The Benefits of Meditation
Scientific studies show that regular meditation can lead to a significantly improved quality of life. Anyone can do it. I show you how.
Meditation has been a part of my life for many years, although the form and frequency has changed. More recently I have come to recognise for myself and those with whom I meditate, the huge benefits that can take place when we start to meditate regularly.
Scientific studies have shown the following benefits from regular meditation:
• See doctor less often
• Spend fewer days in hospital
• Improved memory
• Creativity increases
• Reaction times become faster
• Happier and more contented than average
• Decreased anxiety, depression and irritability
• Increased mental and physical stamina
• More fulfilling relationships
• Reduction of key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension
• Effective in reducing the impact of serious conditions such as chronic pain and cancer
• Can help relieve drug and alcohol dependence
• Bolstered immune system, thus helping to fight of colds, flu and other diseases.
(Prof. Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman in Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic World, p 5-6)
So what is meditation?
Meditation can be described as the discipline of relaxing the body, quietening the mind and awakening the spirit. There are various methods of doing this, but they all have the aim of trying to cease or control the constant barrage of thoughts that often trouble us and that can lead to stress and anxiety.
You don’t need to set cross legged on the floor. The important thing is to have an open posture with a straight back. It can be just as affective to sit on a chair. Neither do you need to meditate for long periods of time. 10-20 minutes every day can have huge benefits.
So how do you do it?
Most people find it easier to begin by joining a group or class where there will be someone to guide you. Typically, you will be talked through the meditation, helping you to direct the focus of your attention away from your wandering thoughts, and directing it on to one thing, such as your breath. You will be taught how to manage your thoughts when they do wander.
Guided meditations often include what can be more aptly described as Guided Visualisations. Here, the focus of attention is on being in a place or having an experience that helps you become more contented and at peace with yourself and the world.
If you choose to meditate by yourself, then here are a few tips to help get you started:
1) Find a place to sit or lie, preferably where you will be comfortable, but stay awake.
2) Begin by focussing your attention on your feet, working your way slowly up the body, bringing your awareness to one area at a time before moving on.
3) Now bring your attention to your abdomen, and focus on the gentle rise and fall of your stomach as you breath.
4) Whenever you become aware that your mind has wondered, gently bring it back to your breath again, or whatever you were intending to focus on. Do this as often as your mind wanders.
5) After a while, your mind may become still, like a pool. If this doesn’t happen for you, don’t get frustrated with yourself. Just keep focussing on the gentle rise and fall of your stomach as you breath.
6) After about 10 minutes (longer if you choose), bring your awareness back into the room. Taking a couple of deep breaths and gently stretching your limbs will help you to do this.
You can meditate in silence, but if you prefer music, there is plenty available through the internet for free download or to purchase.
Above all, keep with it. There is not a ‘right’ way for things to be during meditation. Be patient with yourself and accept things the way they are.