What is Meditation?

Contemporary Alternative Medicine (CAM), Holistic Medicine, Integrative Medicine 4

Meditation Practices and Benefits of Meditation

Click play above to hear podcast episode 024 “Let’s Meditate”

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a mind-body practice involving awareness of the present moment coupled with silence. Although contemplative meditation practices have been rooted in spiritual traditions, it does not require belief in any particular religious or cultural tradition (Rakel, 2012). One aspect of meditation is mindfulness, or the ability to focus on an experience in a nonjudgmental way without reacting. A cultivation of compassion, open-heartedness, and clarity of thoughts is instituted through mindfulness into one’s life. Simply stated, meditation is being present with what is (Rakel, 2012).

Types of Meditation

  1. Centering Prayer/Contemplation derives from the traditional Catholic/Christian faith. This meditative practice involves the technique of prayer and sacred word, and may focus on contemplative walking. It dates back to the time of St. Anthony.
  2. Kabbalah (Qabalah) is of Jewish mystical background, involves the technique of Kabbalah, and is self-directed.
  3. Mindfulness Meditation (MM) is one of the most popular forms of meditation used for stress reduction within the medical community. The technique involves breath and body awareness with a cognitive behavioral therapy approach.
  4. Ridhwan School of Diamond Approach is based upon Sufi Islam and mystical psychology. The technique involves inquiry and the body activity focus of breathing exercises.
  5. Self-realization Fellowship (SRF) derives from Hindu Kriya yoga. This type of meditative practice involves ancient kriya yoga, hong-sau, and aum. The technique of SRF focuses on energization exercises.
  6. Transcendental Meditation is based upon Vedic Hindu. Personalized mantras (as names of Hindu gods) are used and it is a self-directed activity.
  7. Tibetan Buddhism is founded upon various Tibetan lineages. Mantra, chanting and visualization techniques are incorporated into the mediative practice and involves rlung-sgom walking and mudras.
  8. Zen Buddhism/Ch’an is based on Chinese and Japanese lineages. It involves the technique of zazen and focuses on Kung-Fu martial arts and zen arts, such as ceramics, archery and calligraphy.

Benefits of Meditation

There are thousands of research articles pointing to the multiple benefits of meditation. Research has indicated neurobiological changes within the brain after meditative practices. These changes within the brain led to improvements influencing attention, focus, and ability to work under stress.  Meditation improves learning, rapid-memory recall, pain threshold, and creativity. Literature has supported meditation promotes health and disease prevention by reducing risks of heart disease, stroke, blood pressure, inflammatory disorders, and dementia. In addition, meditation has proven to be helpful for patients with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibromyalgia, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Literature has even indicated meditation improves relationships, feelings of empathy and compassion, as well as decreasing anxiety, worry, depression, emotional eating, and social isolation.

Meditation BenefitsInfographic courtesy of Giovanni Dienstmann via Creative Commons


Brewer, J., Bowen, S., Smith, J., Marlatt, G., & Potenza, M. (2010). Mindfulness-based treatments for co-occurring depression and substance use disorders: what can we learn from the brain?. Addiction105(10), 1698-1706 9p. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02890.x

Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine40(8), 1239-1252. doi:10.1017/S0033291709991747

Israel, I. (2013). What’s the Difference Between Mindfulness, Mindfulness Meditation and Basic Meditation? Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ira-israel/types-of-mindfulness_b_3347428.html

Rakel, D. (2012). Integrative medicine (Third ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Elsevier Saunders.

A special thanks to Gebauer’s Pain Ease for sponsoring this episode of The Nurse Practitioner Show™.

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