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Meditation brings to mind traditional methods and iconography – yet at its heart, the practice is a personal exploration, a search for meaning undiluted by variation on cultures. Here are just a few examples of how and where meditation practice exists within a vast medley of traditions.
Baha’i faith holds meditation as a gateway for uniting oneself with the divine forces present in the universe. While reading of texts is recommended as an entry point, there are no set forms of meditation, thus practitioners are encouraged to select their own methods.
Buddhism’s core principles center on meditation – specifically from practices detailed and preserved in texts thousands of years old. Buddhist meditation is practiced with a reverence of the student-teacher relationship, and is done with the aim of developing practical insight and wisdom, eventually approaching Enlightenment and freedom from worldly suffering.
Christian meditation was developed over the centuries to bring the individual closer to the divine through intense prayer and contemplation. Unlike eastern meditation, Christian practitioners do not rely on mantras but rather the peaceful stimulation of deep thoughts leading to personal insight.
Daoism (also Taoism) perpetuates meditation as a key method of establishing contemplation, insight, and qi (natural force) cultivation in the life of the individual. Daoist meditation fuses mind-body action, with specific practices for controlling the limbs, the lungs, and so forth.
Hinduism has embraced meditation since its inception, with classic poems such as the Bhagavad Gita detailing the practice’s far-reaching influence on Hindu spirituality. In Hinduism, the goal of meditation is to realize the union of Self with the omnipresent Brahman, or infinite force. Hindu meditation frequently involves the use of japa mala, or prayer beads.
Islam / Sufism explores meditation as a practical pathway to awareness, creativity and healing. Practitioners concentrate on cultivating tadabbur – meaning literally reflecting upon the universe in order to receive divine inspiration which awakens both heart and intellect.
Jainism encourages meditation as a way of self-realization and self-salvation, a practice capable of helping the individual to “reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure consciousness, beyond any attachment or aversion.”
Judaism is thought to have meditation in its oldest roots, used through the ages to approach the Divine while growing in understanding of the self. Kabbalah and other mystical branches of Judaism involve meditation as a way of encouraging positive boded – meaning the state of being alone.
Secular traditions including counseling centers and school environments have adopted non-religious meditation as an effective course towards cognitive and social health for individuals and groups alike. Strategies may include breathing exercises, mindfulness practices and general relaxation techniques.
Meditation exists for the individual, the group, and greater cultural and spiritual traditions all at once. While symbols, tools and mantras we place within practice may vary, the importance lies in the search itself, and our desire to connect, or perhaps reconnect, with the true Self and its place in the universal system.