Whilst words have certain meanings they also can have connotations. For many the notion of meditation is sitting in a cave dressed in something orange chanting ohm. The dictionary defines meditation as both the act of contemplating or reflecting and contemplation of spiritual matters. There is no reference to caves or color of clothing.
Over the last forty years we have seen a rise in interest in mediation in western countries. This has paralleled the desire for many to find peace in a hectic world. It has also coincided with the world getting “smaller” thus allowing people to tap into ideas, which may have originated far away from where they live.
Regular meditation has a lot going for it including many health benefits. It is great for stress management and overall wellbeing. Lets look at a few conditions first. It is important to state that meditation is not a “treatment” or “cure” for any particular condition. However, not being a cure is not the same as not being beneficial.
It has been shown that people who meditate regularly are less likely to have high blood pressure and less likely to have heart disease. Regular meditation is also beneficial for those with anxiety and depression. It helps with insomnia and other sleep problems.
Whilst there is no strong evidence yet about its role in cancers, we do know that those diagnosed with cancer who regularly meditate report a better feeling of wellbeing even whilst undergoing treatment like chemotherapy.
Asthmatics who meditate have been shown to get improved lung function and in some instances have reduced their need for medication.
There is a bigger health aspect to mediation though and that is in promoting peace of mind and a sense of wellbeing. This can be of benefit to everyone. When we meditate we are slowing down our breathing. This literally affects our physiology. Our heart rate and blood pressure reduce. We switch from “fight or flight” mode to a more relaxed mode. For the nervous system this is a switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic drive.
Our hormonal drive also changes with reduced production of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol.
This is all well and good you might say but isn’t it really hard to do? The answer is no and this is where we really need to demystify meditation. If you can breathe you can meditate. Essentially all we are doing when we meditate is focusing on our breathing instead of other things. It is simply sitting or lying still and focusing on breathing in and out.
You can go to a cave but there is no need. You can do it in your living room. You can wear orange or any color you like. You can meditate for five minutes or as many minutes as you like. If you are too busy to schedule a meditation in your day, then you actually need to meditate for longer.
Some worry that thoughts will enter their mind whist meditating and thus they are doing it “wrong”. There is no need to worry. Thoughts will enter your mind and this is not wrong. When they do enter be aware that they are there and then go back to focusing on your breath.
For some (myself included) it is very helpful to do guided meditations where there is some soft music playing and an introductory talk to get you “in the mood”. The Chopra centre does these very well. I also find it very useful to wear headphones whilst mediating, to help block out any distracting external noises.
There are also numerous mediation apps so you can meditate wherever you like. (Please note meditating whilst driving or using machinery is not recommended).
So if you can breathe you can meditate. It is free. It is easy to do. It has numerous health benefits. The question then is less why would you meditate and more why wouldn’t you? There is no answer to that one.