As modern life becomes increasingly more stressful, it seems there is never enough time for all we need to do. So the idea of carving out more time for a commitment to sit–and meditate–may seem absurd.
Take just a moment or two to consider some of the real benefits of meditation and you may be surprised at how much easier it can be to manage life’s challenges.
1. Costs nothing
Meditation costs nothing and you can practise anywhere–while walking to work, while in the office, or on a noisy bus. One way to do this is to focus all attention on your breathing. Concen-trate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your
nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly.
2. Reduces stress
Meditation reduces stress levels and alleviates anxiety. If we train ourselves to become more mindful, we can learn to observe our moods and thoughts before they spiral downward. We can, in other words, be more relaxed inside.
3. Improves concentration and mental focus
Meditation provides a way to train our mind to settle into a state of calmness and clarity. We will be less easily led into old mental habits such as irritability. When we learn to separate from our old habits of mind, we pave the way for clearer thoughts, improved memory, insightfulness, creativity, and the ability to learn and adapt to new things.
4. Facilitates mindfulness
Meditation is a state of being acutely aware of whatever thought, emotion, or sensation is present without reacting to it. In the process, we gain an understanding of how our mind functions. We discover that we do not have to follow every thought or emotion that arises.
5. Improves circulatory and cardiovascular systems
Scientists have discovered that meditation can affect the body in remarkable ways, including reductions in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, blood flow
to skeletal muscles, perspiration, and muscle tension.
6. Increases appreciation for life
Meditation expands our awareness and opens us to a larger view of the life that is all around us.
7. Supports immune system
Scientific studies indicate that meditation increases defence against tumours, viruses, colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.
8. Reduces and manages pain
Studies show that meditation relieves symptoms in patients with anxiety and chronic pain; further, those who meditate heal almost four times more rapidly than those who do not meditate.
9. Cultivates inner peace and equanimity
Meditation cultivates insight and understanding through a capacity of moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness. In this way, we become healthier, more peaceful, and more balanced.
10. Improves knowledge of self
Meditation facilitates self-discovery. We realize that we can understand and improve ourselves as human beings, not through a theory, not through a concept, but through direct experience.
Quick Guide to Meditation
You can adapt this introductory meditation technique to fit the time you have available.
Ideally, find a place that is quiet and comfortable where you will be undisturbed.
Find a posture that works for you–either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. It is important that the spine is upright and that your body is relaxed. Rest your hands comfortably on your lap or thighs.
To minimize outward distractions, close your eyes, but do not allow yourself to fall asleep. Become aware of your breathing by focusing on the movement of air in and out of your body.
Be aware of the thoughts that come into your mind. Do not try to ignore or suppress them; just observe them while remaining calm and anchored to your breath. Do not let your frequent wanderings discourage you.
Simply observe what is taking place in yourself as though you were an interesting stranger. If you become distracted, refocus on your breathing.
After 15 minutes, slowly open your eyes. Take a few minutes to allow yourself to come back to where you are. When you are ready, gently lift yourself up to a standing position.
Alive Magazine, April 2008