Let's talk about meditation
Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Meditation is also a consciousness-changing technique that has been shown to have a wide number of benefits on psychological wellbeing.
Some meditation facts:
– Meditation has been practiced in cultures all over the world for thousands of years.
– Nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism & Islam, has a tradition of using meditative practices.
– While meditation is often used for religious purposes, many people practice it independently of any religious or spiritual beliefs or practices.
– Meditation can also be used a psychotherapeutic technique.
– There are many different types of meditation.
Common types of meditation:
Meditation can take on many forms, but there are 2 main types:
– concentrative meditation,
Involves focusing all your attention on a specific thing while tuning out everything else around you. The goal is to really experience whatever you are focusing on, whether it’s your breath, a specific word, a mantra, etc, in order to reach a higher state of being.
Includes , amongst others, both mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) & mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness can target different issues, such as depression, which means that its focus
maybe different from practice to practice. Overall, it involves the state of being aware of and involved in the present moment and making yourself open, aware and accepting.
Impact of meditation:
Consciousness is often linked to a stream, shifting and changing smoothly as it passes over the terrain. Meditation is one deliberate means of changing the course of this stream, and in turn, altering how you perceive and respond to the world around you.
Research has shown that meditation can have both physiological and psychological effects. Some of the positive physiological effects include a lowered state of physical arousal, reduced respiration rate, decreased heart rate, changes in brain wave patterns and lowered stress.
Some of the psychological, emotional and health related benefits of meditation include:
– Better management of symptoms related to anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, pain issues and high blood pressure,
– Better stress management skills,
– Changes in different aspects of attention & mindfulness,
– Increased self awareness,
– Improved emotional wellbeing,
– Improved working memory and fluid intelligence,
– Improved immunity,
– Greater empathy for yourself and others,
– Headache relief.
While experts, do not yet fully understand how meditation works, research has clearly demonstrated that meditative techniques can have a range of positive effects on overall health and psychological wellbeing.
Meditation can have a wide range of benefits but there are also sme potential pitfalls to watch out for. As you are starting a new meditation habit, it can be easy to expect too much too quickly. The reality is that it takes time and practice to build a habit that can have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing.
Don’t expect meditation to solve all of your problems. Instead, treat it like a part of your self care routine that plays a role in helping you feel better and less stressed.
Tips for Meditating:
– Start slowly! Begin by doing short sessions of around 5-10 minutes a day and then work yourself up progressively to longer sessions.
– Set a schedule: try meditating at the same time each day, for a few minutes first thing, for example.
– Get comfortable: Sitting crossed legged on the floor is one option, but comfort is the real key. You need to be in a position where you can sit for several minutes without getting uncomfortable, stiff or restless.
– Focus on what you’re feeling: Breathe naturally and notice feelings and sensations that you experience as you breathe in and out.
– Don’t try to suppress feelings: your mind is bound to wander as you meditate – and sometimes this can lead to thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable or destressing. The goal isn’t to clear your mind of such thoughts. Instead, acknowledge these thoughts without judging them, and then gently guide your focus back toward your breathing.
Basic concepts of meditation:
Though meditation can be practised in many different ways, a few common threads run through virtually all meditation techniques.
– Focuses mind: It is a common misconception that meditation causes the mind to become ‘quiet’. In reality, your mind is always thinking. Although your thoughts might not be as rapid, it is perfectly normal for your mind to be active when you are meditating. The key is to acknowledge this with compassion while bringing focus back to the breath whenever you can. Meditation is like training a puppy to sit; the mind being the puppy, the breath being the trainer.
– Being in the now: Rather than focussing on the past or future, all meditative practices involve focusing on the present. Being in the now involves experiencing each moment, letting it go and then experiencing the next. Focusing on the here and now takes practice, as many of us live most of our lives thinking toward the future or ruminating on the past.
– Altered state of consciousness: With time, maintaining a quiet mind and focusing on the present can lead to an altered state of consciousness that isn’t a sleeping state but isn’t your usual wakeful state either. Meditation increases brain activity in an area of the brain associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions, and some evidence shows that regular practice brings prolonged positive changes in these areas.
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