The Benefits and Practice of Meditation: Part 1

Most of us live in a perpetual state of doing, doing, doing: creating lists, striving, working hard, reaching for goals, running on empty. Cultivating the capacity for stillness in the midst of your busy day can yield enormous benefits. The ability to be still… can nourish and sustain the mind and body in ways that might seem hard to fathom.

meditation-leafThese moments are like micro-vacations, providing relief from the stress of our every day lives. They can allow us to reconnect with a deeper part of ourselves. These moments can also provide reframes and mood alterations. The unconscious mind can reveal itself and be made conscious. Intuition becomes more accessible.

Setting aside several minutes a day for the practice of meditation will enhance your ability to be still and calm.

What are some of the benefits of meditation?

The regular practice of meditation can:

  • Decrease anxiety, depression and chronic pain
  • Improve concentration
  • Develop more optimism, insight and resilience
  • Boost the immune system
  • Lower heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension
  • Enhance pre and post-surgical outcomes
  • Improve fertility
  • Reduce symptoms associated with asthma, seasonal affective disorder and disruptive sleep

How to meditate or initiate a relaxation response:

Get into a comfortable sitting position (if sitting is difficult, then lie on a comfortable surface).

Find a quiet environment especially in the early stages of learning meditation.

Repeat a sound, word or phrase over and over.

For the purposes of this meditation, I recommend repeating the word “in” to yourself as you breathe in and “out” to yourself as you breathe out.You are breathing in and out as you pay attention to the rise and fall of each breath. I particularly like this form of meditation because mindful breathing is the key to all relaxation and following the rise and fall of every breath keeps you focused on the physical action that initiates authentic relaxation. At the same time you are developing the ability to “be” in the present moment–you and your breath.

Most importantly you want to have a nonjudgmental attitude. Remember every time you meditate something of value happens even if it hard to identify. Eventually you will begin to notice the subtle and perhaps not so subtle changes that occur as you meditate. The benefits of this practice are cumulative and ultimately quite powerful.

When you become distracted, which more than likely will happen, gently bring your attention back to the breath – the rise and fall of each breath.

Ideally practice for about 15-20 minutes twice daily. If that seems like too long or difficult, just begin by sitting for five minutes once a day. Even 5 minutes of sitting has its benefits and eases you into the process of meditation.

With the meditation I am describing, you do not need any props, such as music, a mantra, a candle or for that matter this or any CD. The goal is to internalize this learning and be able to take it with where ever you go – not needing anything but you and your willingness to set aside the time and sit.

Remember that moments of stillness in and of themselves can be deeply rewarding and beneficial.

What have you observed about yourself during moments of stillness?

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