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       Meditation

Meditation is seen by a number of researchers as potentially one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. While many stress reduction techniques have been cultivated and studied in the West for approximately 70 years, they are not consistently effective.


Meditation has been developed in Eastern cultures and has a documented history for more than several thousand years. Techniques have been developed and refined over thousands of generations with the specific intention of developing a method by which the layperson can regularly attain a state of mental peace and tranquility, i.e. relief from stress. It is a strategy that can easily be adapted to the needs of doctors and their patients in the West.




What is meditation?

Meditation is the art of silencing the mind. When the mind is silent, concentration is increased and we experience inner peace in the midst of worldly turmoil. This elusive inner peace is what attracts so many people to meditation and is a quality everyone can benefit from.


Many people like the idea of meditation, but feel they don’t have enough time. When you really want to do something you can find time. Get up earlier or watch 20 minutes less TV. Meditation requires an investment of time, but clearing the mind makes the rest of the day more productive. Nothing is better than the feeling of inner peace. What is the point in being tremendously busy but unable to enjoy it? Meditation is not about retreating from the world; it gives us inspiration. Whatever you do, if you have peace of mind, your work will be more enjoyable and productive.





 

The benefits of meditation

1) Reduces stress: 

Studies show that regular meditation will help reduce the levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, which can cause a lot of harm to the body in excess. 


2) Reduces anxiety and depression:

In fact, it has been used as a means to treat these conditions without medication in cases which were not so severe.


3) Helps us feel less bothered by little things:

 Do you sometimes allow yourself to get upset by little things? It is the nature of the mind to magnify small things into serious problems. Meditation helps us detach. We learn to live in the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future. We do not worry about meaningless things but tell the mind to dismiss them.


4) Increases immunity:
Apart from reducing stress and anxiety with resulting health benefits, meditation also strengthens the immune system, making us more resistant to getting sick, such as with colds and flu.

5) Improves concentration and memory:
Meditation helps improve cognitive function, helping us focus and perform better at work and academically

6) Helps to reduce pain:
People who meditate are more tolerant to pain, that is, they can handle pain better and feel it less, also because they are able to control what they feel.

7) Lowers blood pressure:
Studies show that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication.

8) Relieves irritable bowel syndrome:
When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practising a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and constipation improved significantly.

9) Increases fertility:
Studies show that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed and that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.

10) Has an anti-inflammatory effect:
Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, according to research. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response.

11) Helps us get to know our true self:
Meditation enables us to have a deeper understanding of our inner self. Through meditation we can gain a better understanding of our life’s purpose.

12) Helps us control addiction and lose weight:
By meditating, one can control any addiction by controlling the way the mind thinks. In this way, one can also control bad eating habits and this will help with weight loss

13) Helps us sleep better: 
The relaxation that meditation produces helps us sleep better at night by reducing unnecessary brain activity.


More about the benefits of meditation can be found here





                             How to meditate

Like anything worthwhile, meditation requires practice. To get the most from meditation you need to do it every day. This requires a place and time where you will not be disturbed.


  1. Sit with a straight back. Don’t try to meditate lying down because you are likely to fall asleep. Meditation brings relaxation and peace but at the same time this is a dynamic peace. Meditation is quite different than the relaxation of sleep. When we really meditate, we are fully alert and conscious. Our sense of awareness is heightened. Afterwards you’ll have a positive feeling for the world and a renewed sense of dynamism.
  2. Don’t eat before meditating. After a heavy meal your body will be lethargic with digestion
  3. It is not necessary to mediate in the lotus posture. It is fine to meditate in a chair, as long as the back is straight.
  4. It is helpful to take a shower before meditating.
  5. Burning incense and having a candle are not necessary, but they can add a little extra inspiration.
  6. It is good to meditate early in the morning. It is said the best time is 4-6am, although it is more important to be awake and not sleepy.

Breathing

  1. By concentrating on your breathing, you can divert your attention from any thoughts that enter your mind.
  2. Take a deep, cleansing breath, expanding your belly and keeping your shoulders relaxed, and hold it in for the count of six. Exhale, and repeat twice more. Then breathe normally, and focus your attention on your breathing. As you breathe, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, still expanding your belly rather than moving your shoulders up and down.
  3. If your thoughts drift toward the stresses of the day ahead or of the day behind you, gently refocus on your breathing and remain in the present moment. Feel the air move in, and feel the air move out. That’s it.
  4. Continue this for as little or as long as you like, and you should notice that your body is more relaxed and your mind is more centered.

One Pointed Concentration

However you learn to meditate, you must learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. Usually, the mind tries to hold several different thoughts and ideas at once. When you sit down to meditate for the first time, you realize how cluttered the mind is. Meditation teachers have described the mind as a “mad monkey”. However, the mind can be tamed and forced to concentrate on a single thought.

One helpful technique is concentrating on a candle flame. Narrow your gaze to the small tip and block out all other thoughts. When you get distracted, go back to focusing on the candle flame. You can also use other objects like a small dot or flower. The important thing is that you concentrate only on one thing at a time.


Mantra

Another way to learn concentration is through the use of mantra. A mantra is the repetition of a sacred word. For example, you might repeat the mantra AUM a certain number of times. Repeating a mantra forces the mind to focus on a single thought.


Silent Mind

After you’ve practiced concentration and learned to focus on one thing at a time, you can proceed to the next stage: no thought at all. Achieving a silent mind is difficult, but when to attain it the experience is powerful. A technique I advise is viewing your thoughts as separate from your self. When a thought appears, make a conscious decision to throw it out of your mind. Over time you realize that you are capable of allowing or rejecting thoughts. Your real “I” is not a collection of thoughts, but something far deeper. This is the most significant realization of meditation – that you do not have to be a slave to your thoughts.


Through meditation, you attain the power to control your thoughts, and on occasion stop them completely. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t attain a silent mind straightaway. It takes time and practice. There is nothing really else to it; meditation is a simple and spontaneous action.