“Meditation”, as it is practiced, involves a constant observation of the mind though focused concentration on a concrete object (Saguna meditation) or on an abstract idea (Nirguna meditation). By focusing the mind on a single point, one is able to still the mind in other to perceive the true Self, understand one’s true nature and discover the wisdom and tranquility that lie within.
Before true meditation occurs, and the practitioner’s attention still wavers, “meditation” is really a state of focused concentration. Meditation itself is only achieved when the practitioner experiences an unbroken flow of a single thought wave. The difference is one of degree, not technique. During concentration, one keeps focused control of the mind. During meditation, this control is no longer necessary, as the mind stays of its own accord on the single thought wave.
In Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, concentration and meditation are the sixth and seventh steps of Raja Yoga.
The eighth limb is Samadhi, a state where body and mind are transcended and total unity exists. In Samadhi, the meditator and the object of concentration become one as the ego, that which creates a sense of separation or duality, is eliminated.
In the same way that focusing the rays of the sun with a magnifying glass makes them hot enough to burn, just so focusing the scattered rays of thought makes the mind penetrating and powerful. With the continued practice of meditation, you discover a greater sense of purpose and strength of will and your thinking becomes clearer and more concentrated, affecting all you do.
Research confirms that meditation, when practiced regularly, actually changes the physical structure of the brain and creates new connections in the brain. The main known benefits are: increased ability to concentrate, increased attention and emotion regulation, better mental flexibility, lower blood pressure, better stress and anxiety management, increased feeling of compassion and connection to others, change the aging process mechanism, boost the immune system.