Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Evidence of the practice can be found throughout history in many different religions and many different places in the world.
Although Eastern religions embraced ritual meditation long ago, meditation itself does not have to be a religious or spiritual activity. In the past three decades, the practice has gained new popularity in the West for its physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. In our stressful, fast-paced society, an increasing number of people have found a need to adopt meditation into their lives.
The desired purpose of each meditation technique is to channel our awareness into a more positive direction by totally transforming one's state of mind. It is principally employed toward obtaining self-improvement and spiritual growth.
There are several types of meditation in Hinduism. These include (but are not limited to):
Christian traditions have various practices which might be identified as forms of "meditation." Many of these are monastic practices. Some types of prayer, such as the rosary and Adoration (focusing on the eucharist) in Catholicism or the hesychasm in Eastern Orthodoxy, may be compared to the form of Eastern meditation that focuses on an individual object.
Christian meditation is considered a form of prayer. Some Christian prayers are made primarily by using the intellect, through the contemplation of the divine mysteries. However, Christian prayer or meditation through the heart, as described in the Philkalia is a practice towards Theosis, which involves acquiring an inner stillness and ignoring the physical senses.
According to the Old Testament book of Joshua, a form of meditation is to meditate on scriptures. This is one of the reasons why bible verse memory is a practice among many evangelical Christians. "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it, then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8)
The use of the word meditation in the western Christian tradition has referred generally to a more active practice of reflection on some particular theme such as "meditation on the sufferings of Christ”.
Meditation in Islam is the core of Muslim mystical traditions (in particular Sufism). Meditative quiescence is believed to have a quality of healing and creativity. Prophet Muhammad, whose deeds devout Muslims follow, spent long periods in meditation and contemplation. It was during one such period of meditation that he began to receive revelations of the Qur’an.
Sufism relies on a practice similar to Buddhist meditation, known as Muragaba or Tamarkoz which is taught in the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order. Tamarkoz is a Persian term that means ‘concentration,’ referring to the “concentration of abilities”. Consequently, the term concentration is synonymous to close attention, convergent, collection, compaction, and consolidation.
Muslims meditate during the second stage of Hajj at "Mount Mercy", from noon to sunset.
Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) that meditation was central to the prophets. In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: hāgâ which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and sîḥâ , which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.
In modern Jewish practice, one of the best known meditative practices is called hitbodedut (or hisbodedus is explained in Kabbalah and Hassidic philosophy). The word hisbodedut, which derives from the Hebrew word "boded", (a state of being alone) and said to be related to the sfirah of Binah (lit. book of understanding), means "the process of making oneself understand a concept well through analytical study".
Kabbalah is inherently a meditative field of study. Kabbalistic meditative practices construct a supernatural realm which the soul navigates through in order to achieve certain ends. One of the most well known types of meditation is Merkabah, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot"(of God).