“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”
― George MacDonald
For many of us, the thought of meditation brings forth images of Buddhist monks sitting cross-legged in some tranquil foothill with only a gentle wind to break the silence. These monks are indulging in an age-old practice of freeing the mind and seeking enlightenment. They are, in large part, responsible for the West’s increasing fascination with meditation. However, you do not need to shave your head or even possess the ability to sit cross-legged for long periods of time to benefit from meditation.
Regular meditation is said to have life-altering benefits; the practice has been shown to reduce stress, increase practitioners’ well-being, and help individuals avoid a host of illnesses brought on by busy, stressful lifestyles.
However, there are many people who remain unconvinced as to the benefits of this mysterious practice. If you are one of those who are yet to be convinced of the life-altering benefits of regular meditation practices, read on.
What’s So Fascinating about Meditation?
Life in the Western world is often fast paced and demanding. Work, social activities, and a slew of technological distractions mean that our minds and bodies are potentially in a constant state of overwork. It is difficult to avoid the stresses and strains of daily life, but meditation can at least help us to better deal with it all.
Several studies conducted over the last decade have shown that meditation is far more than some “woo-woo” fad. There is evidence that regular meditation could help to reduce people’s blood pressure as well as flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), health issues that are often associated with high levels of prolonged stress.
Meditating regularly can help to increase calmness as well as the ability to handle high levels of stress; it can improve your psychological balance, your ability to avoid or cope with illness, and enhance your overall well-being. When used in conjunction with regular physical exercise you create a truly life-changing formula.
Types of Meditation
Of course we can’t all live like Buddhist monks. As alluded to earlier, it is not necessary to spend your life as a monk in order to reap the rewards of meditation. There are several kinds of meditation techniques available which can suit individual lifestyles.
One of the most widely taught methods of meditation in the Western world is Mindfulness. Most people should be able to find time for some mindful meditating. You can practise this method in the workplace, at home, or even in the gym. The basic concept of mindful meditation is to concentrate on breathing deeply and simply letting your mind run. You can start by doing this for ten minutes each day, and increasing the amount of time as you become more experienced.
Other well-practised techniques include:
ï Zazen – This is the typical cross-legged seated method that is commonly practised by Buddhist monks.
ï Transcendental – This includes adopting the “Lotus” or “half-lotus” posture, and going into a deep state of meditation.
ï Kundalini – The Kundalini technique focuses on our inner energy and requires an understanding of various energy centres located at different points in our bodies.
ï Guided Visualisation – Similar to Mindfulness, this is another simple form of meditation. It requires you to focus on a particular image in your environment for several minutes, usually while listening to mind-soothing recordings.
ï Heart Rhythm – Putting the heart at the “energy centre”, practitioners of this technique focus on breathing. The intense focus on breathing is said to help achieve a state of balance with mind and body.
Changing Your Life Through Meditation
From Far-East Buddhist monks to high-flying city stockbrokers meditation can be life changing. In the Western world more and more people face issues with stress-related illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Meditation practices have been shown to help with many of these illnesses.
Do you have an important meeting or speech coming up and feel a little anxious about the impending event? Do you exercise regularly but currently feel like you have “hit your wall”? Do you feel a little down in the dumps and disillusioned with life in general?
Take a leaf out of the ancient, proven practice of meditation and find out what all the fascination is about. Start practising meditation yourself today. Who knows, it may even change your life.