Given today’s hectic pace many are looking to meditation for relief. What is meditation? In its current usage the word “Meditation” refers to a broad range of spiritual practices designed to promote relaxation through mental activity. Properly done, it produces a state of deep relaxation and a sense of balance or equanimity. According to Michael J. Baime, “Meditation cultivates an emotional stability that allows the meditator to experience intense emotions fully while simultaneously maintaining perspective on them. (1).”
The Evolution of Meditation
While it is believed by some that the practice dates back to the evolution of man, the first documented evidence dates from about 5,000 years ago in Hindu scripture. (2). Buddha’s, teachings were first noted about 500 B.C. As they spread across Asia they were modified by other cultures.
The Pali Canon, the Vimalakirti Sutra, early Zen, carried over the Silk Road also served to introduce meditation to Asian countries (4). The Islamic practice of Dhikr and Sufism may have had an influence on the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm (Christian raja yoga)(5). As it slowly gained popularity in the West in the mid-20th century, elements were incorporated in martial arts, the Jewish Torah, and Islam (6). Probably the best-known meditation styles today are Buddha’s teachings, along with Hindu-based Easter-style meditation practices, and Transcendental Meditation developed by Mahparishi Mahesh Yogi (7).
Health Benefits from Meditation
In the 1960s and 1970s, many health providers began testing the effects of meditation in stress related illness (7).
Research demonstrated that meditation affects the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system (8). It was about this same time period when psychologist Carl Jung incorporated a form of meditation in his practice. Although he was a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician for most of his life, much of his life’s work was spent exploring other realms including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. He believed that discovering and fulfilling our deep innate potential is at the mystical heart of all religions. To achieve this one must make a journey of transformation or individuation. “ Through this individuation, one can meet the self and at the same time meet the Devine. (9).”
Today, many health care providers are using meditation to treat panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, substance dependence and abuse, ulcers, colitis, chronic pain, psoriasis, and dysthymic disorder. It is considered to be a valuable adjunctive therapy for moderate high blood pressure, prevention of heart attacks, cancer, insomnia, migraine, and stroke (8).
Music and Meditation
Given the array of styles and techniques available, time would be well spent in becoming familiar with the literature. The choice of music should be a personal one. Regardless of one’s preferred genera, the music should be positive, emotionally stimulating, and spiritually uplifting.
There are many classical pieces composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and many other well-known classical musicians from which to choose. (See Note below). Click here to hear a sample by Daniel Kobialka. http://www.wonderofsound.bandcamp.com/album/velvet-dreams-2
A favorite quote by Carl Jung pretty much summarizes the journey to achieving a meditative state. “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” (10).
Once a style or technique is chosen, it is important to establish a regular daily practice, and set one’s goal to gain greater clarity and equanimity in ones life . So, given there are no rules to follow, whatever is done with awareness may be considered positive. ”Abdominal breathing” and listening to music prepares one for a meditative state (11). As long as these activities are accomplished without any other distraction to the mind, they can be considered effective meditation.
1. Baiem, Michael J. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Meditation. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
2. Meditation: History. http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring05/Luft/history.htm. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
3. “Meditation” (http://vitalwarrior.org/the-program/step-7-meditation). Vitalwarrior.
4. Everly, George and Lating, Jeffrey M. A Clinical guide to the treatment of human stress response. ISBN 0-306-46620-1. P. 199. 2000.
5. Hadot, Pierre, Davidson, Arnold I. (1995). Philosophy as a way of Life. ISBN 0-631-18033-8. Pp. 83-84.
6. Dumoulin, James, Knitter, Paul F. (2005). Zen Buddhism: a History: India and China. ISBN 0-941532-89-5.
7. Health and Balance. Transcendental Meditation. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/transcendental-meditation-benefits-technique Retrieved March 4, 2014
8. The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Meditation Retrieved March 4, 2014
9. Psychologist Carl Jung on Spirituality. Alternative News. http://www.in5d.com/psychologist-carl-jung-on-spirituality.html Retrieved March 4, 2014
10. Quotations by Author. http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Carl_Jung/ Retrieved March 4, 2014
11. Meditation. Dreddyclinic.com. http://www.dreddyclinic.com/meditation.htm Retrieved March 4, 2014
NOTE: Classical Music For Meditation
J.S. Bach – Prelude from Cello Suite J.S. Bach – Allemande (Cello Suite 3)
J.S. Bach – Be Thou Near Me J.S. Bach – Concerto in G Minor for Flute and Strings
A. Vivaldi –The Four Seasons
G.F. Handel – Concerto number 1 in F
A. Corelli – Concerto No. 7 in D Minor
Telemann – Double Fantasia in G Major for Harpsichord