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Meditation Audio CDs
Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference. It is recognized as a component of many religions, and has been practiced since antiquity. It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and/or psychophysical practices which may emphasize different goals—from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind. The word meditation originally comes from the Indo-European root med-, meaning "to measure." From the root med- are also derived the English words mete, medicine, modest, and moderate. It entered English as meditation through the Latin meditatio, which originally indicated every type of physical or intellectual exercise, then later evolved into the more specific meaning "contemplation."
Eastern meditation techniques have been adapted and increasingly practiced in Western culture. Meditation has been defined as: "self regulation of attention, in the service of self-inquiry, in the here and now." The various techniques of meditation can be classified according to their focus. Some focus on the field or background perception and experience, referred to by some as "mindfulness"; others focus on a preselected specific object, and are called "concentrative" meditation. There are also techniques that shift between the field and the object. In mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process . The meditator is usually encouraged to maintain an open focus:
To meditate, we need to understand two factors: evaluate the intricacies of the mind (how the mind works) and become familiar with awareness. Once we know how a thought is formulated, what triggers thoughts, what are the conditions in which mind is prone to generate thoughts, only then can we take a leap beyond the cobweb of thoughts and experience the ever-flowing bliss. To understand all this, we need to cultivate and nurture attentiveness, alertness, vigilance and have a sharp microscopic vision. ... shifting freely from one perception to the next clear your mind of all that bothers you no thoughts that can distract you from reality or your personal being... No thought, image or sensation is considered an intrusion. The meditator, with a 'no effort' attitude, is asked to remain in the here and now. Using the focus as an 'anchor'... brings the subject constantly back to the present, avoiding cognitive analysis or fantasy regarding the contents of awareness, and increasing tolerance and relaxation of secondary thought processes. Concentration meditation is used in many religions and spiritual practices. Whereas in mindfulness meditation there is an open focus, in concentration meditation the meditator holds attention on a particular object (e.g., a repetitive prayer) while minimizing distractions; bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object.
There are several types of meditation in Hinduism. Amongst these types are:
* Jnana Yoga.
* Raja Yoga as outlined by Patanjali, which describes eight "limbs" of spiritual practices, half of which might be classified as meditation. Underlying them is the assumption that a yogi should still the fluctuations of his or her mind: Yoga cittavrrti nirodha.
* Surat shabd yoga, or "sound and light meditation"
* Japa Yoga, in which a mantra is repeated aloud or silently
* Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, in which the seeker is focused on an object of devotion, eg Krishna
* Hatha Yoga, in which postures and meditations are aimed at raising the spiritual energy, known as Kundalini, which rises through energy centres known as chakras
Meditation can be practiced while walking or doing simple repetitive tasks. Walking meditation involves taking step after step, being aware of the movement, the gentleness, and the grace of the human body. Walking meditation helps break down habitual automatic mental categories, "thus regaining the primary nature of perceptions and events, focusing attention on the process while disregarding its purpose or final outcome." In a form of meditation using visualization, such as Chinese Qi Gong, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy (Qi) in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed.Some meditative traditions, such as yoga or tantra, are common to several religions or occur outside religious contexts.Evidence of the origins of meditation extends back to a time before recorded history. Archaeologists tell us the practice may have existed among the first Indian civilizations. Indian scriptures dating back 2500-3000 years describe meditation techniques. From its ancient beginnings and over thousands of years, meditation has developed into a structured practice used today by millions of people worldwide of differing nationalities and religious beliefs
The objective of meditation is to reach a calm state of mind. Vyasa, in his commentaries on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, described five chitta bhumis (states of mind): Ksipta, Mudha, Viksipta, Ekagra and Nirodha. The first three are considered hindrances. The last two are considered yoga.
* Ksipta defines a very agitated mind, unable to think, listen or remain quiet. It is jumping from one thought to another.
* In Mudha no information seems to reach the brain; the person is absentminded.
* Viksipta is a higher state where the mind receives information but is not able to process it. It moves from one thought to another, in a confused inner speech.
* Ekagra is the state of a calm mind but not asleep. The person is focused and can pay attention.
* Lastly Nirodha, when the mind is not disturbed by erratic thoughts, it is completely focused, as when you are meditating or totally centered in what you are doing.
The ultimate end of meditation according to Patanjali is the destruction of primal ignorance (avidya) and the realization of and establishment in the essential nature of the Self.
Swami Vivekananda describes meditation as follows: "Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions. The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists. When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself. To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it. Whatever the soul touches ... it has to take its colour. That is the difficulty. That constitutes the bondage. The colour is so strong, the crystal forgets itself and identifies itself with the colour. Suppose a red flower is near the crystal and the crystal takes the colour and forgets itself, thinks it is red. We have taken the colour of the body and have forgotten what we are. All the difficulties that follow come from that one dead body. All our fears, all worries, anxieties, troubles, mistakes, weakness, evil, are from that one great blunder — that we are bodies. This is the ordinary person. It is the person taking the colour of the flower near to it. We are no more bodies than the crystal is the red flower."
The Bhagavad Gita stresses the importance of meditation. The Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita - "The Yoga of Meditation" describes the technique of meditation, and the characteristics of the Yogi who is well established in meditation.. The Bhagavad Gita stresses the importance of meditation as follows "Make a habit of practising meditation and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord who is the light-giver, the highest of the high."
Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena. The historical Buddha himself, Siddhartha Gautama, was said to have achieved enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. In Buddhist mythology, there are countless Buddhas and all of them used meditation to make spiritual progress. Most forms of Buddhism distinguish between two classes of meditation practices, shamatha and vipassana, both of which are necessary for attaining enlightenment. The former consists of practices aimed at developing the ability to focus the attention single-pointedly; the latter includes practices aimed at developing insight and wisdom through seeing the true nature of reality. The differentiation between the two types of meditation practices is not always clear cut, which is made obvious when studying practices such as anapanasati which could be said to start off as a shamatha practice but that goes through a number of stages and ends up as a vipassana practice.
In some traditions, such as Vipassana, mindfulness and concentration are combined. Vipassana meditation was banned for centuries in India for political and religious reasons. Some claim that the pure form survived intact through monks in a monastery in Burma, and there is long tradtion of meditation practice in Thailand as well. It was the style of meditation that gave Gautama Buddha enlightenment and what he taught in his travels. Initially Anapana meditation is used focusing on the breath and then focusing on complete equanimity. Vipassana was reintroduced to society through Goenka in the 1970s and now has many centers around the globe.
In Japanese Mahayana schools, Tendai (Tien-tai), concentration is cultivated through highly structured ritual. Especially in the Chinese Chán Buddhism school (which branched out into the Japanese Zen, and Korean Seon schools), ts'o ch'an meditation and koan meditation practices allow a practitioner to directly experience the true nature of reality (each of the names of these schools derives from the Sanskrit dhyana, and translates into "meditation" in their respective languages). The esoteric Shingon sect shares many features with Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) emphasizes tantra for its senior practitioners; hence its alternate name of Tantrayana Buddhism. Many monks go through their day without "meditating" in a recognizable form, but are more likely to chant or participate in group liturgy. In this tradition, the purpose of meditation is to awaken the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce practitioners to the true nature of mind: unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death.
The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying Most Buddhist traditions recognize that the path to Enlightenment entails three types of training: virtue (sīla); meditation (samadhi); and, wisdom (paññā). Thus, meditative prowess alone is not sufficient; it is but one part of the path. In other words, in Buddhism, in tandem with mental cultivation, ethical development and wise understanding are also necessary for the attainment of the highest goal. New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy and mysticism such as Yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence. In the West, meditation found its mainstream roots through the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the youth of the day rebelled against traditional belief systems as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance. New Age meditation as practiced by the early hippies is regarded for its techniques of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object. Many New Age groups combine yoga with meditation where the control of mind and breathing is said to be the highest yoga. Carlos Castaneda, considered by some to be "a father of the new age", wrote that the Toltec mystics of northern Sonora practiced "halting the interior dialog", or quieting one's thoughts, as a key meditative practice. His teacher don Juan Matus believed that the mind or the Ego was actually a "foreign installation" and was the chief cause of a person's misery. One learns how to "see" the world for what it is by stopping what don Juan called "endless self-absorption". One can also do this by the practice of Tensegrity or the use of magical passes.
Taoism includes a number of meditative and contemplative traditions. Originally said to have their principles described in the I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu and Tao Tsang among other texts; the multitude of schools relating to Qigong, Neigong, Internal alchemy, Daoyin and Zhan zhuang are a large, diverse array of breath training practices in aid of meditation with much influence on later Chinese Buddhism and with much influence on traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese as well as some Japanese martial arts. The Chinese martial art T'ai Chi Ch'uan is named after the well-known focus for Taoist and Neo-Confucian meditation, the T'ai Chi T'u, and is often referred to as “meditation in motion”. Often Taoist Internal martial arts, especially Tai Chi Chuan are thought of as moving meditation. A common phrase being, "movement in stillness" referring to energetic movement in passive Qigong and seated Taoist meditation; with the converse being "stillness in movement", a state of mental calm and meditation in the tai chi form.