The Benefits of Meditation

in Health, Personal Growth, Physical   |   posted by Pat

What is Meditation

Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.

Meditation is a beautiful way to promote deep relaxation and a quiet mind.   One does not acquire this immediately; instead, a daily practice builds on the benefits and creates an impactful form of relaxation.  Meditation is a way to train your mind and add the reduction of stress in your life.

Reports are indicating that more and more people are practicing meditation.

When I say meditate to people, they think of the traditional style of meditation of sitting in silence either with a mantra or watching your breath.

There is no one way to meditate; instead, it is time that you are quietly with yourself or with your higher power.   People write, walk, and pray in meditation.  Many people have a special place they meditate daily, yet you can meditate anywhere.   When I commuted to New York City either via train or bus, I would use this time to close my eyes and take deeps breaths and use my mantra.  Since many people sleep while commuting, by closing my eyes, no one knows what I am doing.

There are essential elements that all meditation have in common:

  • A quiet place with limited distractions
  • Finding a comfortable place for your body – lying, lotus position, walking or sitting on a chair.
  • Creating focused attention – either a mantra, set of words, object (for example, a candle) or attention to one’s breath.
  • To allow thoughts and distractions to go naturally without judgment.

History of Meditation

History goes back 1500 BCE and earlier, and the beginning is believed to start in India.   Historically Taoist in China and Buddhists in India have incorporated meditation into their religions.   Japan discovered Zen and brought this practice back to the country.  As years moved forward, the practice of meditation was developed into many different religions.

Many meditation movements both in the East and West evolved and developed their way to meditate.    In the 1970 Mindfulness Meditation was founded in the US, to help people who had physical ailments.     Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, was brought to the US by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  He taught thousands of people in his world tours and trained many people to trained others in TM.    I took TM in the late 1960s, and to this day, still do this form of meditation.

There are many meditation groups all over the world – yoga studios, colleges, corporate wellness programs, meet-ups, retreats, and spiritual centers.

Reasons for Not Meditating

People have created numerous excuses for why they cannot meditate.  If you want to add health and well-being in your life, it may be helpful to view your resistance to it.   Studies have shown that there is moderate evidence that meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and pain.   There is an indication that meditation provides structural changes in the brain.   So given this information, think about your reasons for not doing meditation:

  • Too Busy – meditation can be started gradually; for example, maybe 5 minutes when you wake up. Set the alarm for 5 minutes earlier and just sit and breathe in and out.   When the timer goes off, start your day.  If this time does not work for you, find 5 minutes where you begin to meditate each day.    One can always find 5 minutes, and the benefits over time are immense.  People see when they find time to meditate, they find more time to do other things.
  • Why do I need to meditate? It is a reasonable question, and studies have shown that it reduces stress and adds to your overall well-being.
  • Overwhelm – there are so many things you need to do in a day, one more thing to pay attention to is too much. It makes sense to think this is true until you start meditating and realize you prioritize better, are more relaxed, so things get done quicker, and generally, you are feeling better.
  • It is Hard to Meditate – there are so many types of meditation – some complex, though many that are simple to do at any time. People indicate they physically get nervous, experience distractions all around, feel bored, and of course, the endless chatter in our heads.  Even experienced meditators feel many of these same feelings, yet they have learned through daily practice, that one eventually moves through them and come to the other side.
  • Cannot Stop My Mind – I hear this a lot from people – my mind keeps racing. The monkey mind is a common phase in the meditation world.  Even experienced meditators have thoughts when practicing meditation, and they recognize this is part of their practice.    If you have thoughts and become aware of thinking, you can just say, without judgment, “thinking,” and then go back to focusing on your breath.
  • Do Not See Any Results – meditation does not revamp your life; instead, you will see with daily practice how your reactions to what is happening around you, is lessened. You find yourself listening quietly, and your mind is not all over the place.   These are changes that are subtle and happen over time.   A year from now, do you want to see changes in your life, and hoped that you started to do it today.   Be willing to trust that meditation does work.

Types of Meditation

There are so many different types of meditation, and you can find one that fits into your lifestyle or interest.  Meditation is coupled with your breath, and becoming aware of your breath is a strong foundation in your practice.  Meditation provides you with a tool to master your emotions and reduce internal stress.

  • Mantra – is a word or phrase that is repeated in your meditation, and it has roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Many Judeo-Christian, along with Shamanic practices, use mantras in their meditation practices. The sound “Om or I Am” are popular and well-known mantras.  The use of a mantra keeps your mind focused on your meditation and minimizes distractions.  In spiritual practices, mantra chanting is used to connect with the Divine. If you decide to use a mantra to meditate, do some research on a word that feels right to you.
  • Mindfulness – this meditation began from Buddhist teachings, though it has been integrated into the West. The value of this meditation is to sit quietly, pay attention to your body and breath, and when you start thinking, you gently state “thinking,” and bring your attention back to your breath.  You can do mindfulness meditation while brushing your teeth, walking, or any other activity where you do it more mindfully.    Though setting time aside for your meditation practice is essential.   You can start with 5-10 minutes and increase the time you practice over time.
  • Movement – there are different forms of movement meditation. The focus is to become aware of each of your body movements.  For example, you take a slow walk outside, aware of all your steps as your body moves forward.   Another form is the practice of Tai Chi or Qigong, which are known as moving meditations.   The purpose of movement meditation is to focus and center your mind in low impact exercise, which helps reduce physical as well as emotional stress points in your life.
  • Religious – many religions have an established form of meditation – using prayers or God’s presence in the practice of meditation.
  • Visualization – here is where you use your imagination, along with meditation, to breathe into a serene beach scene, white light surrounding your body (starting from the top and moving all around your body until your feet), or a vision you have of your life.
  • Tool – Mala Beads – the beads help you stay focused on your meditation by either using a mantra or deep breathing. Christian religions have rosary beads, and a prayer is said with each bead.  Mala has a guru bead and 108 beads beautiful, yet a powerful tool to keep you focused on your meditation.
  • Tool – Meditation music, chanting, or listening to meditation teachers taking you on a meditation visualization.

What is the Best Meditation for You?

To maintain a meditation practice, you need to find one that is simple and resonates with you.  You want to create and maintain a simple action that slows your mind down, helps quiet your energy, and provides for you a sacred space to be with yourself.

Start Where You Are

If you decide you start meditating, start where you are at the moment.  What does this mean?   We all have images of meditators sitting for hours, buddhas in the making, and we are just starting, so how could we ever get there.   Just starting is the perfect place to be.  For someone who has meditated previously, let go and resume your meditation as a beginner, with no judgment around your practice.

Practice and acceptance are ingredients of successful meditation.

Practice, we know, is the act of doing it.  Acceptance is being fully present, the best you can be.  If you can sit for 3-5 minutes every day, then allow yourself to be fully present with what you can do at the moment.   If your mind is like a monkey, swinging from one thought to another, accept it and tell your mind “thinking” with no judgment.    The heart of meditation is compassion.   One can train oneself in compassion, one day at a time, allowing you to be exactly where you are in the moment.

Set Your Space

Set the area for your meditation.   For some people, they just sit quietly and meditate.   Others light candles and have a unique altar where they put images, items from the earth, or statues of spiritual leaders.   Ideally, you meditate around the same time, and you create a quiet space to give your energy to meditation.

After you finish your meditation, you either raised your eyes or open them and take a little time to notice your surroundings, how your body feels, and how you feel overall.    Allow yourself to gather information about your experience as you become aware of the value of your meditation practice.

Benefits of Meditation

Some research is showing how meditation is physically changing the brain and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors.

  • Stress Reduction
  • Potential to reduce high-intensity emotions – like anxiety, anger, and fear.
  • It helps increase awareness of your life and the people around you.
  • Helps with Memory
  • Increases Attention Span
  • Improves Sleep
  • Promotes better health
  • Reduces bouts of insomnia
  • Helps with intestinal conditions

Side Effects of Meditation

Meditation generally is safe for healthy people.  People with physical limitations probably won’t practice movement meditation, though they can participate in other types of meditation.

NOTE:  Before starting any meditation practice, why not have a conversation with your health care provider.  Meditation is not a replacement for your health care provider, rather a tool to support your physical and emotional well-being.

If you have a meditation instructor, let them know of any physical limitations.

The Power of Meditation

Meditation helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, how you feel physically, people in your life, and overall how you are reacting to what is occurring in your daily life.    It helps you learn to respond to situations in your life, reducing reactions, which only add more stress for you.

In its simplicity, it is powerful.  A daily practice over time changes many parts of your life.   You find yourself creating more well-being in your life, feeling more confident, listening to your intuition around what is best for you, and finding a spiritual space within you.

Your Thoughts

Can you today take 5 minutes to sit quietly with yourself.  When thoughts bombard you, say, without judgment, “I’m thinking.”  Then quietly go back to your quiet time.

If sitting doesn’t interest you, can you take a 10-minute meditation walk where you mindful of nature around you, how your body is moving, your spirit, and honor just where you are in the moment?

Women’s Group Topic

Meditation is a topic for all women to include with the other group members.  Find out who is meditating, what kind, who is not, and why not, and discuss how meditation can add to one’s well-being.

Be well,

Pat
“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”
(Pat Brill)

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