Meditation is a practical, systematic technique for knowing yourself. It is does not belong to any religion or culture. But, it can be found in many of them because it is human to want to understand ourselves on every level. Meditation is a simple method of exploring the inner dimensions of yourself and ultimately of establishing the sense of your essential nature.
The science of meditation was developed in ancient India during the Upanishadic period. During the 2nd century BCE, Patanjali, creator of the Yoga Sutras, codified the practices which are still used throughout the world today. Patanjali was not the originator of meditation. There is evidence that meditation had long been in practice, but Patanjali was the first to form its study into a form easily spread and practiced.
There is even some dispute as to whether Patanjali was one person or an amalgam of the teachers or teachings of the time. Whoever he was, the system of the 8 limbs of Yoga comes from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a collections of 196 aphorisms that build upon each other through the physical and mental practices and studies of Yoga and Meditation.
In the third century AD, meditation was well established in Egypt. By 525 AD, it was practiced in China and Japan. The word Zen derives from the Sanskrit word, dhyana, one of the 8 limbs of Yoga that translates as meditation.
In the west, Christians, such as, Saint Francis and Saint Anthony practiced meditation, although it was rarely taught to laymen for fear of persecution.
Over the centuries, yogis have developed meditation into a systematic science for expanding consciousness. Even western scientists researching meditation have observed significant changes in brain activity.
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras discourages blind faith, but rather encourages the practitioner to experiment and see for themselves what is valid. A person’s first-hand experience of steadily practiced meditation and the altered state of consciousness is proof of its existence.
If you’re interested in more on getting started with meditation, please check out a few of my favorites:
- Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness… by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh
- Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B. K. S. Iyengar
- Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield
- Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Mindfulness in Plain English: 20th Anniversary Edition by Bhante Gunaratana
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation by Sharon Salzber
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Swami Satchidananda
Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than formatting, proof-reading, researching or editing as much as I’d like. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)