The term ‘meditation’ is commonly used today amongst different peoples. The etymology of the word relates to the ideas of thinking or pondering. However, this is not an accurate description of the practice or purpose as the term is used today. Wikipedia defines the term as “a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness.” The dictionary within “Bing” defines the term to mean an “emptying or concentration of the mind. . . in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation.” Perhaps better, but this still fails to really describe the practice of the range of experience involved in the practice.
The only overarching description I can identify is that meditation involves a change in focus or awareness that typically stills the inner chatter of the mind. This may involve quiet concentrative techniques, observing the flow of mental contents, focusing on a particular action such as walking, or even using new technology to alter brainwaves through entrainment. Some form of changing the level of focus of consciousness has existed since the dawn of humanity. Flickering fires and evocative drumming are effective in changing to an altered state of awareness.
Later entries will describe a substantial number of practices for your consideration. Other entries will examine the physiological and brain changes that research has demonstrated with regular practice.
But first. . . .
Start by taking about five minutes of quiet time where you won’t be disturbed. Make a modest effort to have a quiet mind. Be aware that in all likelihood this will be an impossible task. The moment that the TV is off, the phone silenced and the computer out of awareness, you will probably find an internal dialogue of chitter chatter that is highly resistant to inner mental silence. That is OK! Just observe this for a few minutes and ponder why you think it might be that this inner commentary is so powerful. No judgement here, just observe.
Some forms of meditation are designed to distract this inner noise by focus on some other internal or external stimuli, others are designed to grasp ever longer instants of true silence. A bit of freedom from this chatter is quite freeing, and worth a bit of effort to experience, and as an added benefit you can grasp a whole new vision of yourself. Almost every spiritual tradition in the world has some form of meditative practice, irrespective of the more dogmatic aspect of the literalist part of the religious base. This is truly a worldwide and cross-cultural experience.