Modern cross-cultural public exposure
The different meditation techniques have got disseminated cross-culturally during different times of history, like Buddhism moving towards East Asia and Sufi practices might to towards Islamic societies. During particular association towards modern world is split of different meditative practice as of late nineteenth century, which accompanies high communication and travel among various cultures throughout the world. The most important has been broadcast of various practices derived from Asia and brought to West. Apart from that, the curiosity in certain meditative practices based on Western region has got revived and is considered to be spread on a small portion to Asian countries.
The various concepts about Eastern meditation has started to delve deep into American Culture earlier to American revolution through different sectors of European Christians prevailing there and these ideas entered to American Society during the period of transcendentalists particularly between the period of 1840s – 1880s.
During 1893, the world parliament of Religions was conducted in Chicago which was considered to be landmark event to increase awareness of mediation towards Western countries. During the 1st time, the audiences of Western region obtained the spiritual teachings from Asians. Since then, Swami Vivekananda started many Vedanta ashrams. There was lecture given by about Theravada Buddhist mediation by Anagarika Dharmapala at Harvard during the year 1904. Abdhul Baha made a tour towards United states and taught different principles of Bahai and Soyen Shaku who toured the world during 1907 to teach Zen.
There was another rise in interest of Western people towards Meditation practices. The observers stated that there are various categories of explanations which suited this interest towards Eastern mediation and got Western contemplation. One of the founders of Contemplative Outreach, Thomas Keating stated that rush towards East indicates the things which are missing in West. The Western people have a deep spiritual hunger and they slowly move towards East to acquire it. Daniel Goleman who was meditation scholar, stated that change in interest from established religions towards meditative practices takes place due to lack of personal experience under the transcendental states which his the living spirit at main core for all religions. Another factor which led to acceptance of Spiritual teachers from Asia as refugees in West was the rise of communist political power within Asia.
Meditation in Western Context:
During late nineteenth century, the term mediation was used by Theosophists in order to indicate different spiritual practices which are drawn from Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism and different other Indian religions. Hence the English word meditation will not translate exclusive to a particular concept or item and could be used to refer to various words like Sanskrit dharana, bhavana, dhyana and Samadhi. Mediation might be used for spiritual goals like reaching Salvation, but it was used in Secular context even before it entered the West. Starting with Theosophists, mediation was used in West by various spiritual and religious movements like New Thought, New Age and yoga movement.
The different techniques of meditation have also been categorized by Western theories of psychotherapy and counselling. Relaxation training will focus towards getting muscle and emotional relaxation in minimizing day-to-day stresses. The credits go to Jacobson who developed the procedure for progressive relaxation. Such methods are used in combination with behavioural techniques. The method was initially used for systematic desensitization and is used for various clinical issues. Relaxation induced through hypnosis, biofeedback training and mediation are few methods to use relaxation training. The 8 important phases of EMDR created by Shapiro, bring enough closure to completion of each session and also involves use of various relaxation methods apart from mediation. The technically eclectic approach for behavioural therapy which is Multimodal therapy involves use of meditation as one of the methods among various individual therapies. From point of view of physiology and psychology, meditation could create an increased state of alertness. These different states of consciousness could be related to various neuro-physiologic states.
Drugs, Religion and Meditation:
Transcendental meditation was one among different traditions where meditation was practised. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and various religions advised the people who meditate, not to intake intoxicants and others like worshippers at Native Americans Church and Rastafarian movements consider drugs as a portion of their religious lifestyle. The 4th of 5 precepts of Pancasila, which is ethical code as mentioned in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions suggest that adherents should not ingest, take drugs and intoxicating drinks which can results in heedleness.
On contrary, taking psychoactives is considered as prominent features in rituals of various religions for developing the changed state of mind. With various traditional and shamanistic ceremonies, drugs might be used as ritual agents. In Rastafari movement, Cannabis is considered to be a gift from a sacred herb and Jah to be used normally and alcohol is perceived to demean man. Bob Marley practiced meditation everyday on his long sack in a room similar to corridor with shutters and wooden floor. Salvia divinorum had ancient history of use among Mazatec Shamans that used this for developing visionary states of Consciousness towards rituals in Spiritual healing. Native Americans are considered to use peyote which is a portion of religious ceremony that is followed till now. Soma drink has been used in India along with sacrifice and prayer, which is explained clearly in rig veda.
During 1960s, the psychedelics and eastern traditions of meditation like LSD got very famous in America since it was stated that LSD might use meditation as means to existential/spiritual end. There are different practitioners from eastern traditions who denies this idea, which includes people who tried LSD on their own. Robert S de Ropp has written about Meditation in The Master Game, that door to entire consciousness could be speculated through help of substances, but in order to pass the door a person will require meditation and yoga. Various other authors like Rick Strassman, consider that relationship between various religious experiences attained the method of meditation and use of psychedelic drugs in mediation needs further research.
Physical postures for Meditation
The Meditators might follow different postures. Standing, supine and sitting postures might be used. The bodily positions which are applied at the time of yoga will the explained further under Asanas. The half-lotus, kneeling, Burmese and full-lotus are famous meditation postures in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Mediation could also be carried out while walking which is called kinhin and samu refers to meditation when doing another task in parallel.
Scientific studies on Meditation
There are more than thousand approved publications written about mediation till date. Most of ancient studies don’t have a perspective that is theoretically unified which generally results in poor quality as mentioned in Scope and Definitions of Meditation.
A review of scientific studies has identified concentration, which is a heightened state of awareness, a method of logical thought and maintenance of attitude which is self-observing like behavioural portion of meditation. It’s combined along with a group of physical and biochemical changed in body which alter heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, metabolism and activation of brain. Meditation is used in clinical settings as a technique to reduce pain and stress. It has been researched scientifically, especially on its impact towards reducing stress.
During June 2007, the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative medicine released a peer-reviewed, independent analysis about state of research towards mediation and various health benefits. The report was conducted to review 813 studies in five separate categories of meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation. They got mixed results and report finally concluded that impact of mediation practices with relation to healthcare could not be derived based on obtained evidence. But results which are analyzed based on further findings from research were enough to stress the value of continued research on the topic. There is further development and emphasis on advanced research about this topic. Recent studies report that mediation might enhance attention spans. The Psychological science stated through practice of mediation, a person might be able to do a specific task with continuous attention.
Popular culture and Meditation
Different categories of mediation have been explained in various sources of popular culture. In famous science fiction stories like Star Wars, James Hilton, Star Wards, Lost Horizon, Maskman and Stargate SG-1 have characters that practice different methods of mediation. It also appears as open themes in novels like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums.