Meditation can be defined as simply quiet-time for most people. But the health benefits are realized as more than just finding a peaceful place in the home to think about the day’s earlier events. According to experts, meditation is described as contemplation or extended thought. An example of meditation is transcendental meditation, which is based on Hindu writings that promotes seeking a relaxed state within oneself.
Meditation techniques originated from the eastern region of the world, but the practices slowly made their way to the west, starting in the 1980s. In addition to transcendental meditation, other techniques include:
Heart rhythm meditation. As the name suggests, heart rhythm meditation allows the heart to be the central part of this meditation technique. The condition of a person’s heart explains if he or she has complete control over his or her life. Experts say the condition of the heart is a key indicator of a person’s mood and emotion.
Guided visualization. Guided visualization is the practice of listening to a recording while imagining a more peaceful condition in one’s mind. This technique does require paying attention to breathing, though controlling it is not necessary. Although guided visualization is not an established tradition, it is effective in treating stress and anxiety.
Zazen. Zazen is a Buddhist tradition that does not involve controlling emotions, thoughts or breathing. Instead, Zazen is used in conjunction with Buddhist proverbs, stories or a paradoxical question. Zazen is the hardest meditation technique to learn because it doesn’t require guidance to ensure a person is doing it correctly.
Mindfulness. This meditation technique involves accepting all thoughts that come to mind and learning to pay attention to breathing. The condition of how a person is breathing will enable him or her gain control and redirect the energy to stimulate peace within oneself.
Though there are many approaches to meditation, recent studies have shown that meditation benefits both the mind and body. Experts say meditation is defined as reducing stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, migraine headaches and pain and many people have now realized the health benefits. Several clinical trials have taken place to prove that meditation does improve a person’s health. In one clinical trial, according to Dr. Madhav Goyal, lead researcher and assistant professor of medicine, there was a 10 percent improvement in reducing depression and depression-like symptoms among participants who engaged in meditation. Other participants showed about five percent improvement in anxiety symptoms. Despite the positive effects of meditation for depression and stress, studies have not proven that meditation help people fight against substance abuse, eating disorders and obesity.
Doctors and exercise physiologists recommend physical exercise three to four times per week for at least 30 minutes; the same holds true for meditation. With meditation properly defined, most people are now realizing the health benefits. For beginners of meditation, he or she must be taught proper techniques from a qualified trainer, such as a yoga instructor. Similar to cooking high-quality dishes and performing oral surgery to patients, meditation requires skill. The main purpose of meditation is to accept one’s strengths, weaknesses, faults and past mistakes. It is believed once a person truly comes to terms with the mistakes made, he or she will experience inner peace. Director of psychology training, Simon Rego, states that more time spent meditating will yield larger and noticeable results.
By Bridget Cunningham
Institute of Applied Meditation