Many people express a desire to learn how to meditate, without really understanding what meditation involves or what the process of learning it means in the context of a lifelong journey.

This can be true of many areas of life, but especially true of meditation. This is in part because it is only possible to really understand what meditation is by doing it. It is perhaps one of the most experiential forms of learning there is.

Meditation, both as a word and as a concept can mean different things to different people. To many people it is not only a fairly straightforward process such as following the breath or using a mantra, but can have numerous other connotations as well.

Some of these may be ascribed to a fear of the unknown, as well as a sense of moving outside a comfort zone.

It is sometimes believed that learning to meditate is like a belief system that will take you away from your current belief system if you have one, or take you into a type of religion or dogma if you do not have one.

Sadly this is the biggest myth of all with any type of meditation. Whatever meditation may mean to you, whatever type you may or may not practice, one truth of meditation is that deepens a sense of self-awareness, it connects a person to the end sense of reality and not the other way round.

Perhaps the best example of this process of meditation is its use as one of the 12 steps of recovery, best known as being in the programme of recovery from alcoholism used by Alcoholics Anonymous. In this context meditation is used in step 11, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him".

Here, meditation is linked to prayer as two ways of communicating with a sense of God that is understood in whatever way the person chooses. This can create significant problems for people as it can tap into fears of belief systems/dogma etc.

The important point is that meditation is linked to prayer as being two fairly vague concepts in one sense, that an individual can use in any way that they find helpful.

The question of how you learn to meditate is actually much simpler than it might at first seem. There are a number of different methods that can be searched and tried.

Meditation is however essentially experiential, and so the real way to learn how to meditate is to trust yourself sufficiently with your own sense of need, and a sense that you have found a fit to something that connects you to your inner world.

People sometimes assume that meditation is linked to Buddhism in such a way as to imply that one leads onto the other. They can feel that meditation is in some sense a hook into a type of religion or dogma.

This is a pity, because whilst meditation is an integral part of Buddhism, it is perfectly viable and indeed encouraged for people to simply experience meditation on its own, without ever taking any further steps into actively studying Buddhism.

It is also true that meditation as a process can be learned and studied completely independent of Buddhism. Meditation is often seen as a stress relieving technique, or an aid to relaxation.

The most simple types of meditation involve different types of breath work, and these can have a calming and positive affect with no type of follow-on belief system encouraged.

In addition there is also a growing movement of what is known as Christian meditation. This can take different forms, the most common being that of using a mantra such as the word Maranatha, a type of meditation that has become popular in the last 30 – 40 years.

The origins of Christian meditation can be traced back many centuries, either literally to people using a mantra, or a wider sense of meditation including the use of visualisation.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, often in Florida, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, some in a treatment center, others in a religious or spiritual setting.