How To Increase Wellness With Meditation
Meditation is an age old technique that has been used for centuries to bring calm, enhance cognitive clarity and encourage overall better health and wellness. It is generally considered to be an Eastern practice, but western cultures have discovered its benefits. There are many different methods of meditation and they each have certain purposes. For instance, conscious breathing is the center of many different types of meditation that centers the spirit and is great for beginners. Creative visualization is often used to relieve pain and even treat various illnesses and health conditions. Some people use koans for their meditative focus.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a process that consists of three steps that promote a state of consciousness of calm, peace, clarity and bliss. It promotes balance, serenity and even enlightenment. Simply put, meditation is an approach that adults and children alike can employ to aid them in coping with anxiety, stress, health problems and imbalance through reflection, contemplation and thought. There are a wide variety of types of meditation and many different reasons why people meditate. The root of it all, though, is the basic principles of quiet thought and consideration.
Types of Meditation
People meditate in a variety of ways. There is Zen meditation, prayer, Taoist meditation, transcendental meditation, Buddhist meditation, mindfulness meditation and many others. They fall into two basic categories of meditation, though some cross the two categories and incorporate characteristics from each.
This type of meditation involves focusing your awareness on a process or object. This can be a koan, sound, breath, visualization or exercise. The focus is open and used as an anchor. It promotes relaxation and is often used as a healing therapy.
This type of meditation is used in the majority of religions and spiritual practices. It holds the concentration to one certain object as in a prayer that is repeated over and over. It minimizes distractions so that the mind is consistently brought back to the chosen subject or object of meditation.
The Four Minds
During the process of meditation, you go through four states of consciousness; your four minds. You begin with your Normal Mind, moving to the Concentrating Mind, then on to the Meditating Mind and finishing with the Contemplating Mind. Each of these minds has distinct characteristics.
Our so called "normal" mind is actually usually abnormal. It is often cluttered and uncontrolled. It bounces from one thought to another, reacting with emotions and experiencing physical effects. The mind plays tricks and uses our emotions against us. This is the nature of the normal mind and a very good reason to use meditation.
Reaching the concentrating mind is the first step in meditation. It is the process of getting control of the uncontrolled normal mind which can be very distracting. It is during this process that koans or focuses for meditation are common. The process itself is very simple, but that simplicity is deceptive because although the process is not difficult, obtaining the goal of mastering the process is very challenging. That mastery involves selecting a subject or object upon which to place your attention, then focusing on that completely without becoming distracting.
Meditation is the state of unbroken attention. The attention that you give to the subject or object of meditation becomes deeper and effortless. The goal here is for the meditation to become very deep and true knowledge of the object or subject upon whom you are meditating spontaneously presents it.
The contemplating mind is the ultimate state of consciousness. This is the ultimate goal of meditation, also known as enlightenment. It is the unity of the subject or object of your meditation and your mind.
Meditation for Beginners
Benefits of Meditation
There are many benefits that are attributed to meditation. More and more studies are being conducted that are backing these claims and western doctors are recognizing that meditation can have substantial health benefits.
On a larger scale, doctors and alternative therapists are using meditation to treat heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. It is being used in patients after surgery to promote healing and help control pain. It can help with the prevention of chronic diseases and combat various health conditions. Doctors suggest meditation as a way to help their patients relax and cope with the stress in their lives. Yoga with meditation as well as Tai Chi are very popular stress relieving, health boosting methods.
Many companies are recognizing that meditation is an effective way to improve employee morale and production so they are offering quiet areas where employees can lie on a cot in a room with low lights and soothing sounds where they can meditate for as long as a half hour. Many companies attribute these measures as the reason for a decline in employees taking time off of work due to illness.
Meditation Health Benefits Include:
- Encourages a deeper level of relaxation
- Increases blood flow
- Reduces the activity of viruses and infections in the body
- Can return blood pressure to normal
- Boosts the immune system
- Decreases muscle tension
- Aids in post operative healing
- Helps with pain control
- Increases production of serotonin which boosts mood and behavior
- Enhances process in the body that reduce the risks for depression, insomnia and obesity
- Decreases rate of respiration
- Slows the heart rate
- Helps with chronic diseases such as arthritis and allergies
- Reduces or shortens anxiety attacks by lowering lactate levels in the blood
- Decreases pain that stems from tension
- Alleviates headaches
- Lowers oxygen consumption
There are numerous techniques that are used for meditation. You can sit, stand, recline and even move about while meditating. Yoga is a popular method of meditation as is Tai Chi, both of which involve movement. Using koans are another popular technique. A koan is simply a question, riddle, story or statement upon which to meditate. One of the most familiar koans is, "Two hands clap and there is a sound, what is the sound of one hand clapping?"
Creative visualization is another technique that is often used for pain management and healing, but is also used for focus and concentration. Creative visualization involves visualizing a setting or object, then becoming immersed in that visualization. For pain management, patients will give the pain a physical appearance, whether it is an orange flame or a blue ball. Then they will concentrate on that object, becoming acutely aware of its location (location of the pain) and what is around it. Then they will begin to reduce that object by employing various methods such as dissolving or squashing until it is gone.
Meditation is a vast practice that is as diverse as the people who use it. Not all meditation styles and techniques are right for everyone. Some people respond better to certain types than to others. It can be a time of trial and error until the right style and technique are found. However, when that match is struck, meditation can aid greatly in enhancing health, increasing relaxation and improving concentration.