technologies and gadgets are becoming more and more sophisticated, making that much difficult to lead meaningful and straightforward lifestyles. Practising meditation helps to live in the present and guiding one to remain focused.
Meditation is a process that brings awareness and attains heightened states of consciousness, impacting positively on wellbeing. It is available to everyone at any time, and all one need is time and inclination.