Firstly, meditation is a practice, and although it is steeped in ancient religious history and context, it exists independently of its religious connotations.
In fact, meditation is something that you do within your mind and body. You have complete ownership over it – so it can be as spiritual and religious or as non-secular and relaxing as you want.
Meditation is an important part of a wider package of well-being, that can benefit you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
There are two layers of importance: the importance of meditation to the individual, and the importance within wider contexts (like a religion). In this article, we’ll cover the basics and try to convey an understanding of the importance of meditation, as per the below:
- What Is Meditation?
- Why Is Meditation Important According To Hinduism And Yoga Theory
- Why Is Meditation Important According To Buddhism
- Emotional And Mental Benefits Of Meditation
- Physical Benefits Of Meditation
What Is Meditation?
Firstly, what exactly is meditation?
Traditionally, you might imagine someone sitting down cross-legged, eyes closed and perfectly still.
And yes, that is certainly meditation, if the person is applying some sort of action within their mind and body to create (or not create) something.
As I see it, these potential actions largely narrow down to two things:
- Repeatedly stilling, or re-routing to a subject (breath, footsteps, movement, state of mind, visualization, etc.) with a conscious or automatic aim to induce tranquility of body and mind.
- In mental stillness, contemplating or observing phenomena within the field of your senses.
A wonderful thing to note is that these actions are not restricted to the traditional image of a seated statue.
Meditation is something that can occur whilst playing a sport, working, listening to music, or ,of course, practicing yoga.In fact, meditative states are indivisible from the human experience, and it is through the application of meditation that we can access these states in basically nearly everything and anything we do.
So, why is meditation important?
To understand the importance of something, we need to understand the scale on which we measure that importance. What does value look like with meditation, and what is important about the areas of our lives that will be impacted by the application of meditation?
Why Is Meditation Important According To Hinduism And Yoga Theory
Meditation has held a central and enduring role in Hinduism throughout its long history. Its significance can be traced back millennia and is deeply rooted in the spiritual and philosophical traditions of this ancient religion.
Patanjali, a prominent figure in the history of yoga and Hindu philosophy, provided valuable insights into the practice of meditation and its ultimate goal – samadhi.
Samadhi can also be interpreted as enlightenment, God-realization, or self-mastery.
During meditation, practitioners examine the phenomena of the mind and body, anchoring themselves with exquisite breath control (pranayama) and the aforementioned mental focus (dharana).
Pranayama, or breath control, is an essential element in the practice of meditation. It serves as a vital anchor, helping practitioners maintain a steady and harmonious connection between the mind and body.
Proper control of the breath is believed to contribute to inner calmness and mental clarity, which are crucial for successful meditation.
The practice of asana, which is one of the eight limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, is often viewed as a preliminary step that serves as a foundation for more advanced practices like meditation.
The practice of asana helps prepare the body for the extended periods of sitting and concentration required in meditation (dhyana). By developing a stable and healthy physical foundation, practitioners can sit for meditation without being distracted by discomfort.
Meditation holds immense significance in Hinduism. Adi Shankara, the spiritual progenitor of modern Hinduism, dedicated an extensive commentary on the Brahma Sutras to meditation, deeming it essential to spiritual practice.
Meditation is not only considered an indispensable tool but is also regarded as a virtue in Hinduism. Engaging in meditation is virtuous because it purifies the mind.
Self-inquiry through meditation is ego-dissolving, fostering a more karmic and yogic alignment, emphasizing morality and spiritual prowess. This perspective finds support in texts like the Bhagavad Gita, which shows meditation as a way to detach from sensory distractions.
Why Is Meditation Important According To Buddhists
Meditation holds a profound and central role in Buddhism, much like its significance in Hinduism. Within the Buddhist tradition, meditation is a core practice with several significant aspects.
At the heart of Buddhism lies the pursuit of spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
Meditation serves as the primary means by which meditators look to gain direct insight into the nature of reality, the causes of suffering (dukkha), and the path to liberation from suffering (nirvana).
Insight is a crucial term to understand when it comes to the importance of meditation in Buddhism. Insight, loosely translatable to Vipassana, is in reference to both the activity and goal of meditation: clear-seeing understanding.
So by extension, Buddhism places a strong emphasis on mindfulness meditation, often referred to as “vipassana” or “insight meditation”. This practice fosters a deep awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the transient nature of all phenomena.
Mindfulness is regarded as pivotal for understanding and transcending suffering – and so cements the importance of meditation to the humble Buddhist.
Meditation in Buddhism is seen as a transformative process. It facilitates the development of virtues such as compassion, loving-kindness, equanimity, and wisdom, not dissimilar to Hinduism.
These qualities are not only vital for personal growth but also for contributing to the well-being of all sentient beings.
In addition, by quieting the mind and reducing mental agitation, meditation allows for the experience of profound inner tranquility.
As opposed to samadhi in Hinduism meaning divine union, samadhi in Buddhism is likened to sati, which means mindfulness, a calm mind, a base of tranquility, and so on.
Meditation is an integral component of the Noble Eightfold Path, which encompasses the below:
- Right view
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness (including meditation)
- Right concentration
Together, these elements provide a comprehensive guide for living a morally and spiritually upright life. This defines the importance of both meditation and the context in which meditation takes place within a Buddhist’s life.
Emotional And Mental Benefits Of Meditation
Meditation has a profound impact on one’s overall well-being. In terms of why meditation is important for the individual, let’s take a look at some emotional and mental benefits:
1. Reduces Stress
The main benefit of lots of yogic practices! Meditation is widely recognized for its capacity to alleviate stress.
Consistent meditation practice aids in soothing the mind, lowering the release of stress-inducing hormones such as cortisol and fostering a state of relaxation. Consequently, this can result in an enhanced sense of tranquillity and overall well-being.
2. Reduces Anxiety
Meditation has proven to be an effective strategy for reducing anxiety symptoms.
Consistent meditation practice allows individuals to heighten their self-awareness of thought patterns and emotions, empowering them to more skillfully handle and control anxious thoughts and feelings.
3. Enhanced Emotional Regulation
Meditation cultivates emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
It enables individuals to observe their emotions without judgment, leading to better control over their reactions to challenging situations and a greater ability to respond with equanimity.
4. Strengthens Approach To Relationships
Meditation can have a positive impact on interpersonal connections by nurturing qualities such as empathy, compassion, and improved communication abilities.
It equips individuals with the capacity to respond to others with increased patience and a deeper understanding.
Physical Benefits Of Meditation
1. Pain Management
Mindfulness meditation has been used as a complementary approach to pain management. It can reduce the perception of pain and increase pain tolerance through changes in how the brain processes pain signals.
2. Improved Sleep
Meditation can help alleviate insomnia and improve the quality of sleep. A calm mind and relaxation techniques employed in meditation can lead to more restful nights.
3. Reduction of Health Risk Factors
When combined with regular exercise, meditation can lead to physical health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation in the body, and the promotion of healthy digestion.
So the takeaway on meditation is that it holds plenty of importance against the measurements of both ancient religion and your own individual wellbeing. It’s a practice that you can do at any time, as you have the luxury of being human.
Try and break down your preconceived notions of what meditation is supposed to look like, and instead recognize it as inner exploration, and an exploration of the reality of the present moment.
We hope then you can give it your own importance.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on why meditation is important, why not check out our other articles: