In ancient times, India was a land of milk and honey, and of rishis and munis (saints and sages). It was called Satyuga. Meditation was a way for the saints to find God (truth). It was exclusive and mysterious. It didn’t last, or it did not work. Now it is Kalayuga–the modern age. It is the age when people are centered on self and pleasure. There was a time when pleasure was natural–enjoyment of food, sex, children and the earthly riches. Now man is constantly in search–and always in rush– of creating new, and often synthetic pleasures–opium, other drugs, new esoteric foods, new competitive sports etc etc. Natural pleasures are too slow, not under man’s control, and do not seem to last. If we are the lords of the universe, we should be able to create our own. This has made life stressful, given rise to depression, several mental-illnesses. And it is in this context that the ancient practice of meditation has taken on a new twist.
Now meditation is practiced to slow down the pace of life, and to retrieve sanity–if there is such a things as that. It is now called science of the mind. Its purpose is to harness the power of the mind (its a little like a wild horse) to promote well-being. Since the natural state of mind is mindlessness ( or lack of attention and focus), it takes effort–by conscious breathing– to engage it away from (negative) mindless stream of thoughts. This practice leads to relaxation and helps us respond positively to our situation. We are discovering that meditation can be done by breath-control, by visualization, or by chanting a word. Lessons in mindful meditation are now available at Mayo Clinic and other established medical institutions.