Art & Culture

The History of Meditation

Claire Miles
Jul 05, 2022

Meditation is a common practice throughout the world. It is a popular way to connect your body and mind, bring yourself to the present, and find that zen! But how did this extremely popular practice emerge? A practice that is so effective in helping people find peace that psychologists and wellbeing coaches across cultures recommend it! Contemporary society is filled with stressors and responsibilities, and an overall fast paced life. It becomes hard to reconnect with your body and to nature, and simply just take a minute to yourself. Mediation recognizes this problem, and helps you to reconnect and stay present in the moment.

group in yoga studio sitting on floor with arms above heads

Getty Images / DigitalVision / 10’000 Hours

The term meditation originates from the latin term “meditatum” and it literally translates to “to ponder.” The practice of meditation can be traced back to multiple places over the course of history. Some of the oldest written records of meditation can be found in India, from around 1500 BC. It was referred to as “Dhyana” or “Jhana” by the locals and was understood as the act of training the mind. Some Buddhist Indian scriptures discuss the art, and its plethora of benefits. Other traces of meditation can be found from China, as far as the 3rd century BC. the earliest written records were introduced by an ancient Chinese Philosopher, named Laozi. His works and writings are still known today, where he described meditation techniques. Some of these included Shou Zhong, Bao Yi, Shou Jing, and Bao Pu. Each of these translate to “guarding the middle,” “embracing the one,” “gaurding tranquility,” and “embracing simplicity,” respectively.

The most widely accepted idea is that the practice of mediation originated from hindu traditions of Vendatism, which is a school of philosophy that explains the paths for spiritual enlightenment. The precise origins, however, remain heavily debated. Some evidence also connects meditative practices to Judaism. Despite the disagreements, everyone agrees on the many of benefits of mediation!