13 Apr, 2018
I often get asked “what is the story about meditation?” Meditation is rapidly becoming a mainstream practice. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 18 million U.S. adults practice meditation, making it the third most used mind and body practice in the country.
Most forms of meditation have roots in Eastern religion or spirituality; however there are many different practices, techniques and approaches. The ultimate goal of meditation is to focus the mind and to breathe and connect with the self. Some of the most popular forms include Transcendental Meditation (TM), Guided Visualization, Kundalini, qigong and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Okay you say, what are the benefits? Why all the excitement? Since 1967, over 250 independent research institutes have conducted over 1500 studies that show that Mindfulness Meditation is clinically effective for the management of stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, strong emotional reactivity, as well as a wide array of other related conditions.
The UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program completed a study of 15,000 patients in which the outcomes were “a 35% reduction in the number of medical symptoms and a 40% reduction in psychological symptoms.”
Our physical health is greatly determined by our mental and emotional disposition because of the extreme connectedness of the mind and the body. Kenneth Pelletier, PhD., of Stanford Medical School stated, “Mind and body are inextricably linked, and their second-by-second interaction exerts a profound influence upon health and illness, life and death.”
The six leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the American Psychological Association, are all linked to stress – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Stress has also been identified as a major contributor to several other diseases and health issues such as:
• Suppressed immune system
• Sleep disorders
By practicing Mindfulness Meditation daily, we can significantly reduce the adverse effects of chronic stress while also developing a better relationship to stressors. Every time we meditate we are actively supporting and promoting our own health and well-being.
• Just Sit. Commit to sitting quietly and watch what happens. No phones, computers, TVs, or any other distractions around you. Just sit and observe your thoughts – do not react to them. Let them rise and pass through your mind like clouds in the sky.
• Follow Your Breath. Observe your breath. Don’t try to control it — simply observe it with your mind’s eye.
• Pay Attention. Notice the feelings that come up. Pay attention to your breath, how your body feels, the changes, the pauses, etc.
• Listen to the Sounds. Tune into the sounds, both within and around you. At first, you may only hear the most obvious noises, but as you continue you’ll discover new sounds that you may not have noticed before.
• Use a Mantra. A mantra can be a sound, a word, a phrase, something you can repeat over and over slowly in your mind. If your mind has drifted off, use this mantra to bring your mind back.
• Practice Kindness. Be kind to yourself. It’s ok if you don’t get it right away. It takes time and practice to reach a state of mindfulness.
One of the most important things you can learn from meditation is the art of letting go. Meditation is really about letting everything go or accepting things the way that they are. Allowing yourself to do nothing is one of the greatest challenges that you will face in meditation.
It is human nature to respond to different patterns of thought and feeling. In meditation, you consciously make an effort to not respond to any thought, feeling, or sensation by accepting everything and letting it go.
As you are on your way to mastering this simple yet profound practice of letting go, you will uncover a part of yourself that is always calm, focused and untroubled.
In health and happiness,