What is Meditation?

At the heart of each great religious tradition is a wisdom school of transformational contemplative teachings. While the exoteric religious teachings provide many guidelines and examples for conducting one's daily life, the more psychological and meditative teachings of the esoteric schools have provided practitioners throughout the ages with practical and systematic guidelines for transforming ourselves and fully developing our human potential. Meditation techniques are best understood as methods of mental and spiritual training.

Today, meditation techniques are undergoing a secular revival as our state oracle of science discovers and proclaims the benefits of meditation as a remedy to the epidemic stress of modern life. In the last ten years, it has become increasingly common to find the practice of meditation encouraged in high-level corporate creativity sessions, in locker rooms, during coffee breaks, before and after work, prior to academic tests, before athletic competition, and even in military maneuvers.

With the use of relaxation, imagery, attention training, or meditation many people are being introduced to powerful and highly effective mental technologies of personal transformation that have been the cherished and often secret practices of many ancient traditions.

This trend has sometimes been attributed as a shift from left-brain to right-brain thinking, or as the meeting of Eastern and Western values in life. For our purposes here, let's consider meditation as a skillful means for moving from the pain of our personal and planetary fragmentation toward the direct intuitive understanding of our wholeness and potential as human beings.

Contemporary psychology and medicine regard the contemplative traditions as a rich source of skills for mastering attention, promoting health and stress resilience, reducing pain, awakening creativity, and building the power of positive emotions such as empathy, patience, joy, and loving-kindness.

Thousands of research studies have documented the benefits of these methods, and many centers for medicine and peak performance have integrated them. Acknowledging that most people have little control over their attention and have few effective skills for developing their mental health and emotional intelligence, the contributions of meditation training are receiving more and more attention.

[Adapted from the book "Luminous Mind" by Joel & Michelle Levey]

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