There are different types of meditation. They may involve the breath, mantras, visualizations and/or watching thoughts, feelings and sensations as they come and go. Some meditations may include physical exercise such as yoga or walking meditation. One can even meditate throughout one’s daily activities; there are specific methods to do this.
Many meditations have originated from ancient religions such as Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism to name a few. Various meditations have different goals. For example, these can be to develop compassion and loving kindness; to increase clarity, tranquility, concentration; to gain insight or wisdom into the nature of the mind. All of them are meant to empower the practitioner in different ways.
Mindfulness meditation has recently become popular in the Mental Health field. Mindfulness Meditation is based on a mix of science, medicine and psychology and Buddhist meditative practices. Vipassana Meditation from Theravada Buddhism is one of these meditative practices. It means “to see things as they really are”. It is meant to develop insight and wisdom into the nature of the mind, or bare awareness.
In a mindfulness session, the practitioner observes his/her in breaths and out breaths; the body in its environment; feelings, sensations and thoughts as they come and go without judging them or getting enmeshed in them. As a result, through continued practice, this has the effect of calming the mind, helping the practitioner become more present in the here and now. Through mindfulness meditation, one can increase one’s awareness of one’s body and surroundings. Today, mindfulness meditation is practiced in the Mental Health field as a tool, without the influence of the religious background.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to help people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems. Some of the mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation are that it may help reduce or may help treat anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, painful emotions.
Today, mindfulness meditation may be practiced together with psychotherapy especially Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As a matter of fact, many mental health programs are doing research on the impact of mindfulness meditation on persons with Mental Health conditions.