What is Meditation? According to Wikipedia -
"... a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness."
We're talking about a state of mind that is situated firmly in the present moment. A mind that is in a state of agitation is the opposite of a mind in the state of meditation. Our definition of a normal state of mind is in fact abnormal, because our reactions to various external stimuli are unpredictable, whereas a meditative state is consistently consistent. Our “normal” mental state is unstable in terms of the silence, in that we are guided by emotions, over which we tend to have little control and usually are unable to justify.
Our thoughts and emotions are incessant and drive us, sometimes insane! Conversely, meditation is the practice of non-thought, the “art of doing nothing.” It is not an act, but the release of past resentments, anger, and trying to plan the future. It is living the moment.
Often misunderstood, let me first state what we're NOT talking about:
Many people consider it to be prayer or worship. But that is not the case, it is actually the art of "awareness".
NOT contemplation. Contemplation is a mental activity that involves thinking about certain ideas, concepts, etc. in one-pointed attention; the silence is an act of going beyond the mind. In fact, active thinking is not a part of it at all.
NOT hypnosis. In hypnosis, the mind is given suggestions - either by another person or by ourselves (as in self-hypnosis). The objective is to manipulate, program or condition the mind for certain positive results such as getting rid of addictions, positive affirmations, personality development, etc. However, in going into the silence, we observe our mind and by being a passive witness, we experience deeper levels of bliss, calmness and relaxation. There are no auto-suggestions or positive affirmations involved in the practice.
NOT, nor is it part of, a religion. It does not belong to any particular religion, caste, creed or community. It is a science of self-exploration and self-realization. Although some rituals or religious practices have become a part of many meditative techniques, it still remains a perfect science.
A cessation of the thought process, not simply limited to being a technique, but it can become a way of life if practiced on a daily basis, even for 5 minutes.
Watching your breath consciously with a feeling of non-attachment is a meditative technique.
Listening to the birds (without any feelings of like/dislike, judgment, etc.) is another example.
Simple acts like drinking tea or riding a bicycle can also be considered meditative! All activities that are performed with awareness and are free from the mind's interference pretty much qualifies.
For a more in-depth explanation of the benefits we're discussing, click here.
Buddhist According to Wikipedia"The Buddhist method encompasses a variety of techniques that develop mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight."
Vipassana - involves a choice-less observation of things as they are. It means "to see things as they really are". It is among the most ancient techniques of India. It was rediscovered by Gautam Buddha around 2500 years ago. He achieved enlightenment by the practice of Vipassana and taught this meditation technique to his disciples. It is the Buddha's way of achieving self-realization.
Zen - takes many forms, including: (1) Sitting dhyana-practitioners assume a position such as the lotus or half-lotus. Awareness is directed toward counting or concentrating on the breath, or putting the energy center below the navel. One generally sits on a cushion placed on a mat, or a chair may be used. (2) Soto School-practitioners meditate using no objects or content. One strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to come and go without acknowledging or interfering.
Prayanama: means "breathing techniques" or "breath control". Ideally, this practice of opening up the inner life force is not merely to take healthy deep breaths. It is intended for yoga practitioners to help and prepare them in their meditation process. This is a very interesting technique that is worth expounding upon. In our respiration process, we breathe in or inhale oxygen into our body, going through our body systems in a form of energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and take away all toxic wastes from our body. Through the practice of Pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Absorbing prana through breath control links our body, mind, and spirit.
Yoga - (also referred to in Pranayama): The word yoga means "to join" or "to be one with". It means to be in a state of awareness of oneness or un-dividedness of the various aspects of yourself with the universal consciousness. The interesting thing is that they were never divided in the first place.
Yoga meditation is the art and science of remaining in a state of union without the distraction of thoughts. The meditator overcomes the false perception of separation and finds himself in the awareness of union.
It is a form of Raja Yoga. Tee Yoga technique involves a systematic viewing, acceptance, training and understanding of the respective levels of our being. The goal is to coordinate and integrate those aspects of ourselves, so that we can ultimately experience the all-pervading center of consciousness.
"Yoga meditation" is actually not a separate part of Yoga. But, this phrase is used to distinguish between yoga meditation techniques as a complete system of self-realization and the popular belief of Yoga being just a couple of physical postures and exercises for a better health.
Whether one is a Beginner or considers themselves to be Intermediate, the article “20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind”is one of the most informative lists of meditation tips I have run across. Click on the title to obtain the PDF.