As part of my continual quest for personal enlightenment, my therapist has suggested on a number of occasions over the years to consider meditating.
Its taken me four years to finally take her up on her suggestion and begin trying it at home.
For those of you who either don’t know what meditating is or have never tried it or don’t know how to do it…here’s the scoop:
Meditating is a way to quiet the mind, to focus and calm it, eventually leading to bliss. Meditation is not worship or prayer but an awareness. Being aware of your breath is meditation, listening to ambient music is meditation, listening to birds outside your window is meditating.
According to healthandyoga.com, the health benefits of meditation are vast and include:
* Lowers oxygen consumption.
* Decreases respiratory rate.
* Increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
* Increases exercise tolerance in heart patients.
* Leads to a deeper level of relaxation.
* Good for people with high blood pressure as it brings the B.P. to normal.
* Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
* Decreases muscle tension (any pain due to tension) and headaches.
* Builds self-confidence.
* Increases serotonin production which influences mood and behaviour. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, obesity, insomnia and headaches.
* Helps in chronic diseases like allergies,arthritis etc.
* Reduces Pre-menstrual Syndrome.
* Helps in post-operative healing.
* Enhances the immune system. Research has revealed that meditation increases activity of ‘natural-killer cells’, which kill bacteria and cancer cells.
* Also reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress.
The best part is, its easy to do and doesn’t really require any investment of any kind (other than time).
My therapist suggested a daily 15 minute ritual. I initially came up with a ton of excuses to not meditate that mostly had to do with not having the time. But a month before the holidays, I decided that I had to re-commit to change in certain parts of my life and had to create space for new opportunities to form. Meditating 15 minutes a day was an easy commitment to make. I now set my alarm 15 minutes earlier in the morning, come downstairs to my main floor living room, light a candle and use my Blackberry device’s timer to know when I am done (sometimes the 15 minutes feels like an hour and other times it feels like 30 seconds!).
Here is what you can do to begin your journey in meditation:
1) Sit, don’t lie, in a comfortable position.
2) Light a candle or ring a chime to signify the start of your meditation,
3) Music can used. While I don’t listen to music during my meditation, I would only consider something ambient, without lyric to not be distracted.
4) Focus on something to aid you into your meditative state. Remember, meditating is a state of consciousness, where the mind is free of scattered thoughts. You don’t sleep during meditation. My focus is on my breath. If my mind scurries off to think about something else or is distracted by another outside sound or noise, I intentionally bring it back to my breath…it is my baseline.
5) Close your eyes and remain as still as you can.
6) Keep a journal nearby so you can document things you experienced during your meditation.
Remember, meditating is similar to yoga. Each and every time you meditate your experience will be different. There have been times when my mind is totally distracted by other things and I find it very difficult to bring it back to focus on my breath. But, that is ok because its all about committing to the practice and making it as much a part of your routine as is shaving, going for Starbucks or doing yoga!!
It is also a long term commitment. I don’t expect miracles overnight. However, I do find it very calming and peaceful and provides me with skills I can apply to every day life. For example, the ability to focus and be singular in thought on completing tasks or to remain calm in normally stressful situations.
Just like other new challenges, its best to start off small and without expectation. Give it a shot!