Meditation could be defined as a self-directed practice for relaxing the body and the mind, but we could also say that it works with the mind and has effects on both body and mind. The purpose of meditation is to make our bodies transcend the real world and connect with the non-physical world. That is possible only when all the activity of the mind is reduced to one..
Most meditative techniques originally have come from into the West through eastern religions. Meditation is practiced in religions of India, China and Japan, but you could find a kind of meditation in many different religions throughout the world. In the beginning the purpose of meditation was mostly religious, but when people noticed the benefits it had on health and reducing stress, it also became a non- religious practice.
Why you should meditate
These are some of the main reasons why you should consider meditation:
- To improve your concentration – a clear mind makes you feel better and makes you productive.
- To be less bothered by meaningless things – our mind frequently magnifies small matters into serious problems. Meditation can help here. Through meditation we learn how to see a bigger picture and how to divide important things from those which are not.
- Better health – meditation reduces stress levels and alleviates anxiety. It is more than obvious that a life without stress and anxiety is much healthier.
- Knowledge of yourself –meditation enables you better knowing of your inner force, and shows you how to use it better.
Types of meditation
Generally meditation can be grouped in two main groups: Concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.
Concentrative meditation focuses our thoughts on breathing or on some particular image (yantra) or sound (mantra). This allows us to focus our attention on just one thing. As if using a camera’s zoom lens, we focus our awareness on the selected field.
To practice concentrative meditation, find a peaceful place and sit quietly, focusing on your breathing. There is a significant correlation between your state of the mind and your breathing. When we are anxious or nervous, our breathing is shallow and rapid; when we are calm and peaceful, our breathing is deep and regular. Considering this link between mind and body, your meditation can lead to deep breathing that makes your body tranquil and peaceful.
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting still in a quiet environment and just letting the mind do whatever it goes through without any conscious involvement. That means no thoughts, feelings, or images. In concentrative meditation your awareness is focused on a selected object, but in mindfulness meditation you should become aware of a wider area.
How does meditation work?
Meditation works differently for everyone, but generally we could say that meditation is like resting. When you work hard physically, your body needs to take a break. The mind behaves the same way. During the day your mind is receiving different kinds of information, like smells, sounds, feelings, and it is more than obvious that it needs to get some rest. Sleep can rest your mind, but sometimes we are so stressed that our mind can not completely rest even when sleeping. That is when meditation can help us.
Meditation goes right into the difficult, stressed, or unpleasant areas of the mind, and it’s not trying to find a solution to these problems, but to change the mind’s attitude toward them. People who practice meditation experience a fall in metabolic rate right after the start. Their oxygen consumption can fall as much as twenty percent below normal. These people take one liter of air less in one minute, and their heart rate is sub-normal. Blood pressure is also lower, as meditation decreases nervous system activity.
How to meditate?
Stress is a result of our body coping with things that occur in our environment. It is not so bad if it lasts for a short period of time, but if you are mostly stressed out, than you could have dangerous health issues. Meditation is the key to reducing stress, but first you have to learn how to meditate.
1. Creating an atmosphere
A peaceful atmosphere is the most important part of your meditation process. You should do whatever it takes to make your environment as quiet as possible; if you want you could turn down the lights, or play some calming music.
2. Preparing your accessories
While creating a quiet atmosphere, you should find certain accessories for better meditation. These are not requirements, but many people find them very helpful. For example yoga mats are great accessories for meditation, but you can use anything that is comfortable for you to sit on. The most important thing while practicing meditation is to feel calm and comfortable. Many people find the sound of running water calming, or they use candles to make the environment as soothing as possible.
3. Dress Comfortably
Wear comfortable clothes to feel comfortable. There are people who feel comfortable when naked, so if you are one of them, just go for it. Take off your clothes and start practicing meditation.
Benefits of meditation
The most common benefits are:
- Increase in patience
- Enjoyment in life and feelings of serenity
- Becoming more sensitive to certain forms of lighting (fluorescent)
- Dealing with repressed memories
Consult the following chart for more benefits of meditation:
Easing stress, grief, and fear
Accessing creative potential
Contacting Higher Forces
Studies show that meditation has great health benefits as well. It can help decrease stress-related problems, like chronic pain, anxiety, PMS, sleeping problems, or headaches. For example, 20 out of 22 volunteers who participated in a study of anxiety showed remarkable improvement after having an eight-week class in meditation. Also, meditation resulted in certain improvement in patients with painful headaches.
Here are some other health conditions that can be benefited by meditation:
Drug Addiction: Meditation has proven to be a successful strategy in treating drug addiction, acting on psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI). It affects the immune system, and it decreases stress and pain levels.
Stress Control: People mostly decide to practice meditation because of its beneficial effect on stress. Most of us get stressed out on a daily bases, and constant stress can lead to anxiety, hypertension, and heart disease. Reduction of stress, on the other hand, directly reduces anxiety and tension.
Pain Control: Many people suffer from chronic pain. Traditional medicine has different ways of treating it, but it is often more complicated than prescribing medication. There are studies that show people with chronic pain to have achieved a 33 percent reduction after having eight weeks of meditation. Deep breathing exercises are often used to minimize the pain of labor.
Psychological Benefits of Meditation
It’s more than obvious that when you feel less anxious and nervous you are more in control, and that is how you can deal with repressed memories. Memories of any kind of trauma can suddenly take over your awareness and make you temporary anxious until dealt with. Meditation is a tool of mind control that can help you with this. People who practice meditation are generally more self-confident and more connected with others. This is just the right way to cope with depression, and it’s also good prevention.
Frequency and duration of meditation
Nothing is too much, and nothing is too little. There are some religious monks and nuns whose whole life is meditation. On the other hand, we have those one-minute meditations which also can help. But twenty or thirty minutes is mostly accepted as the time that should be spent on meditation. Individuality is an important aspect of meditation; every practitioner will do the sessions as frequently as needed, and in the duration that is the most suitable for them.