Meditation is the reflexive self-regulation of attention as a means to an end. The term spiritual meditation is often used to convey the practice of meditation in order to obtain specific spiritual results, and can encompass a number of belief systems without reference to any specific one. A variety of religions and faiths practices meditation as some part of their belief structure. Although meditation could be considered closely aligned with prayer, many meditation practitioners have no specific alignment to any faith or religion whatsoever, and simply use the technique as an effective tool against stress and anxiety.
The practice of meditation is a technique that is utilized for many reasons and purposes, the foremost being to silence the chatter of the everyday mind and to bring the body under the control of the will. Varied reasons for spiritual mediation can include transformation of the mind, body, and spirit in order that the will of divinity may be made manifest. The two most common types of spiritual meditation include consciously closing off the internal focus from the external world by focusing on a specific word or mantra and specifically centering the breathing around that; or opening up to experience by passively allowing all external and internal distractions to enter and leave ones consciousness without notice or regard by focusing on breathing techniques.
Emptying the mind and releasing the thoughts of the conscious experience are central themes within the practice of spiritual meditation. Other aspects of meditative practices include walking meditation and meditating on a specific concept or intent such as love, kindness, patience, or compassion. Most religions further utilize some form or practice of spiritual meditation in the form of meditative prayer or silent contemplation in order to bring the body under the control of the will and surrender the spirit to the greater purpose of the divine.
Advanced spiritual meditation practices include transcendental meditation and Zen meditation. Transcendental meditation, initially a practice limited almost exclusively to the East, was introduced to India by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s and later imported to the United States during the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Primarily, transcendental meditation is taught as a standardized course to a student by a professional master, and incorporates the essential tenets of spiritual meditation with the end result being both management of daily anxiety and stress as well as a centered and focused path to God.