The monks of the Benedictine order developed the formal steps to meditation in the 12th century. These served as the basis for most modern meditation techniques. In fact almost all techniques practiced today have an influence of this religious order. The monks espoused the following: “read, ponder, pray, contemplate” and the meditative practices in the different religions being observed today share these essential elements.
Nevertheless, the very first successful attempts at formalizing meditation occurred centuries ahead of the Benedictine monks. They are not the ones who first practice this activity. Even before Western cultures and religions promulgated meditative practice as essential to the observance of their Faith, the rich and ancient religions of the East were already using meditation as a means of achieving altered states of being. One of the most successful pioneers in formalizing meditative practice was Gautama Buddha. He was a well-known person who practiced meditation. The importance of meditation in the Buddha’s attainment of Enlightenment can be seen in all the statues of the Enlightened One adorning Buddhist temples and homes. Buddhism revolves around this religious practice. The lotus position is a meditative pose and the Buddha is usually depicted in this attitude. If you happen to visit countries that practice Buddhism, their praying position is the lotus position.
Eastern cultures were already benefiting from the positive effects of meditation for a few thousand years before Western cultures were exposed to it. However, once meditation entered the mainstream, there was no stopping it to spread. The mid-20th century was witness to the evolution of meditation as Western societies modified the basic tenets to suit their needs. Even the younger generations are seeing the benefits of this practice. This led to the diversification of meditative traditions and the huge number of meditation techniques practiced today. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, meditation became the subject of studies that sought to determine the basis for its positive effects on the mind and the body. The practice was dissected and studies in an attempt by Western cultures to understand exactly how it works.
Western cultures took particular interest on Yoga and meditation, expanding the practice with secular versions of what used to be exclusively religious practice, which originated in Hinduism. Until now, Yoga is one of the most widely practiced Eastern traditions that involves meditation. The popularity of Yoga is founded on its widely acknowledged effects on relaxation, stress reduction, and self-improvement.
Daily stresses can offset the delicate balance of a person’s psychological state, leading to behavioral problems and mental disorders, many of which are undiagnosed and untreated. With so many problems the world has to offer, meditation is needed by a lot of people. Mental health specialists recognize the value of meditation in helping people regain mental balance. Today, meditation is often recommended along with other interventions for anxiety, depression and stress disorders.
Aside from its value in the treatment of mental and behavioral disorders, meditation is also one of the alternative approaches to resolving drug addiction, alcoholism, and other addictive habits such as smoking. Meditation gives the practitioner the chance to think more clearly and make smarter choices in life. Many cultures and religions have contributed to the development and evolution of meditative practices. Until today, it is still continuing to evolve. We have all of them to thank for contributing to the shaping of a practice that helps millions of people today in attaining peace of mind, a positive outlook, and success in life. It has also cured a lot of disease.