Do you meditate on a regular basis? Do you take personal time-outs during the day and evening to go within to follow your spiritual path through inner reflection, prayer, or contemplation?
Not only is meditation the act of self-reflection, it is also a “mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
In these busy times, meditation is a key component of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Did you know that there have been scientific studies on the benefits of meditation? Among them are:
• Stress reduction
• Anxiety control
• Improved emotional health
• Increased self-awareness
• Longer attention span
• Improved sleep
• Pain control
• Lowered blood pressure
There are other benefits being researched to confirm that meditation may also help:
• Reduce age-related memory loss
• Make you a kinder, gentler person
• Overcome addictions
Many people get caught up in daily routines that neglect this oh-so-important activity. Others simply don’t know what to do.
Here are some tips on how to meditate. Rest assured, this will be as easy as it is calming.
Obviously, we need to breathe or very soon we will perish. However, most of us in the western world never pay much attention to our respiratory system unless it breaks down. Eastern cultures, however, have preserved the value of and techniques for achieving internal harmony and peace of mind through self-induced relaxation.
The Deep or Complete Breath
Sit comfortably, either cross-legged on the floor (yoga style) or in a chair. Straighten your spine as you exhale all the air from your lungs. Inhale slowly, filling not only your lungs, but the diaphragm below it. Hold your breath for a beat, then begin a long, slow exhalation. Repeat breathing out all the air you possibly can, and replace with new, fresh air. For meditation, focus on your third eye (middle of the forehead) as you breathe completely. Begin with only a few complete breaths, then add more over time, as your body’s ability to process oxygen improves.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sit comfortably, either cross-legged on the floor (yoga style) or in a chair. With one hand, use your thumb to close one nostril as you breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 8. Go as slow or as fast as is comfortable. Hold all the air in your lungs for a count of 4. Exhale through the open nostril for another count of 8. Repeat this procedure with the other nostril by closing it with one of your fingers. Soon, the rhythmic pattern of single-nostril inhalations and exhalations will become familiar and very soothing. Do this for as long as you like.
Breathing with awareness is the foundation of meditation. It promotes the stillness of introspection taught by zen Buddhism and other spiritual groups. When you focus your mind on a single image – a lotus blossom unfolding is the all-time classic – your brain and body chemistry actually change.
Meditation is as simple as noticing your breathing – at any time and any place – to still your chattering “monkey mind.” Watch this delightful YouTube video where a Buddhist monk teaches you how easy it is to meditate, and you can begin immediately to find your calm center.
Or perhaps you’d like to try a Taoist walking meditation?
There are so many resources just a mouse-click away – feel free to go exploring online to help your inward quietude.
3. CULTIVATE AN “ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE”
The Japanese healing practice Reiki counsels: “For just one day, do not anger, do not worry, and find gratitude.”
If you consider the three parts of this admonishment, they sum up the essence of self-help: quiet your negative emotions and replace them with positive feelings.
If you don’t believe that negative talk – or self-talk – is damaging to health and psyche, check out this amazing experiment that Ikea dreamed up. For 30 days, two identical Dracaena plants were put on display at a school to demonstrate the effects of bullying words and vocal tones.
“Both plants were played looped voice recordings but one received compliments and the other was verbally bullied with hateful words. The children took part in recording the compliments and negative words.”
In only one month’s time, the complimented plant was thriving with vibrant colors – while the bullied plant withered and looked very dispirited indeed:
Words and deeds do impact us all constantly. Including the centering practice of meditation in your regular regime will lead you to self-love, appreciation of life’s gifts, and empathy toward other people’s problems.
Experimental programs around the world are showing that meditation may help troubled students who act out disruptively to resolve their inner turmoil. Teaching our youngsters how to meditate in school is very effective in reducing violence, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
One school in West Baltimore, Maryland, replaced their detention program with a meditation room. One kid who had been pushing other students and calling them names said:
“I did some deep breathing, had a little snack, and I got myself together. Then I apologized to my class.”
Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if your tyrannical boss and annoying coworkers would do the same thing?
Regardless of your age, gender, occupation, or social status, you can find your inner peace through mindful meditation.
Namaste or, if you prefer, Peace Out.