Meditation and Benefits
Meditation and mindfulness practices’ have their own particular source in both Western and Eastern religions and also philosophical traditions. It can involve a wide range area of various practices including;
· Contemplative Prayer,
· Yoga, and
· Relaxation techniques.
However, these types of meditation share the common goal of allowing an individual to enlighten his/her awareness of events and experiences in that particular moment (Hutcherson, 2008).
Recent studies by Doige et al (2007) have found that the human brain is not 100% hardwired, that it can be shaped depending on the individuals’ experiences. In addition to this study, it was found that meditation can significantly increase activations in various regions of the brain associated with positive thoughts and emotions (Davidson et al, 2003), it was also found in a later study that regions of the brain associated with empathetic responses are also impacted through the practice of meditation.
Duerr (2008) found that meditative and contemplative practices can aid in the reduction of fatigue, depression and anxiety. It was also found that meditation can relieve other psychological symptoms such as insomnia and weakened immune system.
Carl Gustav Jung conducted a treatment known as “Active Imagination”. Most meditative practices involve the individual thinking about a particular person and wishing the love and kindness or a particular journey that the individual must go on step by step. Jung’s Active Imagination technique required the individual to clear his/her mind and allow the unconscious to steer the direction of the individuals’ imagination. Unlike some meditation methods, the individual is not to listen to music or light candles or incense. The reason behind this is to restrict any distractions that may steer the thought process. In addition to meditative type therapy, the use of symbolic analysis is a major contribution to Jungian analysis as the images derived from the unconscious are a representation of the minds current state (Banker, 2006).
Meditation is an area closely associated with religious practices of the East. The best example of this is Taoism. Tao is said to be the unchanging principle behind the universe. It integrates a mythical path of naturalist and unconstrained spontaneous creativity. It endorses a spiritual aspect of immortality which arises from a natural and harmonious life. The human body, in the Taoistic belief, is regarded as a source of energy consisting of patterned flows of a natural and abundant energy. Jung, deeply fascinated by the meditative practices of Taoists, believed that it was a way to achieve human Alchemy. The close connection of mind, body and spirit has formed the basis of medical and psycho-physical disciplines.
To put it simply, meditation is a form of methodical and systematic reflection. The mental cognition is the acquisition of the individuals’ conception of various physical or fictional constructs.
Through meditation, we can construct what life can teach us and we can, in turn, gather into our conscious materials to be worked through later in the mental world. The first step of meditation is the “fixing of one’s attention”. It is at this point that most people will find difficult, some would generally lose concentration and focus.
Like what the Taoists believe, meditation is actually a production of energy. In one instance of meditative monks, could raise their body temperature several degrees above the norm, drying damp cloths wrapped across their shoulders.
There are potential risks of meditation. Because meditation is predominantly a mental process, an individuals’ conscious awareness may be fixed on something and reaction time may have altered. Altering the state of consciousness, for example, may put the individual into a deep state of sleep. Another aspect identified by George (2008), an individual would carry a baggage of emotional trauma within the unconscious. These traumas are unpleasant memories of the past that an individual may have forgotten. It is suggested that at times we are upset or depressed for no apparent reason, it is these traumas attacking at an unconscious level. As meditation is about awareness, we may actually bring back certain memories through it. Good memories may surface and bring happy feelings. But, the mind does not segregate the bad memories and we may remember things we tried to forget.