by Charles Hamel
What is meditation?
Meditation can be defined as the practice of focusing your mind to help you feel calm and give you awareness about your life. Eastern religions have practiced the health benefits of meditation for thousands of years. Meditation is now widely practiced all over the world, with the belief that it has positive effects on health.
Proof is in the Pudding
An article published in the American Heart Association journal recently reported that meditation can reduce cholesterol buildup and the associated risk of heart attack and stroke, and another study found that meditation reduces the death rate among the elderly. The National Institute of Health reports that regular meditation reduces chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and cortisol (stress hormones) production. A University of Wisconsin-Madison<i/> study discovered meditation boosts part of the immune system. A recent issue of the American Journal of Hypertension featured the results of a study showing a significant lowering of blood pressure in a group of meditators compared to a control group of people who didn't meditate. The study also reported a 23% decrease in usage of anti hypertensive drugs between the group of meditators and the other group. A Harvard study also concluded that regular meditation can reduce pain, blood pressure, and cut production of the stress hormone cortisol. The most recent study by The American Heart Association shows heart and artery health improved 69% in test groups practicing meditation.
Types of Meditation
It is not my intention to confuse the beginner by giving them different types of meditation, but just to show that there is not just one way to meditate, therefore giving the beginner different options, because one way that is good for me, may not work for another person very well.
Breath Watching - Breath watching is just simply paying attention to your breath for a few minutes. When your mind starts to wander, just re-focus your mind on the breath.
Mantra Meditation - Some people find it easier to keep their mind from wandering by concentrating on a specific thing, or in this case a word or phrase. Pick a word or phrase that works for you. You can then repeat the mantra aloud or in your mind as you meditate.
Walking Meditation - Walking meditation gets the body involved. It can be done inside or outside. The idea is to pay attention to the movement of your legs and breathing and body as you walk. When your mind starts to wander, just bring it back to the legs and breathing. Other forms of walking meditation can be martial arts, or Tai Chi.
Mindfulness Meditation - Mindfulness meditation a practice Buddhists call vipassana which means insight meditation. This is a good meditation to perform in the forest or next to a bubbling stream. This meditation is the art of becoming deeply aware of what is here right now. You focus on what's happening in and around you at this very moment, and become aware of all the thoughts and feelings that are taking your energy from moment to moment. The key is to watch without judging or analyzing.
Empty Mind Meditation - This is the act of emptying your mind of all thoughts, it involves just sitting quiet and letting the mind go silent on it's own accord. This meditation can be difficult for the beginner, because any effort to remain silent seems to just cause more business in the mind.
Meditating on an Idea - Meditating on an idea is usually used to receive answers or insight into a certain subject or theme that you desire. It involves sitting quiet and focusing your attention on the subject that you have chosen to explore.
There are other types of meditation also, but beginners seem to have the most luck trying the "Breath Watching" or the "Walking Meditation". Try the different types until you find the one that best suits you.
How to Meditate
For the first step I would like for you to choose a place to meditate. A place that you designate will put you in the mind frame that you are there for a certain purpose, you can also choose to use soft music and incense to set the frame of mind. Next pick a time that you can commit to, and try and practice your meditation at that same time everyday. Also don't get caught up in the "I don't have time in my busy schedule to meditate" If you are truly dedicated to learning the meditative process, you will find the time, it doesn't have to be an hour, simply 15 minutes is sufficient and it is much better than nothing at all. Ideal is to try and do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening and work your way up to 30 minutes.
Ok now that we have our time and place set up lets get down to the nitty gritty, the actual art of meditating. Sit in a comfortable chair or on the floor on some comfortable pillows, you never want to meditate lying down, it causes a lot of us to doze off or sleep, which will negate all of our preparations. Most of all you want to keep the back, spine and neck straight, and not be hunched over or slump your shoulders, place your hands comfortably in your lap. Let your eyes close comfortably and not squint them, there should be no tension in your body at all so once your still and you feel a portion of your body is not comfortable re-position yourself to be relaxed and comfortable.
Now we want to focus in on our breathing. Learn to breathe rhythmically and gently. Breathe normally, feel the breath come in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. If random thoughts start entering your mind do not focus on them, just let them come in and flow out and re-focus your mind back on your breath. As the time comes to a close, continue to be aware of your breathing but sit quietly. Becoming aware of where you are, slowly open your eyes and get up gradually.
So summing up this article on meditation, I would encourage approaching meditation with an adventurous spirit and seek out the best ways for you, individually, to center down and go into the still space.
About the Author
Charles Hamel is a Husband, a Father, a Chef, a Vegetarian and a Environmentalist. A spiritual being on a journey of self discovery and awakening. I am a writer, a computer nerd, a musician, a meditation practicing, music aficionado. I am a Blogger, entrepreneur, non-follower, always marching to the beat of my own drum, intuitive, easy going, technology geek.
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