Meditation is a simple mental practice, which looks like thinking, but goes far beyond the process of thinking. Meditation is a heightened state of awareness. The practice of meditation can be seen in ancient religious texts (Christian, Muslim and most importantly Hindu scripts). The most widely followed meditation is Yoga meditation. Yoga was part of ancient Indian (Hindu) life and is still widely practiced. Yoga also suggests a few asana (yoga poses) for meditation and there are poses that are not suited for meditation.
Meditation, as a religious ritual was practiced for over 5000 years. The most developed form of meditation is from India, the yoga meditation. Originally proposed as a religious practice, yoga meditation is now widely practiced in the western world for its curative and pacifying effects. This kind of medicine is proved to have positive effects on both physical and mental health. Conditions like high blood pressure, insomnia, stress, etc are effectively cured with guided yoga meditation.
The goal of meditation can vary. Initially, meditation can be practiced just for relaxation. Meditation gives a relaxed and peaceful mind. Meditation can also give you greater focus and concentration powers. Meditation involves meditating of a single point or idea. This concentration passes on to all other aspects of your life. Ancient yoga practitioners of India aimed spiritual awakening through meditation. Buddha was originally meditating under a Bodhi (ficus) tree, when he achieved enlightenment. Sikhism, Taoism, Jainism, etc have meditation as an important part of their religious rituals. Similarly, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc also have disciples of meditation at varying levels.
Eastern martial arts like Karate, Kung fu, etc required the practitioners to meditate, to increase concentration and for better performance.
The first stage of meditation is choosing a calm location, free from distractions of all kinds. In the ancient times, Indian sages went to forests, away from other the civilization to meditate and they meditate for several years. And they mostly meditated while in the lotus pose of yoga practice. They also meditated while standing on one foot.
Meditation includes first stopping your mind from wandering into distractive thoughts. The only way you can do this is by first observing the thoughts that come to your mind, without making any effort to control or stop the thoughts. After a few days of trying, there will be only a few dozen thoughts coming to your mind, as against the hundreds of thoughts that pestered you while you started your attempt of meditation. Further attempt of a few more days will help you control your thoughts and put your focus on just one thought or idea.
One easier way to control the excess of thoughts is to just listen to the rhythm of your breathing, without controlling it. Soon you can contemplate on one thought or no thought at all. When you can fully concentrate, without the knowledge of the outside world, you have achieved the conditions of meditation. Even if you approach it as a means of fighting stress and a means of achieving higher levels of concentration, meditation will soon help you experience a spiritual bliss – no one else can explain it to you.