Meditation

 

According to the Oxford dictionary, to meditate is to engage in contemplation; to plan mentally. Meditating is sometimes referred to as a workout for the soul, a source of mental cleansing. It is a personal time out, an exercise in finding inner peace and quietude.

 

Meditating has been around a very long time and was practised in Eastern countries like India at least 5000 years ago. Traditionally, the purposes and benefits of mediation have been spiritual in nature – becoming one with God, attaining enlightenment, achieving selflessness. While many people practice meditation today for spiritual purposes, just as many practice simply as a way of relaxing.

 

Meditation was introduced into North America in the mid-1960s as Transcendental Meditation. In Transcendental Meditation, an instructor selects a mantra (Om). You are then instructed to repeat that sound mentally, while sitting in a quiet place. You must concentrate completely, but not forcefully, on the mantra while letting any distractions just pass through your mind.

 

In the 1970s, noted U.S. cardiologist, Hubert Benson conducted research on Transcendental Meditation, and published a book called the “Relaxation Response”. It’s an excellent read, we highly recommend it.

 

There are many benefits to be gained by meditating. People who meditate regularly report a lowering of their stress reaction, a feeling of serenity. They report it is a process where you feel healed mentally, while being rejuvenated. Just as a good night’s sleep has restorative powers, many people say meditating leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.

 

 

Immediate benefits of meditation:

 

 

·        Decrease in heart rate

·        Decrease in blood pressure

·        Decrease in oxygen consumption

·        Decrease in lactic acid in the blood (lactic acid is associated with stress)

·        Increase in smooth blood flow

 

 

Long-term benefits of meditation:

 

 

·        Sharpened alertness

·        Increased energy level and productivity

·        Decreased self-criticism

·        Increased objectivity

·        Decreased dependence on drugs and alcohol

·        Heightened self-esteem

 

 

 

It is not difficult to learn. It gets easier and seems to have greater health effects, the longer and more regularly you do it. Benefits may be obvious right away or may take weeks or longer. Don’t put time lines on learning.

 

Next we will provide simple instructions. Or, you can purchase books, tapes or sign up for classes. Whilst you need a quiet environment to learn it, once you are well practised, you’ll be able to meditate, even in the midst of a crowd - when you have the desire to chill out and retreat into a place of quietude.

 

To practice meditation, follow these guidelines:

 

·        Turn off the phone, tell people you’re not to be disturbed. Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably, with your back supported. You may also choose to lie down, although this will increase the likelihood that you fall asleep.

 

·        Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply (abdominal breathing). Pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out of your body. Breathing deeply is key. Feel your body relax, feel the tension subsiding. Breath deeply and slowly. Feel your limbs get heavy.

 

·        Choose a simple word or phrase to repeat as you relax. It doesn’t matter what the word is (for example, “peace”, “relax”, or “one”). Don’t force it, just let it come.

 

·        Repeat the word or phrase each time you exhale. You may repeat the word quietly aloud or in your mind.

 

·        Gently return to the word or phrase when you find your mind wanders. This is normal. Some people use candles or a firelight or some other dim light source, to aid the process.

 

·        Allow your thoughts to flow freely, to come and go. Don’t try to control them, just gently bring yourself back to the word or phrase or light source when needed.

 

·        Try to meditate for at least 20 minutes. Beginners might wish to start with 5-10 minutes. Don’t set a clock, though you may glance at a clock. Basically, your body will tell you when you’re ready to stop. Trust it.

 

·        When you are finished your meditation session, slowly come back to normal awareness. Give your limbs a gentle stretch, roll your head and shoulders, ease back into full consciousness. Get up slowly and savour the feeling.

 

·        Tell yourself,  That was good, I am good. I am refreshed.”

 

·        Meditate daily, twice daily if possible. Perhaps early morning, when you wake up and later in the evening. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to relax your mind and body.

 

·        If you feel uncomfortable sensations, or strong unpleasant feelings coming from a longer meditation session, simply stop meditating and try to relax by using deep breathing techniques.

 

 

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