Why Meditate?

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific biofeedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.” – Osho

 

Why Meditate?

 I’ve been meditating since I was a child. I use to walk into the sheep pasture and slowly trace the paths in which the herd had walked. Mindfully I would place my feet inside the lines of the path. Sheep spread out in the field but when they are traveling from one area of the pasture to the other they walk in a single file line and in time the field that is a lush green color has narrow brown lines marking the trails. I suppose these trails marked throughout the pasture were my labyrinth. I would ponder my worries, talk them out loud and sit in quietness amongst the herd, make up songs and sing as loud as I could. I enjoyed watching the behaviors of the animals, the texture of nature and the grounding of the Earth beneath me. As an adult, I learned that these behaviors were called mindfulness and meditation.

The psychological benefits of meditation are that it reduces stress-related conditions such as anxiety and depression. When we meditate, the brain and the nervous system undergo radical changes that cause the reduction and prevention of these conditions. Meditation increases stress resilience. Meditation popularity is increasing as more people discover the health benefits. Some other benefits of meditation are promoting emotional health, enhances self-awareness, lengthens our attention span, reduce age-related memory loss, can support us in generating kindness, may help you fight addictions, improves sleep and helps control pain.

For me, meditation helps me burn off the emotions that need to be felt and processed such as anger, sadness, disappointment, worry, anxiety, stress and enables me to have a deeper understanding of my inner-self. I have been able to gain a better understanding of my life’s purpose.

What is meditation?

Often I am told, “ I can not meditate I’m terrible at it, I just can not clear my mind!” I explain that meditating is not about clearing the mind to a state of nothing. It isn’t even about sitting in quietness to meditate. You could sit in the middle of Times Square and still meditate. It is about taking time to sit in your stillness and observe what bubbles up for you. We forget that the mind is an organ and its thoughts are its movement. The mind also shares inner wisdom and the ego can make a lot up. When we take time to meditate it allows us to discern which-is-which for us. The goal of meditation if there even is one is to go beyond the superficial thoughts of the mind and experience our true essential selves because we are not stressed, we are not anxiety, we are not depression and so on. The mind itself is often our biggest obstacle standing between ourselves and this awareness. When we are fixed on one particular belief or outcome than it impedes our ability to grow.

I also want to share that meditation isn’t about always having a positive and happy mind. I’ll use myself as an example. When I first started my yoga journey I thought wow this is a lifestyle method in which I will always be positive, positive things will always happen to me if I learn these techniques. As I am nearing almost two decades of personal practice I am learning that life still happens, challenges and storms still happen, and all emotions still happen. It is more about acknowledging the opposites and choosing a course that is in the middle

How does meditation improve mindfulness?

Meditation and mindfulness are a mental discipline. It is often started by focusing your attention on your breath, doing a body scan and focusing on a body sensation, or even an affirmation or word. You take an inventory of your thoughts, emotions, sounds that are arising from moment-to-moment and observing them without criticism or analyzing. If you find your mind drifting into the past, future or something that is not the theme that you picked you recognizing that and bring it back to the present moment. This act is an act of mindfulness. In the May 2011 issue of Neuroimage suggested that one effect of this focus and refocused is increased brain connectivity.  There have also been studies using MRI’s to document the changes in the brain and the relationship of the health benefits.

Research on meditation?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), many studies have investigated mediation for different conditions and there is evidence that it may reduce blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, flare-ups for ulcerative colitis, ease symptoms of anxiety, depression and help with insomnia. Some research suggestions that it may physically change the brain and body to promote healthy behaviors.  Meditation is generally considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people with psychiatric problems.

Sara Lazar of MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology explains: “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist through the day. The study demonstrates that changes in the brain structure may underlie some of these reported  proves and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Brittain Holzel first author of the paper and research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany states: “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that by, practicing meditation, we can plan an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanism in the brain that facilitates this change.”

Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness, physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping, illness and enhancing overall health and well-being. Mind-Body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior. There are many types of meditation, however, there are some shared elements such as a comfortable posture, a place that you feel safe and offers fewer distractions, a focused attention, and an open attitude.

 

Resources:

 

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overviewhtm

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