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What Is Meditation?

What Is Meditation? Cover Image

Dr. Hank Finkel

I wrote the book, Am I Still The Ocean?  as an understated way to introduce the concept of meditation to children and families.  Having, along with my wife, raised two children, I know that there are times (think bedtime) and stress events for every child and every family. It is my firm belief that having a skill set that includes regular meditation practice would help decrease many of the undesirable behaviors, anxiety and family disruption, that are experienced, as well as increase positive coping behaviors  and outcomes, if meditation was more widely practiced. 

Meditation is a practice in which an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions. Wikipedia

The word meditation carries a lot of baggage in our society. Images of Buddhist monks sitting in silent stillness, Hare Krishnas chanting, incense, spirituality…  are some of the vague common ideas many people subconsciously have with regard to meditation. I’m a strong proponent of meditation. A meditation advocate, if you like, and I’d like to make this first blog post an overview of what meditation is and in upcoming posts, discuss the benefits, and introduce easy techniques to try alone or with your families. 

I like to say the meditation is to the brain, as working out is to the body. If you meet someone new and say, "I like to work out." What does that tell the person? It’s a statement that says, you like to do something, presumably on a regular basis, that in someway moves and benefits the body physically? But that’s it. You may, go to the gym, run on a track, do martial arts, etc. there are many ways to "work out", each with their own goal. Likewise, the statement, “I like to meditate.”, only indicates that you do something, again presumably on a regular basis, the benefits the brain. 

One important issue to address upfront is that meditation may or may not involve some aspect of spirituality. Some meditation techniques are designed to increase or enhance one’s innate spiritual essence and indeed many religions use meditation. Meditation can increase feelings of connection with one’s Divine Self, one’s Creator, or with some other spiritual goal. Meditative contemplation is one technique that can be used in this context or not. This may be a goal for you or it may not. This author and blog will make no value judgment on the goal or reason you choose to meditate. 

That being said, more and more, especially as science continues to validate meditation benefits, many people are finding meditation useful in a myriad of other ways. For example, athletes using visualization techniques while in meditation, others with sleep difficulties, anxiety issue, those who desire greater creativity and focus, and the list goes on. 

In coming blog posts, I will discuss what impact meditation can have on children and families. I’ll introduce short techniques and meditations that you can try. I’ll offer links and resources to where you can learn more. I hope you’ll join me and find the journey of interest and value.