Meditation is the focusing of one’s breathing and thoughts in a quiet way to expand self-awareness and consciousness. This practice can foster feelings of calmness, compassion, and reduce stress, anxiety, sadness and pain.
The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness has conducted a Stress Reduction Program since 1979, with 15 000 participants. The program includes a combination of Mindfullness Therapy and Meditation. The results have shown a 35% reduction in the number of medical symptoms and a 40% reduction in psychological symptoms in participants.1 Meditation has also been proven effective in reducing chronic pain, and enhancing the body’s immune functioning. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are reduced by meditating, and the brain generates mood enhancing chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins.2 The skills derived from meditation training have been shown effective in significantly reducing the recurrence of major depressive episodes by half in patients treated for depression.3
I choose to share a breathing meditation here with you, though there are many kinds of meditations. If you are interested in furthering your meditative practice, there are resources widely available at book stores and online.
So how do you meditate? Well, it is a simple, yet complicated process. Generally, you must find a quiet place for your meditation practice. It is recommended that you meditate daily, and in the same quiet space. You may sit in a traditional cross-legged position, or any other seated position that is comfortable. You should try to maintain a straightened and aligned back.
The difficult part of getting started is quieting your thoughts. It can be a challenge to tune out your worries and troubles, and this is why focusing on one object, thought, or your breathing is helpful in meditation. Breathe naturally, without trying to force or regulate your breath. Focus on the sensation of the air flowing in and out of your body.
At this point, you may be tempted to let your anxious or depressive thoughts take you away from the moment, but resist them, and maintain focus on your breath. Keep this focus for ten to fifteen minutes each day. You should begin to notice a calm and spacious feeling in your mind and body. This spaciousness refers to the feeling of pain and worry settling, and leaving room for calmness and self-compassion.
Those who practice meditation regularly rely on it to promote a sense of natural contentment and to keep stress at a minimum, allowing a sense of calm in all areas of life.
1. (University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program, under the direction of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (Kabat-Zinn 1982, 1985, 1986, 1992, 1998, Miller 1995, etc.)
2. Meditation as Medicine – D.S. Khalsa, MD and C. Stauth – Pocket Books, 2001)
3. (Teasdale, J., Cambridge University, 2000)