There are many different techniques of meditation across many different cultures and traditions. Science has studied the benefits of meditation and they are numerous. Meditation has been found to bring about stress and anxiety reduction, improved attention span, emotional balance and long-term reduction in depression among its many positive outcomes.
Modern culture breeds stress. Our work lives are demanding and increasingly insecure, the flow of global news paints a deeply disturbing picture of reality, and nature's systems appear to be collapsing under the weight of demands we place on them.
These huge influences on our psyche are difficult to process and can result in states of fear, anxiety and depression. We have various escape mechanisms - entertainment, stimulation, accumulation etc - but these do not bring about any lasting change.
Studies have shown that meditation lessens stress, anxiety, depression and even physical pain. To put ourselves in a receptive, accepting and observant state of mind yields benefits both physical and mental, positively affecting ourselves and those around us.
There are many techniques and forms of practice to help lead us into these peaceful states of awareness. One tool that is used across cultures and traditions throughout history is sound.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
The process of meditation is one of passive observation of the contents of consciousness. That content is our sensory input (the information coming through the five senses) and the response of the mind to that information (the conceptual, energetic and emotional responses which arise from memory).
The content of memory is made up of previous experience, culturally accumulated information, and biological conditioning. These elements act together in an integrated field to manifest in thought and action as our will.
When we begin to practice meditation we first discover that we are not fully in control of thought – we try to focus on the object of our meditation [the sound, mantra, physical or mental object, or sensation] and thought constantly draws the attention away. Whether the thought is mundane or profound we become aware that thought gets in the way of full awareness of whatever our object is. The temptation at this point is to try and stop thought through an act of will. It doesn’t take long to realise that isn’t possible, so we eventually surrender to observing without struggle.
Over time our surface thoughts begin to subside, or slow, and our ability to maintain focus improves. The sense of time falls away and we can begin to relax mentally and observe the movement and flow between sensation and thought without needing to generate a response or struggling against the flow of mental content.
Attention naturally drifts back and forth between the object and the mental contents and over time a stillness begins to descend. There is no goal, nothing to be achieved, and nothing to accumulate. This state has been called many things including ‘the observer’, ‘the witness position’, and ‘choiceless awareness’. It is the state of unpremeditated, complete awareness of the present without preference, effort, or compulsion. Whatever arises is allowed to arise without resistance or clinging.