The Magic Of Meditation


The Magic Of Meditation

Meditation now fills our smartphones with easily accessible apps, think HeadSpace and Calm. Wellness gurus fill our virtual newsfeeds, reminding us just how important it is to take time to quiet our minds.

The technology and fast-paced lifestyles which now cause us to both crave and create the time for meditation have warped meditation into something that can, to some, be easily condensed down into the app on your phone.

The ancient roots of meditation, though, wandered a wild path to arrive where they are now. The accessibility and Western popularity of meditation are a gift and something to rejoice in. Still, the culture and history from where all this ‘bliss’ was born remain worth exploring.

With something as ancient as meditation, it’s entirely impossible to pinpoint an exact moment when it came into being. It’s more than likely that ancient people found it within themselves before entire societies built religions and practices around meditation. So, no single ancient human found meditation all on their own and then spread the practice far and wide.

People found the quiet within themselves, the solace of their mind, and the treacherous treks of those depths. It took a while for everyone to come together and realize, hey, this is something we all desperately need, let’s spread the good, quiet word.

The Birth Of Meditation

Dial time way back. The elder roots of meditation began to strengthen sometime between 5,000 – 3,500 BCE. Archaeologists and scholars have varying exact dates on the time meditation began to bloom, but they all seem to agree it was sometime within this period.

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Ancient images from around this time in India, depicted in wall art, show people seated in a meditative posture with their eyes softly shut. That sounds an awful lot like how people meditate today, so chances are, it’s just that.

Of course, during these ancient times, record-keeping was not nearly as thorough as today. It was not until around 1500 BCE that documented records on meditation began to pop up.

These documents came about thanks to the Vedas written by Vedic scholars in ancient Indian. It is worth noting that the Vedas had previously shared traditions and practices through the oral tradition of storytelling. The presumed origin dates for the written Vedic wisdom are a bit off as it took several centuries to put the information onto paper finally.

What else did the Vedas give us? The wisdom of Ayurveda, for one, and much of what would come to be in modern astrology, philosophy, and spirituality. That’s over 3,519 years ago, upon writing this, when some ancient scholars came together and found what they were personally practicing and exploring to be so beneficial that it was worth being written down. Thank goodness they did, for its outlived many societies, cultural shifts, and significant Earthly events over the centuries that have since passed.

Moving through time and space a bit further, meditation evolves further around 600-500 BCE. Taoist, or ‘Daoist,’ China and Buddhist India began to explore the branches of the mind and body connection. Each culture and the regions within the respective countries began to spin meditation into their own unique being. All in all, though, the end goal was more or less the same.

Tangible Documentation of Meditation

The development of unique foundations of modern Yogic philosophies continued ahead, as The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were compiled from 400-100 BCE. The Yoga Sutras are a must-read for any modern yogi as they outline the eight limbs of yoga.

Within those eight limbs, you will find the importance of meditation detailed throughout, in more than just one branch. Meditation permeates nearly every aspect of a yoga practice. Not only is it the end ‘goal’ or ‘purpose’ of asana practice, but it is necessary when walking the path to and around enlightenment.

Yogic texts continued to flourish, and between 400 BCE – 200 CE The Bhagavad Gita was written. This ancient text is an epic poem which features discourse on yoga philosophy, meditation, and some ‘how-tos’ on leading a spiritual life.

Jump through time once more to 653 CE, you could find the first physical meditation hall opening. Located in Japan, Japanese Buddhism began to find its footing throughout the 8th century.

Skip ahead ten centuries and the 18th century featured the translations of many aforementioned ancient texts to English and other Western languages as scholars began to travel more readily. By 1922, Hermann Hesse published Siddhartha, a text featuring the Buddha’s spiritual journey within the self.

 Just five years later and the West was granted another draw-in to meditation with Tibetan Book of the Dead published in 1927. With an emphasis on Tibetan Buddhism, the West saw just a glimpse of the rise in Eastern philosophy that would burst forth fully in the latter half of the 20th century.

Shortly after that, Vipassana meditation began in Burma, a profoundly still and silent practice, and flourished throughout the 1950s. At the tail-end of the ‘50s, well-loved Beat Poet Jack Kerouac shared The Dharma Bums with the world. Kerouac shared his experiences with Buddhism and brought religion to popular culture from the perspective of a whole new lens.

What had changed? Well, Westerners were beginning to see how they could benefit from these ancient practices. If a poet from the city, like Kerouac, could find solace in meditation, why couldn’t they? From there, many people found themselves intrigued by the benefits and practices of meditation and Buddhism.

20th Century & Beyond

At last, the 1960s arrived with a wild rhythm in the heart of the States. Bursting beyond the ideals of society and the coveted 1950s norms, the Hippie movement invited all to push the bounds of societal expectations.

Throughout the ‘60s, Hatha Yoga and Transcendental Meditation began to thrive. While many found themselves drawn into the Hippie Movement, or at the very least intrigued or terrified by its ways, meditation remained on the outskirts of Western society and knowledge.

The late 1970s, 1979 to be exact, saw the medicinal benefits of meditation come to light as Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts. While meditation slowly became normalized in Western culture, it still wasn’t widely known and understood.

It was not until the early 1990s when Deepak Chopra published his writings on meditation. As the late 1990s arrived, Eckhart Tolle published The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment which remains a popular read to this day.

With the glowing reviews of Tolle’s and Chopra’s work holding through to the turn of the century, meditation’s popularity remained steady into the new millennium.

Nowadays, Chopra and Tolle are household names in the meditation and spirituality community, with others having joined the ranks over the years. Just over a decade ago, the National Center for Complementary And Alternative Medicine shared that around 9.4% of Americans meditated. There’s no way that only Hippies fill up that percentage.

Thanks to the vast webs of the internet, and easily accessible information on meditation, the present craving for and knowledge of meditation makes sense.