Meditation is a practice of concentrated focused attention upon a sound, an object, a specific visualization, your breath, a small movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present precise moment, reduce any stress, promote more relaxation, and enhance your personal and spiritual growth.
Meditation can be used to help reduce stresses and strains of the modern world and our overly busy lives. Meditation helps increase emotional balance: remove moodiness, decrease anxiety, lessen depression, improve your self-control, increase concentration and reinforce memory.
The practice of meditation is a main instrument for strengthening our ability to be mindful. Mindfulness and meditation are not synonymous terms, but they appear together in media so often that we may easily think they were. Mindfulness refers to the power of our minds to give close, nonjudgmental attention to our experience as it unfolds. Meditation refers to certain exercises that can be used to increase and refine mindfulness.
Not all forms of meditation, however, designed to cultivate mindfulness. Meditation is an umbrella term for a variety of practices to train the mind or bring about a certain state of awareness. Some meditations are oriented toward creating transcendent experiences, achieving a trance state, or gaining extraordinary powers, but it not necessary the case. Meditation is not exotic, at least not in the way that we will study and practice it. Meditation, at least meditation that we teach, is profoundly ordinary; there is really nothing extraordinary or strange about it.
Meditation practices can vary from still sitting or lying down to movement meditation, like Qi Gong or Tai Chi or short breathing space practices that you can use in everyday life. It can be useful to try different practices to see what works best for you. If you already have an established meditation practice sometimes it’s useful to try new practices to reinvigorate your meditation work and create more positive effects.
When you say the word ‘meditation’, people think right away of the stereotype of the person sitting in the lotus position with thumb and finger connecting and chanting ‘Ohm’. However, right now there are many meditation classes without religious context and sitting on the floor with your legs crossed is not necessary.
For the most of people meditation is not easy and its benefits are not quickly realized. The process of learning meditation is a matter of dedicated and consistent practice. Practicing even 5 to 10 minutes each day on the regular bases will create great results overtime. There is no failure. In meditation practice, you fail only when you do not pay attention, but even failing to pay attention is not a failure if you realize you’re not paying attention. Eventually, you’ll see that you cannot fail at meditation, if you just do it.
Meditation practice is an activity that is best approached with an openness of mind and sincerity of heart. If you can’t come up with openness and sincerity, that’s fine – meditation can teach you that as well.
Benefits of Meditation to Mind, Body and Spirit:
- Physical: change in brain waves, deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol level, decreases the risk of heart related illnesses, enhances the immune system, reduce stress, insomnia, chronic pain, has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, helps with managing pain, improve your athletic abilities, anti-aging
- Mind/Psychological: achieve peacefulness, silence the mind, increase calmness, clear emotions, improve personality, improves emotional balance, increase clarity, decrease neurotic tendencies, increase psychic sensitivity, improve exam performance and problem solving, greater creativity
- Spiritual: cultivate compassion, peace of mind, awareness of Self, create detachment, discover true being, enhance empathic abilities, greater understanding and connectedness, “enlightenment”.
“Meditation brings wisdom, lack of meditation leaves ignorance” Dalai Lama.
Types of meditation:
- Stillness meditation – Vipassana, Hatha yoga, Tao Chi, Chi Gong
- Flowing Meditation – Reflection, contemplation, breath, concentration on object, mantra meditation, chanting, imagery, mindfulness, zen meditation
- Guided meditation
According to neuroscientists, when you meditate on the regular bases, your brain physically changes, even though you are not aware of it. Scientists now observe changes in the brain by using brain imaging techniques and beginning to understand why meditation is effective for managing stress.
“The brain waves of meditators show why they’re healthier. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before.”- Colin Allen, Psychology Today, April 2003
Researchers from Harvard University discovered corresponding changes in the physical structure of the brain after the meditation course; there was a lower density of neurons in the amygdala and greater density of neurons in areas involved in emotional control – evidence that meditation served as a realistic and maintainable stress management technique. (6. Hölzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Gard, T. & Lazar, S. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Neuroimaging. 191. 36-43).
Nursing is a very stressful occupation. A 2006 North American study of nurses and nurse aides concluded:
“The results of this study support the feasibility and potential effectiveness of a brief mindfulness training program for reducing symptoms of burnout, enhancing relaxation, and improving life satisfaction for nurses and nurse aides.” (Mackenzie, C., Poulin, P. & Seidman-Carlson, R. (2006). A brief mindfulness based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aides. Applied Nursing Research. 19, 2. 105-10).
How do we find time to meditate?
Squeezing meditation into a jam-packed schedule isn’t something a lot of us can easily envision. But it is something everyone can do.
Use these 5 simple and effective tips from Deepak Chopra on how to make time for meditation today:
- Get Up, Then Sit Down: Wake up just five minutes earlier than you normally would and then sit right down and meditate. Even one or two minutes of meditation each day could make a world of difference in your mindset and ability to be more productive. Once you feel good about it and it’s part of your morning routine, you can always increase the time.
- Meditate, Then Drive: Got a commute? If you take time at the end of your work day to meditate right before you jump in your car, your commute home will be a more pleasant experience and your potentially challenging transition between work and home life will be eased.
- Have Meditation for Lunch: If you begin to pair your meditation with lunch, pretty soon you’ll make a powerful association that will make lunchtime meditation an easy habit.
- Schedule a Meditation Break: Schedule a 5-minute break on your calendar. You can also try using a smartphone app like Calm or Headspace, The Mindfulness App or Insight Timer to set meditation reminders and timers. Many also offer access to easy-to-follow guided meditations.
- Take One Minute, Five Times a Day: If you still think it’s too hard to carve out 5 consecutive minutes in your day, try scheduling one-minute meditations five times. Whether it’s right when you wake up, right when you get to work, between meetings, at lunch, before leaving work, before dinner or before bed, there are plenty of one-minute opportunities in even the busiest of days.
Remember not to judge your meditation based on what happens or how you feel while you meditate. Meditation is a process of learning to calm your mind and enter into a peaceful state. After continuing to practice for several weeks to several months, start to notice how it is affecting all areas of your life, not just the meditation itself. You may find yourself being more at peace, learning your boundaries, and being more in tune with everything around you. There is where the true benefits of meditation unfold.