Meditation holds a significant place in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Qi based practices. It can be practiced in various forms, including both stillness and movement (commonly known as Qigong). Meditation serves multiple purposes, such as relaxing the mind, heightening sensory awareness, reducing stress, and enhancing the flow of Qi. I this article we review the history of meditation and its use throughout the world.
Historical Roots of Meditation
Meditation has a rich history across various cultures and religions. Its origins are traced back to India, where it was practiced over 4,000 years ago. It was integral to early Hinduism and Buddhism, used to attain peace and enlightenment. In Buddhism, meditation played a pivotal role, with the Buddha himself achieving a state of Nirvana through meditation thousands of years ago.
As Buddhism spread to China, it introduced meditation to the region, coinciding with the early development of Traditional Chinese Medicine. While the existence of Chinese meditation before this period is possible, historical documentation is scarce. Regardless, meditation seamlessly integrated into Chinese culture, extending into Japanese and Korean traditions, resulting in its widespread practice in Eastern religions.
History of Meditation in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, meditation is considered as vital as maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is fundamental for achieving mental peace and balance. TCM highlights meditation’s virtues in curing physical and mental ailments, emphasizing its role in preparing the mind and body for other treatments. Meditation fosters stability and balance, ensuring the free flow of Qi, which nourishes both the body’s organs and the mind.
Having a robust foundation in meditation, along with physical exercise and a balanced diet, enables the effectiveness of other TCM treatments. Meditation also serves as a means of self-reflection and self-awareness, enhancing one’s ability to manage stress, pressure, and emotional challenges.
Meditation’s History Influence Beyond the East
Meditation has a widespread presence in Eastern cultures due to the spread of Buddhism. In the Western world, the Greek-Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria was instrumental in introducing meditation through his writings around 20 BCE. A few centuries later, Greek philosopher Plotinus developed meditation techniques, suggesting that meditation was already gaining popularity. During the Middle Ages, meditation made its way into Islamic and Christian practices, albeit remaining a niche activity in many European countries.
In the modern era, the popularity of yoga contributed to the resurgence of meditation in the West, despite yoga having a more recent history than claimed. Meditation, with its millennia-long traditions, drew Western interest in the 1970s and onwards.
Today, meditation is practiced across various religions, recommended by alternative medicines, and appreciated as a means to calm the mind by individuals with no religious or alternative medicine affiliations.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation within TCM offers relief for various ailments while maintaining a harmonious state of being. Immediate benefits include a tranquil and relaxed state of mind, improved ability to handle stress, reduced blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, and relief from physical ailments. It can also aid in overcoming addictions, breaking bad habits, and alleviating insomnia.
Meditation is not limited to relaxation; it is popular among athletes as a tool for mental focus. Athletes, by honing their ability to concentrate amidst distractions, effectively practice a form of meditation, allowing them to switch between focus and relaxation rapidly.
How to Meditate
Meditation has no one-size-fits-all approach. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed, in various seating positions, with incense or candles, or simply in silence. Comfort is key during meditation, as sitting uncomfortably for extended periods can be counterproductive.
Typical meditation postures involve sitting cross-legged (Lotus Position), hands resting on the lap or knees, and eyes partially closed. Regardless of the chosen method, silence and a lack of distractions are essential.
During meditation, focus on your breath, ignoring wandering thoughts that may arise. It’s normal for the mind to drift; patience is key. Meditate for at least 20 minutes or as long as feels right for you, your body, and your mind.
In summary, meditation has deep roots in multiple cultures and religions and plays a crucial role in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Its benefits extend beyond relaxation to include mental focus, stress reduction, and numerous physical and mental health advantages. To meditate effectively, find a comfortable posture, focus on your breath, and maintain silence and patience during your practice.