Meditation is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) mind–body practice that has been performed for thousands of years dating back to ancient religious and spiritual traditions. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the practice of meditation helps individuals to improve focus, develop self–realization, control emotions and find inner peace. Although there are many traditions and techniques, the four basic elements involved in most types of meditation are a quiet setting, a specific and comfortable posture, a point of focus and an open and passive attitude.
Concentrative meditation: With this type of meditation, the objective is to observe a single object such as an image, sound or one’s own breathing. Certain types of concentrative meditation (e.g., Transcendental Meditation) involve the focus on a mantra — a word or a sound that is repeated in order to help the individual reach a trancelike state.
Open awareness meditation: This form of meditation allows the individual’s mind to become aware of thoughts and feelings as they naturally occur without specifically focusing on an object or topic.
Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the most common type of meditation practiced in Western culture. It is similar to concentrative meditation as the individual focuses on an object, sound, breathing, bodily sensations, thoughts or feelings. However, the individual is simultaneously attentive to his or her surroundings.
Guided meditation: Guided meditation is the process in which an individual is guided through the meditation process by another person (e.g., a physician, mental health professional or a master of one of the schools of meditation).