MEDITATION FOR BETTER HEALTH, MORE HAPPINESS AND A PEACEFUL MIND SET
Since the 1970’s, clinical studies have supported the claims of meditators that meditation works to counteract negative effects of both acute and chronic stress. Other studies have shown that meditation can turn a natural stress response into a natural relaxation response. Meditation releases a flood of calming neurotransmitters and hormones that soothe the system and stimulate immune functions, which helps to bring the body back into balance.
Cited multiple studies in Daniel Goleman’s The Meditative Mind:The Varieties of Meditative Experience, states that people who regularly meditate experience lower occurences of high blood pressure and heart disease compared to those who do not.
To obtain the heathful effects of meditation, one must do it every day. This way we learn to tune into the inner state that is the source of meditation’s power to heal the body, calm emotions and balance the mind. Daily meditations bring states of increased focus and clarity, sense of connection and empathy with others and most importantly, the sense of core inner strength which guides us through life, especially in crises.
Finding a way to enjoy meditation on a daily basis is key to staying focused.
1. Physical comfort is crucial when sitting to meditate. As long as the spine is straight and the chest open, comfort trumps form.
2. Approaching meditation as an experiment is helpful; one we can conduct in the inner self laboratory.
3. Find a core practice that feels good and relaxing. Choose one that focuses and draws attention and energy into the peaceful fullness of a deeply meditative state.
THREE CLASSIC PATHS
-Tuning into the breath- Once an upright posture is maintained, sense the flow of breath in and out through the nostrils-cool on inhaling, warm on exhaling. Tuning into the sensation of how the breath feels is key and also engenders a natural sense of well-being.
-Meditation in the Heart- Allow the breath to flow into the center of the chest, as if it were flowing through the chest wall. As it touches the center of the chest, imagine a soft glow in the heart, like an inner sun. With each inhalation, feel the sun glow and with every exhalation, spread it throughout the inner body. (Note: To find the heart center, place the right palm over the center of the chest and focus attention on the very center of the body behind the breast bone).
-Mindfulness- Begin with the crown of the head, move attention through the body, focusing next on the forehead, followed by the cheeks, ears, mouth, neck, shoulders, front and back of the chest, stomach, lower back, hips, pelvic area, thighs, knees, calves and ankles. As straying thoughts come up, notice them, note them as “thinking” and return to your practice.
To realize a daily practice, begin by sitting for five minutes at the beginning or end of the day. Each day, increase the time spent sitting by one minute, until reaching twenty minutes. Benefits will accrue when we practice daily and make it a preference.