Living in the 21st Century is an extremely stressful time. Life is fast-paced, and there are no signs of it slowing down. People’s senses are over loaded with technological gadgets. There is never a moment’s peace. The practice of meditation is gaining popularity because of its ability to silence the noise, calm the mind and bring mind, body and spirit into alignment.
The use of meditation began in ancient Eastern cultures. The Hindus practiced it , 4000 years ago. Later it spread to the Chinese Taoists and the Buddhists. Evidence of meditative practices can be traced back centuries in many of the major religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
In the 1970’s, a physiologist named R. Wallace found that meditation had astounding health benefits for the body. Before then, it had only been thought of as a spiritual practice. Wallace studied groups of college students that were practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM). He found that they became very relaxed and had perceptible changes in their blood pressure and breathing. When they were meditating, he discovered that their minds stayed alert while their bodies entered a restful state. He called this “hypometabolic wakefulness”. His results showed that the long term practice of TM could actually reverse aging. Those that practiced for at least five years, had a biological age of being five years younger.
Other health benefits of meditation include lower stress hormones, increase blood flow, reduction of anxiety and depression, and a boost to the immune system. Meditation also increases self awareness, decreases worry and allows you to gain a better perspective on problems.
There are several types of meditations: Mantra, Mindfulness, Qi Gong, Tai chi, Yoga and Guided Meditation. In Mantra, you repeat a word over and over again. Qi gong- combines breathing with relaxation and physical movement. Tai chi- also coordinates slow movement with breathing. Mindfulness- allows you to focus on breath or look at thoughts without judgment. Yoga combines postures with breath and increases flexibility and balance. Finally, Guided Meditation is done with a teacher or guide. They want you to concentrate as fully as possible on your senses and mental imagery.
All meditations have 4 things in common:
Must be practiced in a quiet location with little distractions
Must be practiced in a comfortable position: sitting, lying down or even walking
Attention is focused on either a word, object or breath
Thoughts are observed but in a detached manner
The practice of meditation is a powerful tool to relax and energize the body. It has a great capacity to heal and balance the mind, body, and spirit. It teaches you to be fully engaged in your senses and awareness and to live truly in the moment.