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religious discipline in which the mind is focused on a single point of reference. It may be a means of invoking divine gracegrace,
in Christian theology, the free favor of God toward humans, which is necessary for their salvation. A distinction is made between natural grace (e.g., the gift of life) and supernatural grace, by which God makes a person (born sinful because of original sin) capable of
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, as in the contemplation by Christian mystics of a spiritual theme, question, or problem; or it may be a means of attaining conscious union with the divine, e.g., through visualization of a deity or inward repetition of a prayer or mantramantra
, in Hinduism and Buddhism, mystic words used in ritual and meditation. A mantra is believed to be the sound form of reality, having the power to bring into being the reality it represents. There are several types of mantras.
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 (sacred sound). Some forms of meditation involve putting the body in a special position, such as the seated, cross-legged lotus position, and using special breathing practices. Employed since ancient times in various forms by all religions, the practice gained greater notice in the postwar United States as interest in Zen BuddhismZen Buddhism,
Buddhist sect of China and Japan. The name of the sect (Chin. Ch'an, Jap. Zen) derives from the Sanskrit dhyana [meditation]. In China the school early became known for making its central tenet the practice of meditation, rather than adherence
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 rose. In the 1960s and 70s the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi popularized a mantra system known as Transcendental MeditationTranscendental Meditation,
service mark for a meditation technique and program founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and based on Vedic philosophy. Stressing natural meditation and the mental and physical benefits and personal development that could be achieved, Transcendental
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. Meditation is now used by many nonreligious adherents as a method of stress reduction; it is known to lessen levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. The practice has been shown to enhance recuperation and improve the body's resistance to disease.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Meditation is listening to the Inner Self, the Creative Force or Higher Consciousness. It involves closing the mind to all external stimuli and concentrating on the creative forces within the body. It is a technique used by most Wiccans and many nonWiccans alike, and is a useful tool in the working of magic. As a technique for advancement in the psychic and spiritual fields, it has been found to be extremely effective.

In its present form, meditation has entered the Western world by way of the East. Eastern initiates have for centuries been able to control their minds to overcome sickness, develop psychic powers, and expand knowledge of Universal Law and philosophy.

There are many different techniques, from the methods used in Transcendental Meditation, Silva Mind Control, Zen Buddhism, and Edgar Cayce techniques, to various forms of yoga and self-taught and developed methods. All are similar in that they involve stilling the mind and conscious thought so that the inner mind may listen to messages from within and solve problems.

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Buddhists meditate in the Shrine room of Vajraloka Buddhist Meditation Center in North Wales. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Meditation is seen as a means to union with deity or with the absolute. Today it is an established practice, not only among various cults but among ordinary, everyday people. It was common to Hinduism and Buddhism but has spread to be incorporated into many Western religions and practices. Meditation is described as “a stilling of the mind,” “a listening,” “a step to psychism and mediumship.” It is not an escape from reality nor does it involve a loss of consciousness. These days it is seen especially as a remedy for stress and anxiety.

The Hesychast monks in Greece in the Middle Ages followed a system similar to yoga, which emphasized breathing and concentration on the solar plexus. Many of the Roman Catholic saints developed their own meditation techniques. Benjamin Walker mentions St. Francis of Assisi and St. Teresa evolving their own disciplines, and St. Ignatius of Loyola outlining “a stringent procedure in a contemplative process that has led many to spiritual exaltation.” There are a number of different techniques for meditating. In the 1960s and 1970s, Transcendental Meditation (TM) was popular, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Edgar cayce put forward a method, as did others. Buddhist meditation has always had its followers.

Some people can meditate anywhere—on a bus or train, in a crowded waiting room, or an airport lounge. At the other extreme, some Eastern mystics go to a mountain top while others have a special, secluded room especially for the purpose of meditating. Basically, especially for a beginner, it is best to have a place that is quiet and private. It is also a good plan to meditate at the same time each day.

The best position is the one that is most comfortable for the meditator. The general rule is to sit with the back straight. Some sit in a straight-backed chair or a cushion or small stool; some meditate while slowly walking. It is not recommended to lie down while meditating since it is easy to fall asleep that way. It is best to then relax the whole body, loosening all the muscles and letting go of all tension. Deep, rhythmic breathing is an aid, and some even accompany it with soft humming. The hypnotism technique of mentally addressing each and every part of the body is useful: starting with the feet and toes, then moving slowly up the legs to the knees and on up to the thighs and hips. Each area is concentrated upon to bring about total relaxation. The hands and fingers, wrists, arms, elbows, upper arms and shoulders, are similarly worked. Then the lower body, waist, and upper body. Finally the concentration moves on to the neck, face, scalp and all of the head. Eventually the full body has been completely relaxed. The next step is to empty the mind, slowly eliminating from the conscious all thoughts of a practical nature, such as domestic and business worries and problems.

In Transcendental Meditation, the practitioner is then instructed to concentrate on a mantra, a word/sound that is repeated over and over again to prevent other thoughts from intruding. Mantras are used in some forms of Buddhist meditation, though not all. Rather than repetition of a word or phrase, there may be concentration on a candle flame, a mandala, or other symbol. Since it is the nature of the mind to have constant thought, when extraneous thoughts come into the mind, they are acknowledged but are not dwelt upon. Some meditators do concentrate on an objective, such as some form of self improvement, or on getting rid of a bad habit. Other meditators may use that state to make contact with their spirit guide and/or with the spirits of deceased loved ones.

It has been proven that regular meditation is extremely beneficial, helping lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and eliminate anxiety. The mind and the body benefit from meditation. Twenty minutes per day is a recommended time to spend in the practice. Many spend far longer, or do two or even three sessions every day.


Bodian, Stephan: Meditation for Dummies. New York: Wiley Publishing, 1999
Goleman, Daniel: The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1988

Smith, B.: Meditation: The Inward Act. London: McClelland, 1963 Walker, Benjamin: Man, Myth & Magic: Meditation. London: BPC Publishing, 1970



mental activity directed toward bringing the human mind to a state of deep concentration, which is therefore both the result and the objective appearance of meditation. Psychologically, meditation presupposes the elimination of extreme emotional states and a substantial decrease in responsiveness. The meditator’s body is relaxed; his frame of mind is elevated and marked by a certain indifference to physical objects and internal sensations.

In such practices as worship, philosophical religion, psychotherapy, and the didactic method, the induction and course of meditation are generally associated with a specific series of mental acts that form a natural process. In almost all languages, the word “meditation” is semantically related to both “mind” and “thinking” as natural human abilities independent of man’s conscious intention (Sanskrit dhyana; Russian duman’e; ancient Greek medomai; English “musing”).

Methods of meditation differ in technique and in the sequence of stages for reaching mental equilibrium and psychic unresponsiveness. Hindu and Buddhist yoga place particular emphasis on meditation as one of the principal means of attaining religious liberation. Meditation was also practiced and developed in the ancient “philosophical ecstasy” of the Platonists and Neoplatonists (among the former, it was an essential prerequisite of theoretical, particularly mathematical, thought), in the Orthodox “mental doing” (Logos meditation, or Jesus prayer), in the spiritual exercises of the Jesuits, and in the doctrine of the “way” of Muslim Sufis. Meditation has been used in some schools of contemporary psychoanalysis (C. G. Jung) whose goal is the integration of personality.


James, W. Mnogoobrazie religioznogo opyta. Moscow, 1910. (Translated from English.)
Thurston, H. The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism. Chicago, 1952.
Evans-Wentz, W. Y. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. London-Oxford, 1967.


What does it mean when you dream about meditation?

If we meditate regularly in our waking life, a dream about meditating can be a simple reflection of our everyday experience. Otherwise, it can be a message from a deeper part of our minds, telling us to slow down or to reflect.

References in periodicals archive ?
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Herbert Benson pointed out that all types of meditations (which he calls the relaxation response) have the following basic elements:
Readers will learn about and personally practice breathing meditations, meditation for relaxation, mantra meditations, simple visualization techniques, self-hypnosis, and affirmations.
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