“And in His law he meditates day and night.”
- Psalms 1:2
MEDITATION. Are you familiar with peace? Are your responses to challenging situations controlled or reactive? Could you benefit from greater focus, concentration and awareness?
When people find out that I teach meditation as a part of the yoga sessions, it elicits a variety of responses. Some have questions, such as: “How long do I need to meditate?” “Would it conflict with my religion?” Others submit their own perceived limitations: “I can’t stay still.” “My mind is always full.” “I don’t have the time.” “I tried it but nothing happened.” “My legs are too stiff to sit in that position.” Comments from those who have practiced consistently take on the form of testimonials: “I’ve found incredible peace.” “I’m finally able to focus.” “It has deepened my faith.” “It helps me de-stress.”
Have you ever been in “the flow”? You were entirely engaged and centered in what you were doing. Other things seem to fade in the background. You were in a form of meditation. Meditation is a practice of focusing your attention on one thing – the breath, a word, a phrase, a candle, a picture, a sound, a color, an experience. The process allows you to take a break from the incessant stream of thoughts flowing through your mind. It can be a practical way to investigate your inner nature through a process of self-observation, self-inquiry, and mindful action. It is about being rather than doing, something that is often very hard to enjoy in this busy world. Meditation allows you to build your self-awareness muscle through a practice of silence, stillness and simplicity – even while in motion.
The discipline of meditation is over 5,000 years old and is a component of almost every spiritual tradition. It is central to systems such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Islam. For religions such as Christianity and Judaism, it is mentioned in the core text of the Bible at least twenty times and is often integrated with prayer. No longer viewed as just a “mystical, New Age practice from the East,” meditation is even now being incorporated into medical and corporate settings as a means to promote health.
A society of “multi-taskers”, we place a premium on activity and efficiency. Yet, continuous busyness can lead to lower productivity, and higher levels of dis-ease. The ancient technique of meditation has been found to reduce stress, and benefit sleep disorders, headaches, anxiety, depression, and even heart disease. Clinical studies have shown that meditation can decrease heart rate, respiration rate, pulse rate and the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increase the alpha brain wave associated with relaxation and higher levels of consciousness. This state can contribute to overall psychological and physiological well-being, as well as induce more alert reactions, broader comprehension and greater creativity.
There are different types of meditation depending on the tradition. For example, in many of the Eastern practices the objective is to “empty” the mind of thoughts to induce a sense of calm. It is said that the mind is like a monkey, the way it jumps about. The goal is to tame the monkey through single-pointed attention. On the other hand, from a Christian perspective, meditation might be thought of as quiet prayer, or a prayer without petition. The approach is to contemplate on that which is good, such as scripture, to “fill” the mind. Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” Although it can be a spiritual practice, meditation is not about a specific religion. Instead it is a method of living consciously in the moment without judgment, allowing you to receive inspiration and become more familiar with peace.
One question I often get from the achievement-oriented is: “How do I know if I am successful in the meditation?” My answer is: “Meditation is its own reward.” Don’t expect flashing lights and immediate self-realization. On a very basic level, meditation has been described as “focused thinking.” If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate. The key is to choose an approach that works for you, from a formal sitting meditation to an introspective game of golf. Just be in the experience. Rather than withdrawing from the world, meditation can help you enjoy life more fully – gaining greater clarity, awareness, health, peace and purpose.
FORMS OF MEDITATION:
Here are some basic forms of meditation:
Today, I am still.
I sit in a comfortable position, close my eyes, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. I focus on one thing. I calm my thoughts to just be. At any time, I can go within to the quiet of my soul and receive guidance and strength, and hear messages of hope and healing.
Today, I am still.
Listen to the Affirmation:
Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA. Power Living® Column Vol. 5.03, originally published Week of May 18, 2003; revised June 2008. Dr. Kennedy has written over 70 “The Power of…” columns that are a part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series and available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.
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