The history of meditation is long and intricate, with roots in many different cultures and traditions. Giving importance to one over the other won't do justice to this profound practice.
In India, the earliest known references to meditation are found in the Upanishads, which are ancient texts dating back to the 1st millennium BCE. The Upanishads describe meditation as a way to achieve union with the divine. Meditation plays an important role in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
In China, meditation was practised by Taoist monks and scholars as early as the 6th century BCE. Taoist meditation is focused on cultivating inner peace and harmony.
In Japan, Zen Buddhism was introduced in the 12th century CE. Zen meditation is a form of mindfulness meditation that intentionally focuses your attention on the present moment.
In the Middle East, Sufi Muslims have practised meditation for centuries. Sufi meditation is focused on the development of love and compassion.
In the 20th century, meditation began to gain popularity in the West. This was due in part to the work of Western psychologists and scientists, who began to study the benefits of meditation for mental and physical health. They believed that with meditation you are training your mind to be more present and aware. Today, meditation has become mainstream and is practised by people of all faiths and backgrounds, and it is recognized as a valuable tool for stress reduction, pain relief, and improved mental health.
Etymology of the word itself
The word "meditation" itself whispers of centuries-old wisdom. It's like an echo of the Latin "meditari," meaning "to think, contemplate, ponder, and even devise." This ancient whisper traveled through time, landing in Old French as "meditacioun."
Fast forward to the 12th century, and Catholic monk Guigo II gave this timeless practice a new twist. He transformed it into a structured, step-by-step process, replacing the earlier Greek term "theoria." In Hinduism and Buddhism, "dhyāna" (from the Sanskrit root "dhyai" meaning "to contemplate or meditate") embodies this inward journey.
So who has the authority to tell us what meditation really is?
Is it a religious ritual, a scientific tool, or a spiritual quest? I believe only you can answer that for yourself.
Our individual experience with meditation will transcend all else and will help us figure out what it means for us.
And if we think about it- to sit in silence, connected with nature, the cosmos and everything around us sounds like something humans would naturally do, from time immemorial doesn't it? Especially before written and verbal language was invented?
Hear me out - when we repeatedly take time out to meditate, we foster a genuine connection with ourselves and become more aware of our feelings, behaviours, and patterns, and that self-awareness, enables us to connect better with everyone around us, and the world around us. This enables us to live each moment fully and intentionally.
There's a quote I really love by David Lynch that goes like, "The thing with meditation is you become more and more you."
A simple yet powerful practice
So, whatever your introduction to and motivation for meditation- religious, scientific, spiritual - it's a tool everyone can use to build a healthy, joyful, and mindful life. Embark on your own journey of mindful exploration. Listen to the whispers of your breath, feel the pulse of your being, and discover the transformative power of meditation.
Meditate for a cause. Introducing our 1 for 2 Pledge
We believe that basic needs are the foundation of mindfulness and holistic wellbeing. Which is why we have partnered with Dream 36 Foundation, an NGO that is dedicated to providing education and nourishment to children.
Their dream is to end malnutrition in India and we can get behind that!
For every month you subscribe we pledge to donate two meals to children who need them the most.
This means when you purchase a Nama membership not only are you cultivating mindfulness but also are helping to create a world where children don’t have to worry about their next meal and can focus on being kids again!