I am pretty perplexed as to why meditation is not as common as taking a shower, especially in western civilization where stress is an epidemic. Is it because it is deemed “airy fairy” or too “out there”, or because people just simply don’t know how beneficial it is to one’s health and well-being? I find it hard to believe that anybody who has looked into any type of meditative practice and understands how easy it is and how beneficial it is would not do everything they could to develop a habit of meditation.
Perhaps it has gotten a bad rap because people don’t think it’s actually easy and takes only short amount of time to become beneficial. I’m here to tell you that meditation (and any type of accessory practice you could incorporate like prayer, visualizations, affirmations, intuitive and critical thinking) is simple, as effective or even more so effective than certain drugs for improving health, and should be practiced multiple times a day.
Here’s an example of a simple mindfulness meditative practice you can use at anytime and virtually any place in your daily life:
(Ideally, you want to find a place where there is minimal sound and no interruptions – early in the morning on the couch/a favorite chair, during the day in a quiet room, at the office or even in your car, or late at night right before you go to bed. Complete silence is not necessary but will be helpful in expediting the centering process or meditative feeling)
Sit comfortably in an upright position, spine erect, eyes closed and simply breathe. By closing your eyes and putting yourself into this position you have essentially turned off four of the five senses. This has excellent benefits to the brain and is an integral part of the meditative process. You will inevitably pick up on some of the sounds that you hear if you are not in a completely quiet place, which is fine. Recognize the sounds, along with the sensations of your body, the surface you are sitting on, your external environment. Consciously and mindfully just be aware of your surroundings and pay attention without any judgement. If you are in complete silence, pay attention to your breathing and also your heartbeat if you can feel it.
Next, after a few minutes and once you start to feel more relaxed and at ease, start channeling your focus inward to your own thoughts. You may have been experiencing thoughts during the first couple of minutes, which is fine as well. Acknowledge the thoughts (again without judgement) and bring your consciousness back to your breathing. Thoughts will likely pop in to and out of your head and that is fine. Just bring your consciousness back to your breathing and your heart. After a few minutes you will start to notice your body relaxing and possibly your limbs going numb. This is perfectly normal and, in fact, good!
If you wish, you can stop here and just focus on your breath and your heart and go no further. It’s that simple. But, after you do this a few times you will find that you will develop an ability to then consciously direct your thoughts and quiet your mind from those random thoughts that would normally have popped into your head.
If you wish to take it one step further, direct your conscious thoughts towards your heart now in a metaphorical sense: conjure up feelings of love and appreciation and gratitude for specific people in your life. Consciously focus in this relaxed meditative state on prayer, on communicating with God and applying those same feelings of love appreciation and gratitude towards God. Then consciously direct your thoughts on specific areas of the body that you wish to improve upon or heal. Literally put your mind inside the body part, visualize and affirm the healing process there or the growth process. Consciously visualize energy radiating from your heart and mind.
There are studies that show just by focusing your mind and energy on specific areas of the body you can increase blood flow to that area as well as heal injuries in that particular area versus doing no such type of mindfulness meditation and letting the natural healing process of the body work. The Institute for HeartMath has shown that by focusing your conscious mind on your heart and generating thoughts and emotions of love, care, compassion, and gratitude, you can put the heart into a balanced, harmonious state. The harmonious heart energy will also sync up with your brainwave activity and a coherent rhythm between the two will occur.
It is vitally important to get your heart and mind into a relaxed, coherent state and lower your brain waves into the Alpha and Beta states because this is where the subconscious mind is accessed and can be reprogrammed with visualizations and affirmations. To illustrate an example of this, think of hypnosis. Hypnotists put their subjects into very calm and relaxing states where their brain frequencies lower into a very suggestive state, and they can be controlled at the subconscious level. We have the ability to essentially do this to ourselves and control or reprogram our subconscious thoughts through meditation!
The amount of time to devote to one meditative session to realize an impact on health and well-being will vary from person to person. Generally speaking, it can take a few minutes to get into a relaxed state and 10 to 20 of total meditation time to see a benefit. Your body will be the best source of feedback and guide you as to how long you need to spend meditating each individual session.
I haven’t coming across one article, book or paper that says too much meditating can be harmful, so the more the merrier, and at least once a day should be the bare minimum. Incorporating a meditation practice into your daily schedule will profoundly improve your health and impact your life!
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