What is meditation? Meditation is an experience of calmness and serenity that is very similar to sleep, only you are still conscious of what is going on around you. But the awareness is different. You are aware, and at the same time detached, like an observer. You feel at peace and serene.
You can achieve many very important benefits from meditating. The most important for many people is that it feels really good. Meditation is soothing and pleasurable. You feel really good when you are in your meditation, and these feelings of peace and serenity stay with you for a long time afterwards.
There are many other benefits as well, even more important. Stress is a real killer, both psychologically and physically. It makes you susceptible to all kinds of nasty illnesses. Meditation relieves stress, and brings you proven health benefits like an improved immune system, and reduction in symptoms like aches and pains.
In a study published in the January 2013 issue of Brain, Behavior and Immunity, neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison report that meditation , defined as a constant focus on breathing, bodily sensations, and mental relaxation, relieved inflammatory symptoms brought on by stress. Psychological stress is a common trigger for inflammation associated with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study showed that mindfulness meditation can improve attention and heighten appreciation for music and other activities. As you practice your meditation, you will find that you are better able to concentrate on difficult tasks, and can maintain your concentration for long periods of time.
Researchers report that people who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.
A 2009 study found that meditation may reduce blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease. A 2007 study found that meditators have longer attention spans.
Who knows what benefits mediation can bring to you? It’s different for everyone. It’s certainly worth a try. I guarantee that you will feel a lot better.
Just one more benefit…people who meditate intensively each day, and do this for a number of years, become extremely adept at knowing when someone is lying. Seems that very brief micro-expressions flash across people’s faces, just a small fraction of a second, and then a controlled expression takes over. Experienced meditators are aware of these micro-expressions.
How is Meditation Achieved?
Classical meditation is entered by making your body comfortable, closing your eyes, and concentrating solely on a single object. It might be your breath, being aware of the sensations as you breathe in and breathe out. You might be aware of a word you say to yourself over and over. This is often called a mantra. There might be two words, one accompanying breathing in, and the other accompanying breathing out. You could also concentrate on an image, like a candle flame.
In any case, the basic technique involves the elimination of outside thoughts that tend to come into your mind. These extraneous thoughts just sort of creep in. You start thinking about something you have to do, or something that is bothering you, or any of the myriad of thoughts that ordinarily clutter your mind. Your task, in entering meditation, is to recognize these outside thoughts when they happen and send them away, and then go back to your meditation technique.
Is this Difficult?
An experienced meditator has little difficulty achieving a very deep state of inner peace and serenity. An experienced meditator knows how to quickly and easily sweep away any interrupting thoughts that try to sneak in.
But the beginning meditator can have extreme difficulty. It takes training and discipline, and a lot of it. Many people give up after a few tries.
Is There an Easier Way?
There are many ways to enter a meditation state that require considerably less training and effort than the traditional approach. Chanting is one way, if you chant long enough. Extended prayer sessions are another. Some people find flotation chambers effective. They float face up in heavy salt water, in a light proof container that blocks all external stimuli. This works very well. All of these methods involve considerable time, and some degree of bother. Fortunately there is an even easier way. There are many available meditation recordings which lead you into meditation. You simply place your body in a comfortable position, turn on your player, and listen to the words on the recording. The rest is automatic. Within a minute or two you enter a state of deep meditation, and remain there as long as you wish, even after the recording ends. Best of all, these recordings teach you how to meditate totally on your own, without using the recording. You get all the benefits of classical meditation, without the difficulties.
What’s Next for You?
Try listening to one of the available meditation recordings. Give it half an hour. After you come back to the outside world be aware of how good you feel. Keep using your recording over a period of days, and become aware of the improvements in your life. Then gradually learn to meditate totally on your own, using the principles from your recording. I guarantee you that you will be pleased with the results.
Here is a partial list of available meditation recordings. Try several, and find one you really like. Here are two samples. Search on “meditation recording” and you will find hundreds.
Meditation for Beginners