A Brief History of Meditation from East to West

Most basic forms of meditation can be traced to religious origins where the primary purpose was to aid believers in the development of a more spiritual, reverent attitude toward 1) a perceived deity, 2) toward the source of creation, or 3) toward feeling one with the universal life-force energy. From Christianity, to Judaism, to Islam, to Buddhism, to many, many other religions, meditation and contemplation were deeply revered techniques for connecting into a divine presence or a state of mind higher than the earthly self.

flower in circlesThen a few decades ago, the western medical community began to view meditation for its potential to reduce stress by promoting deeper-than-normal breathing, and by clearing the mind of unnecessary clutter or chatter. Dr. Herbert Benson became well known for his relaxation techniques based on deep breathing and purposely focusing one’s attention on relaxing each muscle set from the toes to the top of the head.

Aside from realizing the obvious muscle-tension reduction advantages, he also found that those who regularly meditated lowered their blood pressure, maintained a more positive outlook on life, and were better able to meet the pressures of their daily life. His finding caused quite a stir in the medical community for a while—here was a simple technique that reduced the need for a variety of different pills and actually produced long-term positive advantages.

Alternative medicine physicians jumped aboard the meditation training and doctors like Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, Joan Borysenko, Jon Kabot-Zinn, Bernie Siegal, Andrew Weil, to name a few, began promoting meditation techniques to complement their own practices and develop new twists in Alternative Medicine.

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