Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Mainly thought of as an Eastern practice, it is now used in the West as an effective method of enhancing wellbeing and reducing stress. Although meditation has been entwined throughout history with religious beliefs and traditions, it is not a religion in itself, it’s simply a method of mental training which creates a greater mental clarity and sharpened awareness, bringing you to a higher consciousness and a state of profound deep peace.
Meditation is the act of creating an inner transformation that elevates you to a higher level of awareness. Originally practiced as a way to deepen the understanding of mystical and sacred life forces, is now seen as one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety. The techniques are quite simple and can take as little as 5 minutes each day to give beneficial results.
The state of a person’s mind can have drastic effects on the body, the more you relax through meditation, the greater your chance of remaining free from the many health problems in modern day society. Living with stress can be destructive and have negative effects on the body. Stress releases the hormones Adrenalin and Cortisol, which raise the heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, relaxing through meditation releases high levels of the feel good chemical serotonin, which has the opposite effect of lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, it also releases growth hormones which repair the body's tissues and cells.
Meditation can reduce anxiety attacks by lowering the level of blood lactate, it decreases tension headaches, is good for muscle and joint problems and boosts the immune system. A recognized effect of meditation is the improvement of mood and behavior as well as an increased energy level. Regular meditation clears information overload which contributes to stress, by relaxing the mind, it will also help you deal with stressful situations from a different perspective, which will help you to focus on the present day. Regular meditation will increase your self-awareness and reduce your negative emotions
Types of Meditation
Meditation techniques have mainly evolved from Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism. They range from the authentic traditional meditation to the refined modern day meditative practices that can be done anywhere and at any time. Although there are different types of relaxation techniques in meditation, biologically, the effects are basically the same. The parasympathetic nervous system is switched on when you relax which in turn gives you better memory, immunity and digestion to name but a few. Below are just some of the recognized types of meditations that are practiced today.
Meditation concentration meditation is training the mind to focus on something, usually an object, or on nothing, and to enable yourself to shut out any and all distractions. This type of meditation calms and awakens the mind beyond conscious thought and is at the heart of all types of meditation.
2. Reflective Medication
This is probably one of the most important types of meditation to practice. It is considered to not only have a calming effect on the mind, but it also stimulates a transformational power which provides a great conviction and strength that can help you to change the way you live your life. Otherwise known as analytical meditation or disciplined thinking, it involves choosing a question, topic or theme and then analyzing or reflecting on it. At first your mind will tend to wander off the topic but the more you practice, the more your mind will be in control and not wander. If you find this type of meditation difficult, it may be a good idea to learn about concentration meditation first.
3. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is an empowering and alternative relaxation techniques which involves paying attention to the mind or 'being mindful'. It is used regularly in counselling and psychotherapy to help in the treatment of anxiety, depression and OCD (obsessive compulsive behaviors), it is also known to provide pain relief. There are different mindfulness techniques depending on what you need to be mindful of, but all of them create a more focused and relaxed mind not only in stressful situations but also in helping you to prepare for an potential stressful events.
4. Creative or Visualization Meditation
Creative or Visualization meditation will help you to consciously strengthen the many emotions of your mind, by focusing on those emotions and cultivating them.
5. Heart Centered Meditation
This meditation is also known as heart chakra meditation. Practicing this meditation will open up the heart chakra and remove any existing negative energy, by focusing on the heart and inhaling and exhaling slowly, this method can help to heal your heart.
How to Meditate?
To be able to focus exclusively on the task of meditation, it is a good idea to find somewhere calm and peaceful where you will not be distracted. Having repetitive calming music playing softly in the background is a way of keeping focused and if you have an indoor waterfall, try leaving it running in the corner while you meditate, running water is very soothing. The gentle ticking of a clock can also help to keep your thoughts in check while you are meditating.
On the other hand, being aware of external noises such as a dog barking in the distance, the rumble of traffic or the sound of faraway voices, can actually help you to concentrate as long as you don't let them dominate your thoughts.
The traditional way to meditate is to sit on a cushion in the lotus or half lotus position, that is to say, crossed legged, with hands resting in your lap, palms upwards. However, it doesn't have to be done in this fashion, you can meditate anywhere and in any position you find comfortable.
Setting a goal of long meditation sessions of meditating in the beginning, can result in frustration and the desire to give up too soon, so it's better to start with a realistic time of around 5 to 15 minutes of meditation and try to keep to the same time each day, then gradually increase the sessions to suit you and your lifestyle. Don't expect to be perfect after a few sessions, it takes a while for it to become a natural habit, and it works best when it's done at a slower pace.
Meditating with your eyes closed will help you to block out external stimulation's, especially when you are first starting out on the journey, but you will find as you progress that you can actually meditate with your eyes open without letting your mind wander. A good rule of thumb is to observe your inner voice but don't pay attention to it, if it creeps into your thoughts, let it flow out again without interacting with it.
Benefits of Meditation
To get the full benefits of meditation, it needs to be practiced on a regular basis over a long period of time, not only will this give you increased awareness, but it will reduce stress, give you the ability to stay calm in stressful situations and improve your memory.
Meditation will enhance your life and help you to find balance and inner peace, it's also known to increase the functions of cells in various parts of your brain. It can help you to overcome negative thinking by cultivating constructive thoughts and it can transform an unhappy, chaotic mind by taking it to a higher level of consciousness.
Some of the physical benefits of meditation include:
- Relaxation through meditating has been shown to boost immunity in cancer patients.
- The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome such as bloating, diarrhea and constipation, can all be significantly improved by meditating twice a day.
- The relaxation techniques of Meditating can lower blood pressure.
- Stress is linked to heart disease, asthma, skin conditions and arthritis, meditation can help to prevent these conditions by reducing stress though the relaxation techniques used in meditation.
- It has been suggested that relaxation through meditation can boost male fertility.
- Meditating can restore emotional balance.
The mind can make a hell out of heaven, or a heaven out of hell, meditating is a way of training the mind to become a heaven, a place of calm where you can be at peace with yourself and experience a purer form of happiness. The techniques of meditation are quite simple and regular practice for as little as 5 minutes each day will give beneficial results for mind body and soul.
Making meditation a part of your life will not only calm your mind but it will help you to achieve an inner peace. It is a journey of enlightenment that will help you to reach a higher spiritual dimension. Having said that, it is important to understand that the benefits of meditation will not happen immediately, it may take many months, if not years of practice, depending on what level of awareness or higher consciousness you wish to achieve, meditation is a journey, so choose your path well.