Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.Scholars have found meditation elusive to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them. Meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions. The earliest records of meditation are found in the Vedas, and meditation exerts a salient role in the contemplative repertoire of Hinduism and Buddhism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health. Meditation may significantly reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and enhance peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being. Research is ongoing to better understand the effects of meditation on health and other areas.
The English meditation is derived from Old French meditacioun, in turn from Latin meditatio from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder". The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th century monk Guigo II. Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Hinduism and Buddhism and which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term "meditation" in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm
Meditation has proven difficult to define as it covers a wide range of dissimilar practices in different traditions. In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are often used imprecisely to designate practices found across many cultures. These can include almost anything that is claimed to train the attention of mind or to teach calm or compassion. There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community.
In 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that "The word 'meditation' has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is." A 2009 study noted a "persistent lack of consensus in the literature" and a "seeming intractability of defining meditation". Dictionaries give both the original Latin meaning of "think deeply about as well as the popular usage of "focusing one's mind for a period of time", "the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed", and "to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness." In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways. Many of these emphasize the role of attention and characterize the practice of meditation as attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "discursive thinking" or "logic" mind to achieve a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state.