Contemplating the Navel: The Origins of Ancient Mindfulness

Contemplating the Navel: The Origins of Ancient Mindfulness

The words of the 16th-century Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, are truer today than ever before: “Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed“. Before pop-psychology and self-help books appeared in the 1970s, for at least 5,000 years the process of discovering who one truly is, required years of self-reflection through controlled meditational practice. The word ‘meditation’ derives from the Latin term meditatum meaning to ponder and practicing meditation has always been associated with forging a deeper relationship between the mind and body, and aligning this with the perceived soul, will or higher self.

Phra Ajan Jerapunyo, Abbot of Watkungtaphao Buddhist monk in Phu Soidao. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Roots of Meditation

Every scholarly paper, book and modern meditational school will ascribe different origins to what is often called the ‘age-old tradition’. Elaine Mead in The History and Origin of Meditation, (2019) speculates that while the practice is generally associated with Eastern countries, meditation: “might be as old as humanity itself with the potential meditative capacities of Neanderthals.”


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