With the holiday season approaching, stress is nearly inevitable. One way to de-stress is through meditation, the focusing of thoughts and promotion of calmness. It’s a practice embraced by many of the world’s major religions.
To meditate using the rosary, Catholics focus on an important event in Mary and Jesus’ lives, known as mysteries, while saying a series of prayers in order. Those prayers are Our Father, a decade — or 10 — Hail Marys and Glory Be. To pray the complete rosary, that series is repeated five times with an introductory and concluding prayer. Catholics believe that meditating on the mysteries, like Christ’s birth or resurrection, can help bring them closer to God and act as a calming action.
Based in Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah teaches meditation as a direct way to experience God. One meditation is called the Shema, also the Hebrew word for “hear” and the first word of Judaism’s most important prayer. To reach a meditative state, Kabbalists inhale and then exhale, alternating with the exhale the sounds “shh” and “mmm.”
Hinduism is one of the first religions associated with meditation. In the yoga tradition, breathing from the diaphragm is believed to promote good health. Hindu meditation combines deep breathing and the chanting of mantras, sacred sounds that represent the names of Hindu deities. For example, the mantra for Krishna is “Klim.” Chanting mantras invokes the deity’s qualities and leads to deeper awareness.
The practice of mindfulness, or focusing on the present moment, is an integral part of Buddhism. By focusing on the present moment, the practicer halts the mind’s restlessness, allowing him or herself to focus and live more fully. Medically, mindfulness has also inspired stress-reduction programs, including a number of classes and programs at MU’s Mindfulness Practice Center, which is part of the Student Health Center.