Updated: Sep 7, 2022
We have all heard about it; many already have a meditation practice and many have not yet begun – why has it become the topic of discussion in personal and scientific circles? How could it help you in this age of technology?
NEED FOR MEDITATION
We live in an age of external stimulation. Between social media, smart phones, TV, TV-like billboards, and fast-moving advertisements – no wonder our senses feel overwhelmed. Time Magazine touted an 8 second attention span, and the research shows that watching a commercial can make you feel like you have ADD.
Interestingly this data was based on the length a person stays on a webpage not focus. The famous TED talks are designed to be 18 minutes or less because they are designed to be long enough to have a serious talk yet short enough to hold a person’s attention.
Do you feel bombarded, unable to slow down, lost in a myriad of emails and pulled to places you never meant to go on the web? Let meditation sweep up your life and center it in peacefulness for a percentage of each day. There is a reason it is the one common theme found in all spiritual practices since documented time.
Meditation is a relaxation technique that awakens our inner pharmacy, coordinating the body’s energy in the direction of health and healing similar to how a conductor directs an orchestra. Studies have shown that relaxation techniques affect over 2,000 genes. We know that meditation leads to a parasympathetic dominant system, increases healing, improves focus/attention, strengthens the cardiovascular system, improves immune function, and decreases anxiety and depression. And to top it off, it is accessible to everyone at any time.
WHY THEN, IS IT SO HARD TO DO?
Change is always hard, at first, and most of us were not raised in a society where it is part of everyday life. Mediation is not difficult, nor do you need to be in the lotus position for hours to receive the health benefits. Meditation is the practice of relaxing and letting go of the idea that we are merely our minds/thoughts. Meditation is a place where you are at peace and totally relaxed. For some, this is a hot bath; for others, it is gardening or a walk in the park. When in your life are you the most relaxed and at peace?
First, embody the concept that it is a benefit to your long-term health and sense of well-being. Next, determine the amount of time you have to put aside for meditation. This could be anywhere from 5-60 minutes per day. More time does not mean a better meditation. Consistency is what is most important.
Now commit to a time of day that is available for you to meditate.
Some people find first thing in the morning is best; others find it best to do during lunch hour at work or maybe prior to bed. This is your time, for your health. Make it work in a way that you enjoy and look forward to your practice. A practice is simply a method of learning by repetition. There is no end goal, right or wrong way; there is simply the practice. Your way is the right way.
Before each mediation: find a space where you will not be distracted, get comfortable and settle in. Consider playing meditation music. Set an alarm for the time you have allotted choosing a relaxing sound for the end of the alarm time. This allows you to truly let go into the time you have allotted.
Follow your breath. Sit comfortably, feel your body lengthen toward the sky, draw your attention to the breath. Allow the breath to flow softly and quietly, simply watching it without trying to change it. Feel and visualize the breath flowing in through your nostrils, down through your throat, and into your lungs, receiving the breath as a pure form of beauty or a gift from the universe of the divine.
Allow your mind to become completely absorbed in the flow of the breath, noticing how and where it arises and what it feels like along the way. When your mind wanders away from the breath, gently bring it back to the steadiness, the rhythmic flow of your inhales and exhales. Staying fully absorbed in the breath and allowing it to continue flowing freely, notice the natural pauses between each inhale and exhale. Notice the natural quieting and stilling of the mind that happens when you are empty of breath, allowing that sense of quiet to ride along with the following inhale. At the crest of your inhale, feel a sense of the rising quiet expand into a feeling of openness and spaciousness in your mind, and just as simply let the breath flow out. Stay with it, continuously coming back to the breath.
From: Stephens, Mark. Teaching Yoga . North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.
Choose a mantra which is a word or statement that brings peace to you or represents what you would like to embed in your essence. Then, you repeat your statement over and over during the allotted time. It can be simple like “I am light” or like the well-known “Om Shanti’ (Sanskrit for I am peace).There are many examples on line of mantras that you can choose from if you need one. You tube is loaded with meditations and mantras of all kinds
In the Vipassana tradition, they do a walking, then a sitting meditation. If you find it difficult to sit still this may be a good start for you. You will be walking very slow so this can easily be done in a room of the house. Beginners can use the following words: lifting (as foot lifts off the ground), moving (as your foot moves forward) and lowering (as it lowers back to mother earth).With each step you focus on these movements, how they feel, how your body feels, etc. If your mind wonders, return to standing, simply let it go and start your mindfulness practice again with walking.
Here is a link to learn more about Vipassana meditation:https://tricycle.org/magazine/vipassana-meditation/
For a more detailed explanation on how to practice this, scroll down to “Basic Waling Exercise”https://vipassanadhura.com/howto.htm.
If you prefer a guided meditation, Deepok Chopra offers various classes and Meditation CDs. Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron are well-known authors and meditation practitioners with many resources. If you prefer new age, quantum physics meditations look into Joe Dispenza. Sally Kempton has a book called “Meditation for the Love of it” and “Beginning meditation”. These are just a few of the many options available. Enjoy, indulge and awaken your inner healer. In Health, Stephany Porter, ND, FABNO