Meditation has come a long way in its nearly 3,000-year history. From its humble beginnings that are nearly lost in the mists of time, the modern version of the practice is advocated by medical professionals, business leaders and fitness trainers as a way to clear the mind and simply relax. Pick up any medical journal, massage publication or life-coaching manual and you will inevitably see an article about the benefits of so-called “relaxation meditation.”
Does it really work?
The Mayo Clinic website refers to meditation as a type of “mind-body complementary medicine” that goes a long way toward clearing a cluttered mind and alleviating physical conditions that are typically brought on by stress. The practice, which can be mastered in short, daily sessions, brings tranquility and peace to troubled minds. Both emotional and physical well-being can be improved as a result of meditation.
How to meditate
There are five components to an effective meditation session. You don’t need to buy any equipment or take any classes. It’s one of those things that is best learned by doing. The five guidelines are:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for 15 to 30 minutes. That means turning off phones and other devices, maybe latching the door and pulling the blinds if necessary.
- Sit in a comfortable position on a cushion or chair. Don’t worry about what you’ve see in movies. The key is NOT to tie your body into a pretzel, but to be comfortable, with your spine as straight as possible. Most practitioners find a firm-backed chair a good choice.
- Close your eyes and focus your attention on something physical. For most beginners, the breath or heartbeat is an easy physiological feature to tune in to.
- Try to breathe from the diaphragm, while minimizing shoulder and neck movement. Physiologists call this “belly breathing,” and it is considered a naturally relaxing activity. It is very similar to the way we breathe while we are asleep.
- Continue to follow the breath for several minutes and then direct your attention, ever so slowly, toward an awareness of your entire body. You will probably notice that your heart and respiration rates are slowing down considerably. This is to be expected. Stay in this state for however long you choose, without adjusting your body position. After some designated amount of time, slowly open your eyes and stand up.
How to make meditation a part of your daily routine
The benefits of meditation come to those who are patient. After your first or second session, you may feel very relaxed, but that effect will soon pass. It is only after several regular sessions of meditation that you will begin to reap the permanent benefits discussed below. So if you are serious about beginning a program, set aside some time each day just for meditation.
Is this about religion?
Not at all. While some of the world’s major faith traditions utilize a different type of meditation, with decidedly different goals, when you meditate to relax you are merely using your brain’s inborn ability to relieve stress. You can think about anything you want or about nothing at all. In fact, people from all walks of life use meditation to simplify their thought processes and clear their heads.
What are some specific benefits of meditation?
The benefits of regular, short meditation sessions are both emotional and physiological. Emotionally, adherents of a daily program will learn to deal with stress, reduce negative thinking patterns, gain an increased sense of self-awareness, achieve a calm inner state even in difficult situations, and find it easier to focus on daily tasks.
Physically, those who meditate will enjoy relief from the symptoms of:
- Chronic depression
- Many types of cancer
- Generalized pain
- Sleep disorders
- High blood pressure
- Heart ailments
- All types of anxiety disorders
Meditation is easy to do and costs nothing
Whether you are a high-powered business executive or a retired person who lives in an out-of-the-way small town, meditation can do wonders for your state of well being. It clears the mind, reduces stress and makes your body healthier. There really is no cheaper or easier way to improve your life.
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