Everyone who practices meditation understands the benefits of this practice. But rarely do we think about what is meditation definition and how we can describe this concept exactly.
Well, it turns out that there is still confusion surrounding what meditation means and what it entails.
We do know that meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind in order to achieve a deeper level of awareness, insight, and clarity. But that’s not everything you should know about meditation.
In this article, I’ll discuss common definitions and try to provide the correct definition for meditation. In the end, I’ll briefly discuss what is meditation psychology as well.
What is meditation definition?
Let’s start with the most basic definition of meditation that you can find on the Internet.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, meditation can be defined as “the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”
Based on this definition, meditation is the act of focusing one’s attention, concentration, awareness, or contemplation to achieve a higher state of consciousness.
And indeed — this definition seems to be pretty accurate, and it actually includes two different parts – a meditation definition and a meditation technique.
It describes what meditation is and how to practice it.
But guess what?
This definition doesn’t really cover all the main aspects we should take into consideration when talking about what meditation is.
Yes, meditation does involve focusing your mind on a particular thing, but what is this particular thing? How can it help you achieve a calm state of mind? What is the purpose of meditation? How is it practiced?
These are some of the questions that a correct definition of meditation needs to answer.
Considering this, the definition of meditation varies based on different religions and different study fields.
But before we switch to what meditation means, let’s discuss why it’s so important to define it precisely.
Why is defining meditation important?
After providing the most basic definition of meditation, I want you to explain the importance of understanding the correct meaning of the word.
This is something I learned from my research classes. Regardless of which concept you’re speaking about, before you start discussing, you need to provide a clear definition so that everyone understands what you’re talking about.
Otherwise, there is a high chance that the conversation will go in a completely different direction, and you will lose your audience.
In psychology, we call this an operational definition.
Why does it matter in terms of meditation?
Because we can’t really assess the progress we’ve made without a clear definition of the practice we’re trying to achieve.
For example, if you want to lose weight and are following a specific diet, you need to know the exact meaning of “diet” to get the best results.
The same principle applies to meditation as well. If you don’t know what meditation is or what it entails, then there’s no way for you to understand what meditation is or how it can help you with your goals.
So, here’s the thing:
There are several definitions of meditation out there. Some of them are correct, and others might lead to confusion.
In order to avoid getting lost in the wrong direction, I’ve decided to clear up the confusion surrounding what meditation means by providing my own definition.
Common definitions of meditation
Now let’s discuss some of the most common definitions of meditation.
Well, meditation is a state of mind in which you’re not thinking about anything in particular.
It means focusing one’s mind on a single object of thought in order to achieve a deeper level of awareness and clarity.
This definition comes from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It’s pretty simple and easy to understand. It’s probably why this was the first definition I found when I googled “what is meditation.”
However, it lacks some important information about what exactly we should focus on when practicing meditation.
Personally to me, meditation is the practice of calming the mind and focusing attention, often by sitting with eyes closed and letting go of distracting thoughts and feelings.
The focus can be on breathing, sound, a mantra (word or phrase), or a visual image.
The goal is to train attention and increase awareness of one’s own mental processes.
This can lead to an improved ability to manage emotions and stress, improved focus, and a greater ability to empathize with others.
In most traditions, meditation is seen as a practice that extends beyond the time spent sitting on a cushion or in a quiet place.
It is something to be integrated into daily life so that the benefits can be drawn upon any time they are needed.
But regardless of how you define meditation, the purpose remains the same.
Meditation improves your focus, reduces anxiety and stress, increases happiness and positivity, and so much more.
At least, that’s something that all the common definitions of meditation are characterized by.
Here are some of the most common definitions of meditation that I’ve found:
- Meditation is the art of silence.
- Meditation is the practice of being aware of the present moment without any judgment.
- Meditation is not about what you get out of it, it’s about what you give.
- Meditation is the conscious effort to direct one’s attention toward a single concept or train of thought.
- Meditation is an art of self-discovery.
- Meditation is a journey to the Source.
- Meditation is a path to self-realization.
- Meditation is a journey to find out what you are.
- Meditation is a journey to the core of being.
And these are just a few of the definitions available. But rarely can they describe the significance of this practice for those who regularly meditate.
That’s why it’s important to explore this concept deeply and see where it comes from.
What meditation means and where it comes from
If we go back to the beginning, the clearest definition of meditation is achieving awareness. Why?
Because meditation is a spiritual practice that was born out of the need for spiritual awakening.
Many people today don’t realize that meditation originated in India thousands of years ago, and was used as a tool to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
And even though meditation has evolved into something that is practiced by millions of people around the world, its original purpose remains the same.
The goal of meditation is to awaken your spirit and connect with something greater than yourself. It’s about becoming more aware of yourself and being able to focus better on your life’s purpose.
For example, in the Hindu traditions of Vendatism and Yoga, the goal of meditation is to achieve a state of pure consciousness where you are completely aware of yourself and your surroundings.
That’s why yogis in those days were practicing meditation in caves, forests, and on high mountains. They were trying to find a place where they could feel as little distraction as possible so that they could focus better on opening their minds.
Even in Buddhist traditions, meditation was seen as a way to achieve enlightenment. And this is why many of the Buddha’s followers were practicing meditation in the caves of India and the jungles of Thailand.
They wanted to find a place where they could feel free from all distractions and be able to focus better on their spiritual practice.
The goal was always to reach a state of awareness where you are completely aware of yourself and your surroundings and can experience something much greater than yourself.
And if we go back even further into history, we can see that meditation is something that has been practiced for thousands of years by people around the world.
Ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, and even China had their own forms of meditation that helped them connect with their spiritual side and experience something greater than themselves.
What is meditation definition according to Buddhism?
No one can deny that one of the most common types of meditation is Buddhist meditation, where people try to achieve a state of pure consciousness.
But how do we define Buddhist meditation and distinguish it from other forms of meditation?
Well, in Buddhism, meditation refers to both focused and open awareness practices, but it is also much more than that.
Meditation is about developing a lot of things, such as mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, and equanimity. It is about letting go of the ego and living a life of virtue and non-harm.
When people think of meditation, Buddhism is often what comes to mind. It’s not surprising given that meditation is one of Buddhism’s core teachings.
The Buddha emphasized the importance of meditation as a way to develop insight into the nature of reality and attain liberation from suffering.
However, meditation is still just as important in the modern era. It helps us understand the psychological and physiological processes associated with meditation and allows us to understand its benefits.
The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to reach a state of awareness where you are completely aware of yourself and your surroundings. And once you reach that state, you can experience something much greater than yourself.
But there is another form of Buddhist meditation that is called Vipassana or insight meditation, in which people try to be mindful and experience their surroundings as best they can.
This form of Buddhist meditation was first introduced in India thousands of years ago by Buddha’s followers, who were trying to find a place where they could feel free from all distractions so that they could focus better on their spiritual practice.
They wanted to reach a state where they could be completely aware of themselves and their surroundings.
Even though the concept of meditation changed afterward, it was still used as a way to reach a state of pure consciousness.
That having been said, in Buddhism, meditation is the most important practice that can help you deal with anger and fear. It allows you to be in control of your mind and your emotions.
What is meditation psychology?
Okay, we all understand the meaning of meditation in spiritual practices, but what about in the field of psychology?
Have you ever wondered what meditation means in relation to psychology?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mediation is “profound and extended contemplation or reflection to achieve focused attention or an otherwise altered state of consciousness and to gain insight into oneself and the world.”
Well, meditation is a practice that can help people improve their psychological well-being.
That’s how it’s related to psychology.
There are many different kinds of meditation, and these can be tailored to meet the needs of different people.
There is scientific evidence that shows that people who meditate experience changes in their psychological well-being.
That’s because meditation can help people relax, deal with stress, have fewer negative thoughts, and feel more positive.
What’s more, it can also help people be more compassionate and empathetic toward others.
Considering this, meditation practices are frequently used in modern therapies in order to help people deal with mental health issues.
For example, I know a type of meditation that is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which is used for treating anxiety and depression.
In this type of meditation, people learn how to be mindful and aware of themselves and their surroundings.
And you know what?
MBSR is actually accompanied by significant health benefits such as stress management, reduced anxiety, or improved concentration.
How does it work?
The truth is that meditation and mindfulness force people to focus on the present moment, which helps them to relax and deal with their feelings in a more effective way.
In fact, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to effectively treat depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress. Therefore, it allows people to live a happier and healthier life.
So guess what?
Other than for spiritual purposes, meditation can be used as a psychotherapeutic technique to help people deal with mental health issues.
Definitions of 7 different types of meditation
Now let’s take a more hands-on approach and explore the definitions of different kinds of meditation.
Keep in mind that even though there are some specific aspects to each type of meditation, they share some common characteristics.
1) Concentration meditation
This type of meditation focuses attention on one thing, such as the sounds from nature or your breathing. The goal is to stop thoughts from coming into your mind.
It can be a specific mantra, sound, or word that you repeat over and over again.
2) Mindfulness meditation
This type of meditation focuses on the present moment. The goal is to remain in the present moment and keep your mind free from thoughts.
It also teaches you how to be aware of yourself and your surroundings.
In mindfulness meditation, you try to bring a non-judgmental quality to all of your experiences.
You pay attention to the present moment and everything that happens, whether it is physical sensations, emotions, or thoughts.
3) Compassion meditation
This type of meditation is used for improving empathy toward others, which can help you feel more connected with other people.
The goal is to focus on how you feel about yourself and other people in order to develop a sense of compassion for everyone.
As a result, you will be able to deal with your feelings and emotions more effectively.
4) Guided meditation
Guided meditation (guided imagery) usually involves using other people’s voices to guide your experience during the meditative session.
The goal is for you to reach an altered state of consciousness by listening to someone’s voice talking about a specific topic.
For example, someone could guide you through a meditation session by talking about a beach or a forest. As a result, your brain will start producing the same effects as if you were actually at the beach or in the forest.
This type of meditation is also called visualization and it teaches you how to relax your mind by using positive thoughts and images that are created by a guide or a teacher.
This helps people to improve their focus, and concentration, or reduce stress levels.
The best part is that you can use these techniques not only during meditation but also throughout the day since they are easy to remember and implement.
5) Mantra meditation
If you’re into spirituality, you’ve probably heard something about mantras.
Well, the mantra is a Sanskrit word that means “instrument of thought” or “tool for thinking.”
It’s a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated out loud during meditation.
The goal is to repeat it over and over again in order to train your mind to focus on the mantra as you try not to get distracted by other thoughts.
Basically, mantra meditation teaches you how to keep your mind focused on something specific. This can help you improve your attention span and concentrate better.
Mantra meditation is sometimes called japa yoga. In fact, it’s one of the most common types of meditation practiced in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Keep in mind that you can do this either silently or out loud.
6) Chakra meditation
Speaking of mantras, another important aspect of spiritual meditation is the concept of chakras.
A chakra is an energy point found in the body that corresponds to a specific area or part of the body.
There are seven main chakras in the human body, and each one represents a different aspect of your personality.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, you can use mantra meditation to help you focus on certain chakras in your body. This will help you balance those aspects of yourself that are not very developed or healthy.
The goal of this type of meditation is to attune yourself to the energy of each chakra. It can help you balance your energy, emotions, and thoughts.
It also helps you to develop a sense of well-being and joy.
7) Transcendental meditation
And the final type of meditation that I’d like to define is transcendental meditation (TM).
It’s a type of meditation that was developed by the Indian spiritual leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Some people practice this type of meditation while sitting in silence, while others use a Yogic technique that involves sound.
Transcendental meditation is often associated with spirituality and religion. The goal is to reach an altered state of consciousness to experience an internal spiritual awakening.
It usually involves repeating a mantra for 15-20 minutes twice per day in order to achieve this state of consciousness.
The mantra is usually given to the person by the teacher during their first session, and the aim is to repeat it silently until you transcend into a state of pure consciousness.
So, what is the correct definition of meditation?
Hopefully, you already understand the definitions of different types of meditation.
But, what is the correct definition of meditation? Which of these definitions should you rely on after all?
Well, the correct definition of meditation depends on how you personally perceive this practice and which type of meditation you choose to practice.
There are many different kinds of meditation techniques. Some people like to meditate while sitting quietly, while others prefer to meditate while walking around their neighborhood.
This is why it’s not easy to answer the question, “What is meditation definition?”
Every person has their own preferences and techniques when it comes to this practice. For example, I believe that a lot of people get the wrong idea about meditation because they associate it with religion or spirituality.
To me, it’s about doing something for yourself in order to achieve personal development and self-improvement.
But it doesn’t mean that meditation isn’t about other people becoming religious or spiritual.
So, here’s the correct definition of meditation:
Meditation is the act or practice of focusing one’s mind on a particular object or thought (such as an idea, a memory, or a sensation) for an extended period of time, typically in order to achieve greater spiritual awareness and tranquility.
It’s the practice of concentration and being present in the moment.
In the end, meditation is meant to be a practice that you can carry with you throughout your life. You don’t have to stop meditating once you’ve reached a certain goal or milestone.
All in all, meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years, and its benefits are still relevant today.
After discussing what is meditation definition, hopefully you understand that it is a conscious effort to bring awareness and clarity to the present moment.
So, regardless of which definition of meditation you prefer and which type of meditation you practice, it can help you reduce stress and anxiety and strengthen your willpower.
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