Meditation is a relaxation technique. It need not be associated with any religion or philosophy, though it has been practised by all the world’s major religions. It differs from sleeping and hypnosis in that you remain alert. There are different forms of meditation, but the principle behind them all is that you aim to withdraw from the external reality and achieve a state of inner peace - concerns and thoughts about the past and the future are temporarily abandoned. This state has been identified as being when the electric waves in the brain become high-intensity alpha waves, and the production of 'stress' hormones by the adrenal glands is reduced.

The main forms of meditation practised in the West today are Transcendental Meditation (TM), and Buddhist meditation. In both, there must be a focus for the attention, so that when the mind starts to wander, which it naturally does, it may be gently brought back. TM uses a mantra for this purpose - a special sound, word or phrase that is repeated, either silently or aloud. Buddhist meditation may use an object, such as a candle or flower. Awareness of the breath entering and leaving your body is also central to achieving the state of 'passive alertness'.

Who is it suitable for?

Many people practice meditation daily for the benefits of increased restfulness and mental clarity, but it may be particularly beneficial to those suffering health problems, including:

Drug/alcohol dependence
High blood pressure
Irritable bowel syndrome
Long term pain
Pre-menstrual tension

Meditation for children tends to involve a guided visualisation (a scene or sequence of events is described in detail while the child sits quietly and concentrates).

What is involved?

Meditation is usually practised sitting on the floor, with crossed legs. However, it can be done sitting on a chair, or even when walking or swimming. T’ai chi and yoga may also be combined with meditation.

It is possible to teach yourself to meditate, though it is very helpful to consult a teacher when first beginning, either one-to-one, or by joining a group. Once the technique is established, twenty minutes once or twice a day is the optimum.

It is advisable to check with a doctor before beginning to meditate if there is a history of psychiatric problems, as occasionally deep feelings are roused which may be harmful and even, very rarely, lead to depression.


For details of research into the physical benefits of Transcendental Meditation, see the Spring 1997 edition of Proof magazine (4 Wallace Road, London N1 2PG).

A study was carried out by Children's Hospital in Boston, and reported at the Paediatric Academic Society's annual meeting, May 4, 1999: children with chronic pain received treatment in guided imagery and meditation, and their pain was significantly decreased.


The School of Meditation
158 Holland Park Avenue
London W11 4UH
Tel 0207 603 6116

Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
London Buddhist Centre
51 Roman Road
London E2 0HU
Tel: 020 8981 1225

Transcendental Meditation
London SW1P 4YY
Tel: 08705 143 733

Another site that may be of interest is:


Maureen Garth - Moonbeam: A Book of Meditations for Children ISBN: 1863711422

Gerald Epstein - Healing Visualizations: Creating Health Through Imagery ISBN: 0553346237

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