Although meditation has been weaving its way into mainstream consciousness for the past several decades there are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings about what meditation is. I’m often surprised to hear of people from certain religious backgrounds refer to meditation as something evil or wrong. Really? And I’m equally surprised by the number of people who thinks its a religious practice taken from one or a few religions. Quite simply, meditation is the art of relaxing your body, mind and spirit through stillness and concentration. Meditating can be a religious experience. It can certainly be a deeply spiritual experience – and that’s a real gift when it occurs. But it is only a part of those experiences and not exclusive in those realms. In other words one can have a religious experience or a spiritual experience without the aid of meditation . . . and meditation can be enhanced by a focus on religious or spiritual convictions but that could include, or not, any belief system. Meditation can come in many forms, and is typically tied to certain religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. However, religions such as Islam and Christianity often use some forms of meditation during religious ceremonies and prayers. Meditation has been recorded as being practiced at least for five thousand years, although much of the history of this meditation is long lost. It is believed that the Buddhists movement beginning sometime around 500 BC is the earliest known and recorded examples of meditation. If you are interested in meditation, you should be aware of the different types of meditation you can learn. In the Buddhist religion, there are two major types of disciplines. These are the Samatha and the Vipassana. Samatha is the art of focusing, relaxing your body, and pursuing tranquility so that you may be able to purse Vipassana, which is the art of gaining Insight. Samatha and Vipassana are the bases in which Buddhists attempt to reach Enlightenment, which is the goal of their religion. Other forms of meditation are used as methods in which higher enlightenment came be obtained. Japa meditation, for example, is a meditation that uses a strand of prayer beads, or the Mala, to repeat mantras that are supposed to bring peace and clarity to the mind and spirit. There are many different tools that are used with meditation, although all you need to meditate is yourself. In order to allow a high level of comfort, many people use meditation benches, seats or cushions to give themselves the back support they need while meditating. While not all forms of meditation use certain poses or postures, many do. Japa meditation, as well as many other forms of meditation, use strands of beads. In Christianity, these are called the Rosaries, although they are also called Prayer Beads. In traditional Japa meditation, it is a strand of 108 beads, called the Mala. Many people will use soothing music when meditating to help put them in a better state of mind for the meditation. This is common in some forms of Zen meditation, as well as in some guided meditations. Music is used in guided meditation as a method in which the teacher can allow those listening to reflect and do the meditations that they have been instructed to do. Imagery meditation is another form of meditation that may use music, as some forms of music will help invoke the correct imagery.