Do you meditate? If not, why don’t you?
Meditative practices come in different shapes and styles; there are thousands of different ways to meditate and thousands of different meditations.
Many people use term meditation for many things that in fact have nothing to do with the true meaning of meditation. All techniques (should) have one thing in common: focusing brain’s activities, bringing emotional balance and inner peace.
Meditation started as a practice that were to help with understanding sacred and mystical forces in life and of life, today, it’s a common practice used for relaxation and stress reduction as it is considered as a type of mind-body medicine.
A few minutes in meditation can help you restore your calmness and inner peace, especially if stress has you tense or worried. When we meditate, we clear our thoughts, thus we also reach an emotional balance, which is in fact one of the most important benefits of meditation practice:
- Emotional balance help us create new ways to battle and manage everyday stress
- When our emotions are in balance, we are gaining new perspective on stressful situations, which means we are becoming emotionally stronger
- Reaching calmness of mind help us increase self-awareness and focus on present
- Inner peace help us reduce negative emotions, thus negative thoughts
Many studies have shown the connection between stress and illness. Many medical conditions can be worsened by stress. With this in mind, many believe that mediation can help alleviate the symptoms of these conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Heart disease
- Anxiety disorders
For instance, mindfulness meditation helps lower blood pressure as shown in a study that was published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, where 56 women and men with prehypertension (blood pressure higher than desirable, but not that high for drugs to be prescribed) were gathered to determine the benefits of Mindfulness-based stress reduction for lowering blood pressure.
One group of participants were assigned to mindfulness program (three main types of mindfulness skills: sitting meditation, yoga exercises and body scan exercises) and the other received muscle-relaxation activity and advice on lifestyle. The results showed that the group who practiced MBSR had significant reduction in clinic-based blood pressure measurements.
Mindfulness meditation can also help with self-control, in particular, reduce tobacco craving, according to an interesting study, which was published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Participants in the study, who were volunteers, ended up reducing smoking by 60 percent due to the stress reduction. This training, known as Integrative Body-Mind Relaxation, was designed to improve self-control pathway related to addiction; the researchers believe that this type of meditation is able to help with the symptoms of addiction by reducing stress and enhancing self-control, which mindfulness meditation in general promotes – personal control and self-awareness. The interesting finding is that mindfulness meditation also helped those who in fact had no intention to quit smoking.
On the other hand, transcendental meditation is also a great way to battle certain illnesses. Many studies have confirmed that TM offers benefits for treating cardiovascular diseases and may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. One study gathered randomly picked African Americans with heart disease to explore the benefits of TM stress-reducing program. One group attended health education classes and the other practice meditation for 20 minutes, twice a day. They concluded (during 5 years of follow up) that the group who meditated were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or to die. This group also reported lower blood pressure and less stress and anger.
What kind of meditation can you practice?
Many relaxation techniques have meditation components, sharing the same goal of reaching the inner peace and reducing stress and anxiety. Two common ways of mediation include guided meditation and mindfulness meditation, a widely popular practice of being present.
#1 Guided Meditation
This practice is also known as guided visualization, a method in which you form mental images of places or situations, or even people (meditation teachers such as Sri Chinmoy) that you find relaxing. A teacher can lead you through this process or you can do it yourself. While practicing this type of meditation, focusing on smells, sights, sounds and texture is also important.
#2 Mindfulness meditation
The idea behind this meditation practice is to have an increase awareness of living in the present moment. In meditation, you observe your thoughts and emotions, not running after them in your mind. Mindfulness meditation grew in popularity mainly because it can be done anywhere, anytime (although many meditation practices can as well). Being aware of your emotions and thoughts helps with focusing on present moment.
#3 Mantra meditation
Words have a strong effect on emotions and thoughts, especially when one is using it as a way to calm the mind. In mantra meditation, we usually repeat a calming word, or a phrase that have a calming effect and prevent distracting thoughts and confusion.
#4 Transcendental meditation
In transcendental meditation, you also silently repeat a mantra, although, in this case, it’s personally assigned mantra, which can be a word, sound or phrase, that you repeat in a very specific way. There is a wide range of benefits from this practice: greater inner calm and improved brain memory and function.
Qi gong, Tai chi and Yoga are also popular ways to practice meditation. These techniques include series of postures and movements (in a slow manner, such as in Tai Chi) and meditation and breathing exercises.
How to meditate?
Whichever technique you choose, you might experience certain obstacles, such as distractions, inability to control your mind, procrastination, and so on.
Here are 8 practical tips on how to get past the problems at the beginning.
#1 Set specific time: make it a habit to meditate at the same time (two times a day).
#2 Stretch: you need to sit or lie comfortably, thus stretch your muscles.
#3 Breath: breathing slows the heart, focuses the mind, and relaxes the muscles. Moreover, every time you get distracted, simply focus on breathing again.
#4 Find a purpose: meditation is an ongoing, active process, and you have to be fully engaged.
#5 Pick a specific place/room: it’s important to choose a specific place for meditation, and it shouldn’t be the room where you exercise, sleep or work.
#6 Make sure you are not disturbed: it’s important, especially in the beginning, to understand that meditation means dedication.
#7 Meditate early in the morning: the great benefit of the morning meditation is that your mind is not filled with impressions and thoughts, and it’s less likely you’ll be disturbed.
#8 Be grateful for the opportunity to practice.
What is your meditation technique?
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