Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind and/or induces a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit, although it can be argued that meditation is a goal in and of itself.
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports), which range from techniques designed to promote relaxation, contacting spiritual guides, building internal energy (chi, ki, prana, etc.), receiving psychic visions, getting closer to God, seeing past lives, taking astral journeys, and so forth, to more technical exercises targeted at developing compassion, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and more far-reaching goals such as effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration, single-pointed analysis, and an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any and all of life's activities. Thus, it is essential to be specific about the type of meditation practice under investigation.
Failure to make such distinctions would be akin to the use of the word 'sport' to refer to all sports as if they were essentially the same. For example, the overly generic description of meditation as a mere relaxation technique becomes problematic when one attends to the details of many practices. In contrast, we should think about the term "Meditation" as referring to several neighborhoods of New Age practices, shamanistic lucid dreaming and astral journeying, theistic-concentration meditations (clinging to god, Gnosis), contemplation, visualization, hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, chakra clearing, kundalini, breathing exercises, training of single-pointed attention, training in mindfulness, training in single-pointed analysis, vision questing, chi building exercises, and so on, developed for various ends."
Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way. It may be done sitting, or in an active way, for instance Buddhist monks involve awareness in their day-to-day activities as a form of mind-training. Prayer beads or other ritual objects are commonly used during meditation in order to keep track of or remind the practitioner about some aspect of the training. Meditation may involve generating an emotional state for the purpose of analyzing that state — such as anger, hatred, etc. — or cultivating particular mental response to various phenomena, such as compassion. The term "meditation" can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state. In brief, there are dozens of specific styles of meditation practice; the word meditation may carry different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions and beliefs.