Quite simply meditation means awareness. Whatever you do with awareness is meditation. “Watching your breath” is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation.
Meditation is not a technique but a way of life. Meditation means ‘a cessation of the thought process’ . It describes a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and various patterns . The observer (one who is doing meditation) realizes that all the activity of the mind is reduced to one.
A Tibetan Lama was being monitored on a brain scan machine by a scientist wishing to test physiological functions during deep meditation. The scientist said - “Very good Sir. The machine shows that you are able to go very deep in brain relaxation, and that validates your meditation”. “No”, said the Lama, “This (pointing to his brain) validates the machine!”.
These days it is commonly understood to mean some form of spiritual practice where one sits down with eyes closed and empties the mind to attain inner peace, relaxation or even an experience of God. Some people use the term as “my gardening is my meditation” or for jogging or art or music, hence creating confusion or misunderstanding.
The word meditation, is derived from two Latin words : meditari (to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind) and mederi (to heal). Its Sanskrit derivation ‘medha’ means wisdom.
Many years ago meditation was considered something just not meant for modern people, but now it has become very popular with all types of people. Published scientific and medical evidence has proved its benefits, but it still needs to be much understood.Traditionally, the classical yoga texts, describe that to attain true states of meditation one must go through several stages. After the necessary preparation of personal and social code, physical position, breath control, and relaxation come the more advanced stages of concentration, contemplation, and then ultimately absorption. But that does not mean that one must perfect any one stage before moving onto the next. The Integral yoga approach is simultaneous application of a little of all stages together.
Commonly today, people can mean any one of these stages when they refer to the term meditation. Some schools only teach concentration techniques, some relaxation, and others teach free form contemplative activities like just sitting and awaiting absorption. Some call it meditation without giving credence to yoga for fear of being branded ‘eastern’. But yoga is not something eastern or western as it is universal in its approach and application.
With regular practice of a balanced series of techniques, the energy of the body and mind can be liberated and the quality of consciousness can be expanded. This is not a subjective claim but is now being investigated by the scientists and being shown by an empirical fact.