The practice of meditation is becoming increasingly popular as the world rediscovers the wonderful benefits of this ancient practice.
I started meditating around 12 years ago. On discovering the practice of meditation, I did not meditate frequently but I found that whenever I did, my life was much improved on all levels.
Until recently my meditation practice was intermittent, and I would go for long periods of either not giving meditation a second thought or thinking about it but then just being too lazy to bother.
I have however now reached a point in my life where not engaging in a morning meditation practice would be tantamount to my leaving home with no clothes on! Meditation for me is magical and makes me feel as though I have my very own Excalibur.
In a world full of noise and mixed messages, the ability to keep a sense of calm is not easy to achieve. When life becomes unstable and unpredictable, depression, stress and anxiety can easily set in. Meditation is a natural technique that can help you to deal with these conditions and live a happier life. Although it is an ancient tradition, it is still practiced in many cultures worldwide to create a sense of peace and inner harmony.
“Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity to train attention and awareness and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
Meditation is a habitual process that will enable you to train your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.
“Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.” – Baba Ram Dass
Personally I find that meditation gives me a greater sense of clarity and calm, a seemingly better life experience, pleasant relationships and a generally optimistic outlook on life. When I meditate, my days have a smoother flow and I am more focused and energetically balanced.
“The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a centre of peace.” – J Donald Walters
The Documented Benefits of Meditation
- Reduces Stress – meditation can reduce symptoms in people with stress triggered medical conditions.
- Controls Anxiety – less stress means less anxiety. An 8 week study found that mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety. It also reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive compulsive behaviours and panic attacks.
- Promotes Emotional Health – some forms of meditation can improve depression and create a more positive outlook on life. Mindfulness meditation has been found to decrease depression in large numbers of people. A controlled study compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced meditation and the brains of those who did not. Those who meditated showed measurable changes in activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism.
- Enhances Self-Awareness – consistently meditating helps to develop a better and stronger understanding of yourself, helping you to to grow into the best version of yourself. Some forms of meditation help you to recognise harmful and self limiting thoughts. As you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them towards more constructive patterns.
- Helps Concentration and Attention Span – Focused attention meditation is like weight lifting for your concentration and attention span. It helps to increase the strength and endurance of your concentration.
- Can Generate Kindness – Some types of meditation increase positive feelings and actions towards yourself and others. Metta meditation is a type of meditation also known as “loving kindness” meditation which encourages the cultivation of kind thoughts and feelings towards oneself and others. An example of a simple metta mantras are: May I be happy – May I be well- May I be safe- May I be peaceful and at ease- May you be happy -May you be healthy -May your life be blessed – etc.
- Can Help Fight Addictions – Meditation develops mental discipline and willpower and can help to prevent the triggers for unwanted impulses. Meditation can also help to stimulate and train your brain to feel “naturally high” and happy without the need for stimulants.
- Improve Sleep – Meditation can help you relax and control the errant thoughts that can interfere with sleep. As a relaxation technique, it can quiet the mind and body while enhancing inner peace.
- Pain Control – Meditation can help to diminish the perception of pain in the brain. Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind and can be heightened in chaotic and stressful conditions. Meditation has been shown to increase activity in the brain centres known to control pain and has been associated with decreased complaints of chronic or intermittent pain.
- Decrease Blood Pressure – Blood pressure has been shown to decrease over time in some individuals with a regular meditation practice. A number of studies show that meditation can modestly lower blood pressure, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement published in the journal, Hypertension.
- May Reduce Age Related Memory Loss – According to Sciencedaily.com, Meditation and music may help to reverse early memory loss in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age related memory loss and dementia.
- You Can Meditate Anywhere!
“ Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” – Jon Kabat – Zinn
The main types of meditation practice are:
- mindfulness meditation
- spiritual meditation
- focused meditation
- movement meditation
- mantra meditation
- transcendental meditation
Mindfulness meditation – originates from Buddhist teachings and is a very popular technique in the west. In mindfulness meditation, you are encouraged to pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge or engage with the thoughts. You simply observe them and allow them to pass. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it useful to focus on an object or your breath while observing any bodily sensations, thoughts or feelings.
Spiritual meditation – is similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your higher self, God or The Universe. This practice is deeply beneficial for those who thrive in silence and seek spiritual growth.
Focused meditation – also known as concentration meditation, is when your attention is focused on a single object. The object of focus could be internal or external, for example: A body part – focusing on a particular area or sensation in the body. A candle – looking at the flame to focus the mind. Mala beads – counting beads on a mala. Visualisation – picturing a place or focusing on a goal. A sound – listening to a gong or chime. The goal here is to keep the attention focused and nothing else. This practice is ideal for anyone who requires additional focus in their life.
Movement meditation – This practice is an active form of meditation where the movement guides you. This practice may include yoga, walking through nature, running, gardening, qigong and other forms of gentle motion. “This type of meditation is good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander”
Mantra meditation – This practice uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, affirmation or sound, such as “OM”. Some people prefer this because they find it easier to focus on a word than on anything else. This is good for people who don’t like silence and also enjoy repetition.
Transcendental meditation – also known as TM is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. While meditating the person practising TM sits in a comfortable position with closed eyes and silently repeats a mantra. A mantra is usually a word or sound from Vedic tradition that is used to focus concentration.
“Your goal is not to battle with the mind, but to witness the mind” – Swami Muktananda
“Meditation is a way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.” – Deepak Chopra