Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique - such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity - to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.:228-29:180:415:107 Scholars have found meditation elusive to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions. The earliest records of meditation (dhyana) are found in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas, and meditation plays a salient role in the contemplative repertoire of Hinduism and Buddhism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health.
The English meditation is derived from Old Frenchmeditacioun, in turn from Latin meditatio from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder". In the Catholic tradition, the use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to at least the 12th century monk Guigo II, before which the Greek word Theoria was used for the same purpose.
Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhy?nain Hinduism and Buddhism and which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term "meditation" in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm.
Meditation has proven difficult to define as it covers a wide range of dissimilar practices in different traditions. In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are often used imprecisely to designate practices found across many cultures. These can include almost anything that is claimed to train the attention of mind or to teach calm or compassion. There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community. In 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that "The word 'meditation' has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.":6 A 2009 study noted a "persistent lack of consensus in the literature" and a "seeming intractability of defining meditation".:135
Dictionaries give both the original Latin meaning of "think[ing] deeply about (something)"; as well as the popular usage of "focusing one's mind for a period of time", "the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed", and "to engage in mental exercise (such as concentrating on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness."
In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways. Many of these emphasize the role of attention and characterize the practice of meditation as attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "discursive thinking"[note 1] or "logic"[note 2] mind[note 3] to achieve a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state.
Bond et al. (2009) identified criteria for defining a practice as meditation "for use in a comprehensive systematic review of the therapeutic use of meditation", using "a 5-round Delphi study with a panel of 7 experts in meditation research" who were also trained in diverse but empirically highly studied (Eastern-derived or clinical) forms of meditation[note 4]:
three main criteria [...] as essential to any meditation practice: the use of a defined technique, logic relaxation,[note 5] and a self-induced state/mode.
Other criteria deemed important [but not essential] involve a state of psychophysical relaxation, the use of a self-focus skill or anchor, the presence of a state of suspension of logical thought processes, a religious/spiritual/philosophical context, or a state of mental silence.:135
Several other definitions of meditation have been used by influential modern reviews of research on meditation across multiple traditions:[note 7]
Walsh & Shapiro (2006): "[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration":228-29
Cahn & Polich (2006): "[M]editation is used to describe practices that self-regulate the body and mind, thereby affecting mental events by engaging a specific attentional set.... regulation of attention is the central commonality across the many divergent methods":180
Jevning et al. (1992): "We define meditation... as a stylized mental technique... repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful":415
Goleman (1988): "the need for the meditator to retrain his attention, whether through concentration or mindfulness, is the single invariant ingredient in... every meditation system":107
Separation of technique from tradition
Some of the difficulty in precisely defining meditation has been in recognizing the particularities of the many various traditions; and theories and practice can differ within a tradition. Taylor noted that even within a faith such as "Hindu" or "Buddhist", schools and individual teachers may teach distinct types of meditation.:2
Ornstein noted that "Most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief.":143 For instance, while monks meditate as part of their everyday lives, they also engage the codified rules and live together in monasteries in specific cultural settings that go along with their meditative practices.
Forms and techniques
In the West, meditation techniques have sometimes been thought of in two broad categories: focused (or concentrative) meditation and open monitoring (or mindfulness) meditation.
Direction of mental attention... A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative meditation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness.:130[note 8]
Young children practicing meditation in a Peruvian school
Asanas and positions such as the full-lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, Seiza, and kneeling positions are popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, although other postures such as sitting, supine (lying), and standing are also used. Meditation is also sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin, while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu or while lying down known as savasana.
Use of prayer beads
Some religions have traditions of using prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads (the figure 108 in itself having spiritual significance), as well as those used in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Hare Krishna tradition, Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads. Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala. The Muslim misbaha has 99 beads. There is also quite a variance when it comes to materials used for beads. Beads made from seeds of rudraksha trees are considered sacred by devotees of Shiva, while followers of Vishnu revere the wood that comes from the tulsi plant.
Striking the meditator
The Buddhist literature has many stories of Enlightenment being attained through disciples being struck by their masters. According to T. Griffith Foulk, the encouragement stick was an integral part of the Zen practice:
In the Rinzai monastery where I trained in the mid-1970s, according to an unspoken etiquette, monks who were sitting earnestly and well were shown respect by being hit vigorously and often; those known as laggards were ignored by the hall monitor or given little taps if they requested to be hit. Nobody asked about the 'meaning' of the stick, nobody explained, and nobody ever complained about its use.
Using a narrative
Richard Davidson has expressed the view that having a narrative can help maintenance of daily practice. For instance he himself prostrates to the teachings, and meditates "not primarily for my benefit, but for the benefit of others".
The ?sana in which Mahavira is said to have attained omniscience
Jain meditation and spiritual practices system were referred to as salvation-path. It has three parts called the Ratnatraya "Three Jewels": right perception and faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attaining salvation, and taking the soul to complete freedom. It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure consciousness, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana.[clarification needed]
Jainism uses meditation techniques such as pind?stha-dhy?na, pad?stha-dhy?na, r?p?stha-dhy?na, r?p?tita-dhy?na, and sav?rya-dhy?na. In pad?stha dhy?na one focuses on a mantra. A mantra could be either a combination of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, whether Digambara or Svetambara, practice mantra. Mantra chanting is an important part of daily lives of Jain monks and followers. Mantra chanting can be done either loudly or silently in mind.
Contemplation is a very old and important meditation technique. The practitioner meditates deeply on subtle facts. In agnya vich?ya, one contemplates on seven facts - life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. In apaya vich?ya, one contemplates on the incorrect insights one indulges, which eventually develops right insight. In vipaka vich?ya, one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. In sansathan vich?ya, one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul.
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism. Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward awakening and nirvana.[note 9] The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bh?van?,[note 10]jh?na/dhy?na,[note 11] and vipassana.
Buddhist meditation techniques have become popular in the wider world, with many non-Buddhists taking them up. There is considerable homogeneity across meditative practices - such as breath meditation and various recollections (anussati) - across Buddhist schools, as well as significant diversity. In the Therav?da tradition, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration, while in the Tibetan tradition there are thousands of visualization meditations.[note 12] Most classical and contemporary Buddhist meditation guides are school-specific.[note 13]
According to the Theravada and Sarvastivada commentatorial traditions, and the Tibetan tradition, the Buddha identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice:
"serenity" or "tranquility" (Pali: samatha) which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind;
"insight" (Pali: vipassana) which enables one to see, explore and discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates).
Through the meditative development of serenity, one is able to weaken the obscuring hindrances and bring the mind to a collected, pliant and still state (samadhi). This quality of mind then supports the development of insight and wisdom (Prajñ?) which is the quality of mind that can "clearly see" (vi-passana) the nature of phenomena. What exactly is to be seen varies within the Buddhist traditions. In Theravada, all phenomena are to be seen as impermanent, suffering, not-self and empty. When this happens, one develops dispassion (viraga) for all phenomena, including all negative qualities and hindrances and lets them go. It is through the release of the hindrances and ending of craving through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberation.
In Sikhism, simran (meditation) and good deeds are both necessary to achieve the devotee's Spiritual goals; without good deeds meditation is futile. When Sikhs meditate, they aim to feel God's presence and emerge in the divine light. It is only God's divine will or order that allows a devotee to desire to begin to meditate.N?m Japn? involves focusing one's attention on the names or great attributes of God.
Taoist meditation has developed techniques including concentration, visualization, qi cultivation, contemplation, and mindfulness meditations in its long history. Traditional Daoist meditative practices were influenced by Chinese Buddhism from around the 5th century, and influenced Traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese martial arts.
Livia Kohn distinguishes three basic types of Taoist meditation: "concentrative", "insight", and "visualization".Ding? (literally means "decide; settle; stabilize") refers to "deep concentration", "intent contemplation", or "perfect absorption". Guan? (lit. "watch; observe; view") meditation seeks to merge and attain unity with the Dao. It was developed by Tang Dynasty (618-907) Taoist masters based upon the Tiantai Buddhist practice of Vipassan? "insight" or "wisdom" meditation. Cun? (lit. "exist; be present; survive") has a sense of "to cause to exist; to make present" in the meditation techniques popularized by the Taoist Shangqing and Lingbao Schools. A meditator visualizes or actualizes solar and lunar essences, lights, and deities within their body, which supposedly results in health and longevity, even xian ?/?/?, "immortality".
The (late 4th century BCE) Guanzi essay Neiye "Inward training" is the oldest received writing on the subject of qi cultivation and breath-control meditation techniques. For instance, "When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, when you relax your vital breath and expand it, when your body is calm and unmoving: And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances. ... This is called "revolving the vital breath": Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly."
The (c. 3rd century BCE) Taoist Zhuangzi records zuowang or "sitting forgetting" meditation. Confucius asked his disciple Yan Hui to explain what "sit and forget" means: "I slough off my limbs and trunk, dim my intelligence, depart from my form, leave knowledge behind, and become identical with the Transformational Thoroughfare."
Taoist meditation practices are central to Chinese martial arts (and some Japanese martial arts), especially the qi-related neijia "internal martial arts". Some well-known examples are daoyin "guiding and pulling", qigong "life-energy exercises", neigong "internal exercises", neidan "internal alchemy", and taijiquan "great ultimate boxing", which is thought of as moving meditation. One common explanation contrasts "movement in stillness" referring to energetic visualization of qi circulation in qigong and zuochan "seated meditation", versus "stillness in movement" referring to a state of meditative calm in taijiquan forms. Also the unification or middle road forms such as Wuxingheqidao that seeks the unification of internal alchemical forms with more external forms.
Judaism has made use of meditative practices for thousands of years. For instance, in the Torah, the patriarch Isaac is described as going "?" (lasuach) in the field - a term understood by all commentators as some type of meditative practice (Genesis 24:63). Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) that the prophets meditated. In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: h?gâ (Hebrew: ), to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and sî?â (Hebrew: ?), to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.
Classical Jewish texts espouse a wide range of meditative practices, often associated with the cultivation of kavanah or intention. The first layer of rabbinic law, the Mishnah, describes ancient sages "waiting" for an hour before their prayers, "in order to direct their hearts to the Omnipresent One (MishnahBerakhot 5:1). Other early rabbinic texts include instructions for visualizing the Divine Presence (B. TalmudSanhedrin 22a) and breathing with conscious gratitude for every breath (Genesis Rabba 14:9).
One of the best known types of meditation in early Jewish mysticism was the work of the Merkabah, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot" (of God). Some meditative traditions have been encouraged in Kabbalah, and some Jews have described Kabbalah as an inherently meditative field of study. Kabbalistic meditation often involves the mental visualization of the supernal realms. Aryeh Kaplan has argued that the ultimate purpose of Kabbalistic meditation is to understand and cleave to the Divine.
Meditation has been of interest to a wide variety of modern Jews. In modern Jewish practice, one of the best known meditative practices is called "hitbodedut" (, alternatively transliterated as "hisbodedus"), and is explained in Kabbalistic, Hasidic, and Mussar writings, especially the Hasidic method of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. The word derives from the Hebrew word "boded" (?), meaning the state of being alone. Another Hasidic system is the Habad method of "hisbonenus", related to the Sephirah of "Binah", Hebrew for understanding. This practice is the analytical reflective process of making oneself understand a mystical concept well, that follows and internalises its study in Hasidic writings. The Musar Movement, founded by Rabbi Israel Salanter in the middle of the nineteenth-century, emphasized meditative practices of introspection and visualization that could help to improve moral character. Conservative rabbi Alan Lew has emphasized meditation playing an important role in the process of teshuvah (repentance).Jewish Buddhists have adopted Buddhist styles of meditation.
Christian meditation is a term for a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditatum, which means to "concentrate" or "to ponder". Monk Guigo II introduced this terminology for the first time in the 12th century AD. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (e.g. a biblical scene involving Jesus and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation in Christianity.
In Catholic Christianity, the Rosary is a devotion for the meditation of the mysteries of Jesus and Mary. "The gentle repetition of its prayers makes it an excellent means to moving into deeper meditation. It gives us an opportunity to open ourselves to God's word, to refine our interior gaze by turning our minds to the life of Christ. The first principle is that meditation is learned through practice. Many people who practice rosary meditation begin very simply and gradually develop a more sophisticated meditation. The meditator learns to hear an interior voice, the voice of God". Similarly, the chotki of the Eastern Orthodox denomination, the Wreath of Christ of the Lutheran faith, and the Anglican prayer beads of the Episcopalian tradition are used for Christian prayer and meditation.
Salah is a mandatory act of devotion performed by Muslims five times per day. The body goes through sets of different postures, as the mind attains a level of concentration called khushu.
A second optional type of meditation, called dhikr, meaning remembering and mentioning God, is interpreted in different meditative techniques in Sufism or Islamic mysticism. This became one of the essential elements of Sufism as it was systematized traditionally. It is juxtaposed with fikr (thinking) which leads to knowledge. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words.
Tafakkur or tadabbur in Sufism literally means reflection upon the universe: this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotional development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration awakens and liberates both heart and intellect, permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite. Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one's submission to God.
In the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, meditation is a primary tool for spiritual development, involving reflection on the words of God. While prayer and meditation are linked, where meditation happens generally in a prayerful attitude, prayer is seen specifically as turning toward God, and meditation is seen as a communion with one's self where one focuses on the divine.
In Bahá'í teachings the purpose of meditation is to strengthen one's understanding of the words of God, and to make one's soul more susceptible to their potentially transformative power, more receptive to the need for both prayer and meditation to bring about and maintain a spiritual communion with God.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, never specified any particular form of meditation, and thus each person is free to choose their own form. However, he did state that Bahá'ís should read a passage of the Bahá'í writings twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and meditate on it. He also encouraged people to reflect on one's actions and worth at the end of each day. During the Nineteen Day Fast, a period of the year during which Bahá'ís adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast, they meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.
Neo-pagan and occult
Movements which use magic, such as Wicca, Thelema, Neopaganism, and occultism, often require their adherents to meditate as a preliminary to the magical work. This is because magic is often thought to require a particular state of mind in order to make contact with spirits, or because one has to visualize one's goal or otherwise keep intent focused for a long period during the ritual in order to see the desired outcome. Meditation practice in these religions usually revolves around visualization, absorbing energy from the universe or higher self, directing one's internal energy, and inducing various trance states. Meditation and magic practice often overlap in these religions as meditation is often seen as merely a stepping stone to supernatural power, and the meditation sessions may be peppered with various chants and spells.
New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy, mysticism, yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence. In the West, meditation found its mainstream roots through the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the youth of the day rebelled against traditional religion as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance.
New Age meditation as practised by the early hippies is regarded for its techniques of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object. New Age meditation evolved into a range of purposes and practices, from serenity and balance to access to other realms of consciousness to the concentration of energy in group meditation to the supreme goal of samadhi, as in the ancient yogic practice of meditation.
Carl Jung (1875-1961) was an early western explorer of eastern religious practices. He clearly advocated ways to increase the conscious awareness of an individual. Yet he expressed some caution concerning a westerner's direct immersion in eastern practices without some prior appreciation of the differing spiritual and cultural contexts. Also Erich Fromm (1900-1980) later explored spiritual practices of the east.
A 2010 review of the literature on spirituality and performance in organizations found an increase in corporate meditation programs.
As of 2016 around a quarter of U.S. employers were using stress reduction initiatives. The goal was to help reduce stress and improve reactions to stress. Aetna now offers its program to its customers. Google also implements mindfulness, offering more than a dozen meditation courses, with the most prominent one, "Search Inside Yourself", having been implemented since 2007.General Mills offers the Mindful Leadership Program Series, a course which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga and dialogue with the intention of developing the mind's capacity to pay attention.
Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators from various disciplines, including the Transcendental Meditation technique and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1975, Benson published a book titled The Relaxation Response where he outlined his own version of meditation for relaxation. Also in the 1970s, the American psychologist Patricia Carrington developed a similar technique called Clinically Standardized Meditation (CSM). In Norway, another sound-based method called Acem Meditation developed a psychology of meditation and has been the subject of several scientific studies.
Biofeedback has been used by many researchers since the 1950s in an effort to enter deeper states of mind.
Man Meditating in a Garden Setting
From ancient times
The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced. Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the latest phases of human biological evolution. Some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the HinduVedas of India. Wilson translates the most famous Vedic mantra "Gayatri" as: "We meditate on that desirable light of the divine Savitri, who influences our pious rites" (Rigveda 3.62.10). Around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed via Confucianism and Taoism in China as well as Hinduism, Jainism, and early Buddhism in India.
In the Roman Empire, by 20 BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of "spiritual exercises" involving attention (prosoche) and concentration and by the 3rd century Plotinus had developed meditative techniques.
The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this can not be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.
Meditation has spread in the West since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. Most prominent has been the transmission of Asian-derived practices to the West. In addition, interest in some Western-based meditative practices has been revived, and these have been disseminated to a limited extent to Asian countries.
Ideas about Eastern meditation had begun "seeping into American popular culture even before the American Revolution through the various sects of European occult Christianity",:3 and such ideas "came pouring in [to America] during the era of the transcendentalists, especially between the 1840s and the 1880s.":3 The following decades saw further spread of these ideas to America:
The World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893, was the landmark event that increased Western awareness of meditation. This was the first time that Western audiences on American soil received Asian spiritual teachings from Asians themselves. Thereafter, Swami Vivekananda... [founded] various Vedanta ashrams... Anagarika Dharmapala lectured at Harvard on Theravada Buddhist meditation in 1904; Abdul Baha ... [toured] the US teaching the principles of Bahai [sic], and Soyen Shaku toured in 1907 teaching Zen...:4
More recently, in the 1960s, another surge in Western interest in meditative practices began. The rise of communist political power in Asia led to many Asian spiritual teachers taking refuge in Western countries, oftentimes as refugees.:7 In addition to spiritual forms of meditation, secular forms of meditation have taken root. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.
The 2012 US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) (34,525 subjects) found 8% of US adults used meditation, with lifetime and 12-month prevalence of meditation use of 5.2% and 4.1% respectively. In the 2017 NHIS survey, meditation use among workers was 10% (up from 8% in 2002).
Research on the processes and effects of meditation is a subfield of neurological research. Modern scientific techniques, such as fMRI and EEG, were used to observe neurological responses during meditation. Concerns have been raised on the quality of meditation research, including the particular characteristics of individuals who tend to participate.
Since the 1970s, clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed meditation techniques for numerous psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice is employed in psychology to alleviate mental and physical conditions, such as reducing depression, stress, and anxiety. Mindfulness is also used in the treatment of drug addiction, although the quality of research has been poor. Studies demonstrate that meditation has a moderate effect to reduce pain. There is insufficient evidence for any effect of meditation on positive mood, attention, eating habits, sleep, or body weight. Moreover, a 2015 study, including subjective and objective reports and brain scans, has shown that meditation can improve controlling attention, as well as self-awareness.
A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of meditation on empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors found that meditation practices had small to medium effects on self-reported and observable outcomes, concluding that such practices can "improve positive prosocial emotions and behaviors".[unreliable medical source?] However, a meta-review published on Nature showed that the evidence is very weak and "that the effects of meditation on compassion were only significant when compared to passive control groups suggests that other forms of active interventions (like watching a nature video) might produce similar outcomes to meditation".
Potential adverse effects
Meditation has been correlated with unpleasant experiences in some people.
In some cases, it has also been linked to psychosis in many individuals.
In one study, published in 2019, of 1,232 regular meditators with at least two months of meditation experience, about a quarter reported having had particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences (such as anxiety, fear, distorted emotions or thoughts, altered sense of self or the world), which they thought may have been caused by their meditation practice. Meditators with high levels of repetitive negative thinking and those who only engage in deconstructive meditation were more likely to report unpleasant side effects. Adverse effects were less frequently reported in women and religious meditators.
Difficult experiences encountered in meditation are mentioned in traditional sources; and some may be considered to be just an expected part of the process: for example: seven stages of purification mentioned in Therav?da Buddhism, or possible "unwholesome or frightening visions" mentioned in a practical manual on vipassan? meditation.
^An influential definition by Shapiro (1982) states that "meditation refers to a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a nonanalytical way and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought" (p. 6, italics in original). The term "discursive thought" has long been used in Western philosophy, and is often viewed as a synonym to logical thought (Rappe, Sara (2000). Reading neoplatonism : Non-discursive thinking in the texts of plotinus, proclus, and damascius. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-65158-5.).
^Bond, Ospina et al. (2009) report that 7 expert scholars who had studied different traditions of meditation agreed that an "essential" component of meditation "Involves logic relaxation: not 'to intend' to analyze the possible psychophysical effects, not 'to intend' to judge the possible results, not 'to intend' to create any type of expectation regarding the process" (p. 134, Table 4). In their final consideration, all 7 experts regarded this feature as an "essential" component of meditation; none of them regarded it as merely "important but not essential" (p. 234, Table 4). (This same result is presented in Table B1 in Ospina, Bond, et al., 2007, p. 281)
^This does not mean that all meditation seeks to take a person beyond all thought processes, only those processes that are sometimes referred to as "discursive" or "logical" (see Shapiro, 1982/1984; Bond, Ospina, et al., 2009; Appendix B, pp. 279-82 in Ospina, Bond, et al., 2007).
^"members were chosen on the basis of their publication record of research on the therapeutic use of meditation, their knowledge of and training in traditional or clinically developed meditation techniques, and their affiliation with universities and research centers. Each member had specific expertise and training in at least one of the following meditation practices: kundalini yoga, Transcendental Meditation, relaxation response, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and vipassana meditation" (Bond, Ospina et al., 2009, p. 131); their views were combined using "the Delphi technique [...] a method of eliciting and refining group judgments to address complex problems with a high level of uncertainty" (p. 131).
^Bond et al. 2009: "Logic relaxation is defined by the authors as "not 'to intend' to analyzing (not trying to explain) the possible psychophysi"cal effects," "not 'to intend' to judging (good, bad, right, wrong) the possible psychophysical [effects]," and "not 'to intend' to creating any type of expectation regarding the process." (Cardoso et al., 2004, p. 59)"
^Regarding influential reviews encompassing multiple methods of meditation: Walsh & Shapiro (2006), Cahn & Polich (2006), and Jevning et al. (1992), are cited >80 times in PsycINFO. Number of citations in PsycINFO: 254 for Walsh & Shapiro, 2006 (26 August 2018); 561 for Cahn & Polich, 2006 (26 August 2018); 83 for Jevning et al. (1992) (26 August 2018). Goleman's book has 33 editions listed in WorldCat: 17 editions as The meditative mind: The varieties of meditative experience and 16 editions as The varieties of meditative experience Citation and edition counts are as of August 2018 and September 2018 respectively.
^The full quote from Bond, Ospina et al. (2009, p. 130) reads: "The differences and similarities among these techniques is often explained in the Western meditation literature in terms of the direction of mental attention (Koshikawa & Ichii, 1996; Naranjo, 1971; Orenstein, 1971): A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative meditation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness (Orenstein, 1971)."
^For instance, Kamalashila (2003), p. 4, states that Buddhist meditation "includes any method of meditation that has Enlightenment as its ultimate aim." Likewise, Bodhi (1999) writes: "To arrive at the experiential realization of the truths it is necessary to take up the practice of meditation.... At the climax of such contemplation the mental eye ... shifts its focus to the unconditioned state, Nibbana...." A similar although in some ways slightly broader definition is provided by Fischer-Schreiber et al. (1991), p. 142: "Meditation - general term for a multitude of religious practices, often quite different in method, but all having the same goal: to bring the consciousness of the practitioner to a state in which he can come to an experience of 'awakening,' 'liberation,' 'enlightenment.'" Kamalashila (2003) further allows that some Buddhist meditations are "of a more preparatory nature" (p. 4).
^The P?li and Sanskrit word bh?van? literally means "development" as in "mental development." For the association of this term with "meditation," see Epstein (1995), p. 105; and, Fischer-Schreiber et al. (1991), p. 20. As an example from a well-known discourse of the Pali Canon, in "The Greater Exhortation to Rahula" (Maha-Rahulovada Sutta, MN 62), Ven. Sariputta tells Ven. Rahula (in Pali, based on VRI, n.d.): ?n?p?nassati?, r?hula, bh?vana? bh?vehi.Thanissaro (2006) translates this as: "Rahula, develop the meditation [bh?vana] of mindfulness of in-&-out breathing." (Square-bracketed Pali word included based on Thanissaro, 2006, end note.)
[T]here is the cultivation of meditative and contemplative techniques aimed at producing what might, for the lack of a suitable technical term in English, be referred to as "altered states of consciousness". In the technical vocabulary of Indian religious texts such states come to be termed "meditations" ([Skt.:] dhy?na / [Pali:] jh?na) or "concentrations" (sam?dhi); the attainment of such states of consciousness was generally regarded as bringing the practitioner to deeper knowledge and experience of the nature of the world. (Gethin, 1998, p. 10.)
^Goldstein (2003) writes that, in regard to the Satipatthana Sutta, "there are more than fifty different practices outlined in this Sutta. The meditations that derive from these foundations of mindfulness are called vipassana..., and in one form or another - and by whatever name - are found in all the major Buddhist traditions" (p. 92). The forty concentrative meditation subjects refer to Visuddhimagga's oft-referenced enumeration. Regarding Tibetan visualizations, Kamalashila (2003), writes: "The Tara meditation ... is one example out of thousands of subjects for visualization meditation, each one arising out of some meditator's visionary experience of enlightened qualities, seen in the form of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas" (p. 227).
^Examples of contemporary school-specific "classics" include, from the Theravada tradition, Nyanaponika (1996) and, from the Zen tradition, Kapleau (1989).
^ abcWalsh, Roger; Shapiro, Shauna L. (2006). "The meeting of meditative disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue". American Psychologist. 61 (3): 227-239. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.3.227. PMID16594839.
^The verb root "dhyai" is listed as referring to "contemplate, meditate on" and "dhy?na" is listed as referring to "meditation; religious contemplation" on page 134 of Macdonell, Arthur Anthony (1971) . A practical Sanskrit dictionary with transliteration, accentuation and etymological analysis throughout. London: Oxford University Press.
^Carroll, Mary (October 2005). "Divine Therapy: Teaching Reflective and Meditative Practices". Teaching Theology and Religion. 8 (4): 232-238. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9647.2005.00249.x.
^Lutz, Antoine; Dunne, John D.; Davidson, Richard J. (2007). "Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction". In Zelazo, Philip David; Moscovitch, Morris; Thompson, Evan (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. pp. 499-552. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511816789.020. ISBN9780511816789.
^Claudio Naranjo (1972) , in: Naranjo and Orenstein, On the Psychology of Meditation. New York: Viking.
^ abcdBond, Kenneth; Ospina, Maria B.; Hooton, Nicola; Bialy, Liza; Dryden, Donna M.; Buscemi, Nina; Shannahoff-Khalsa, David; Dusek, Jeffrey; Carlson, Linda E. (2009). "Defining a complex intervention: The development of demarcation criteria for 'meditation'". Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 1 (2): 129-137. doi:10.1037/a0015736.
^Lutz, Dunne and Davidson, "Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction" in The Cambridge handbook of consciousness by Philip David Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, Evan Thompson, 2007 ISBN0-521-85743-0 pp. 499-551 (proof copy) (NB: pagination of published was 499-551 proof was 497-550). Archived March 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
^ abcdeTaylor, Eugene (1999). Murphy, Michael; Donovan, Steven; Taylor, Eugene (eds.). "Introduction". The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research with a Comprehensive Bibliography 1931-1996: 1-32.
^Robert Ornstein (1972) , in: Naranjo and Orenstein, On the Psychology of Meditation. New York: Viking. LCCN76-149720
^Lutz, Antoine; Slagter, Heleen A.; Dunne, John D.; Davidson, Richard J. (April 2008). "Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 12 (4): 163-69. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.01.005. PMC2693206. PMID18329323. The term 'meditation' refers to a broad variety of practices...In order to narrow the explanandum to a more tractable scope, this article uses Buddhist contemplative techniques and their clinical secular derivatives as a paradigmatic framework (see e.g., 9,10 or 7,9 for reviews including other types of techniques, such as Yoga and Transcendental Meditation). Among the wide range of practices within the Buddhist tradition, we will further narrow this review to two common styles of meditation, FA and OM (see box 1-box 2), that are often combined, whether in a single session or over the course of practitioner's training. These styles are found with some variation in several meditation traditions, including Zen, Vipassan? and Tibetan Buddhism (e.g. 7,15,16)....The first style, FA meditation, entails voluntary focusing attention on a chosen object in a sustained fashion. The second style, OM meditation, involves non-reactively monitoring the content of experience from moment to moment, primarily as a means to recognize the nature of emotional and cognitive patterns
^"Single-pointed concentration (samadhi) is a meditative power that is useful in either of these two types of meditation. However, in order to develop samadhi itself we must cultivate principally concentration meditation. In terms of practice, this means that we must choose an object of concentration and then meditate single-pointedly on it every day until the power of samadhi is attained." lywa (2 April 2015). "Developing Single-pointed Concentration".
^Travis, Fred; Shear, Jonathan (December 2010). "Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions". Consciousness and Cognition. 19 (4): 1110-1118. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.01.007. PMID20167507. S2CID11036572.
^Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, p. 51. The earliest reference is actually in the Mokshadharma, which dates to the early Buddhist period.
^The Katha Upanishad describes yoga, including meditation. On meditation in this and other post-Buddhist Hindu literature see Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Harvard University Press, 2000, p. 199.
^These definitions of samatha and vipassana are based on the "Four Kinds of Persons Sutta" (AN 4.94). This article's text is primarily based on Bodhi (2005), pp. 269-70, 440 n. 13. See also Thanissaro (1998d).
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