“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you!”
--Age of Enlightenment
In my opinion, Meditation is a major effective answer! It addresses the causes of tension, tightness and contraction that the body experiences due to stress. Meditation practice enables the body to relax, thereby releasing tension and muscle tightness.
Other forms of Meditation are also effective; such as; Yoga, QiGong, Tai Chi, Transcendental Meditation (TM), and Mindfulness. Each of these will be discussed in the near future.
You should be made aware that meditation, to be effective, will need to become a daily part of your life. It should be a lifelong commitment to yourself.
Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, describes an analogy to meditation. “The ocean can be active and turbulent on the surface, sometimes with tsunami-like 30-foot waves, but is, by its nature, silent at its depth,” he says. “The surface of the mind is the active, noisy, thinking mind—often racing, noisy, hyperactive, turbulent. But like the ocean, the mind is quiet, calm, silent at its depth.”
What is meditation?
The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.
JAMA Internal Medicine reports that meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. “If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital. “You can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Meditation teaches us to recognize; “Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,'” says Dr. Hoge.
Find a simple, uncluttered, quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Sit on the floor with a cushion under you or in a firm chair, with your back straight and your eyes closed. Then bring your awareness slowly down through your body, allowing all of the muscles to relax. Take your time and enjoy the process of releasing of the tension in your body. Meditation is the art and science of letting go, and this letting go begins with the body and then progresses to our thoughts.
Once the body is relaxed and at peace, bring your awareness to your breath. Let your breathing come primarily through the movement of the diaphragm. Continue to observe your breath without trying to control it. At first the breath may be irregular, but gradually it will become smooth and even, without pauses and jerks.
Meditation requires one to be fully and attentively present in the moment. In the same way one might practice a musical instrument, we practice being aware using the breath as our object of awareness. We follow the physical sensations of the breath as it flows in and out of the body. We allow the breath to flow naturally without controlling it. In meditation, the mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused on the breath so the mind becomes silent with no distractions.
One of the first things we learn when we try to meditate is how easily we can be distracted. All sorts of thoughts, ideas, feelings, and sensations call for our attention and we find we’ve forgotten all about the breath. When we realize we’ve been distracted, the appropriate response is to simply return to awareness of the breath with kindness, gentleness, and patience. The wandering mind is normal.
Witnessing the types of thoughts that flow by while meditating, without attaching to them, will quiet the mental chatter that Buddhists call “the monkey mind.” They say our thoughts can be like wild monkeys that jump from branch to branch. Those monkeys lead us on a tangent through an uncontrollable past and future as we follow them through the jungle of chaotic activity that can be our waking state of mind. When we give the mind something to focus on—like a guided meditation, or the breath, we become aware of an inner world of stillness, love, and peace.
Meditation teaches you to focus on what is taking place within, with acceptance. It brings you freedom from the mind and its meandering. And in this freedom you begin to experience who you are, distinct from your mental turmoil. You experience inner joy and contentment. You experience relief and inner relaxation. And, you find a respite from the tumult of your life.
You have given yourself an inner vacation. This inner vacation is a temporary retreat from the world and the foundation for finding inner peace.
By developing a simple and pure awareness, we learn to disentangle ourselves from our habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and connect with our experience of the breath.
The goal of meditation is to experience our essential nature—which is described as peace, happiness, and bliss. But as anyone who has tried to meditate knows, the mind itself is the biggest obstacle standing between ourselves and this awareness. The mind is undisciplined and unruly. The mind has a mind of its own. That is why many people sit in meditation and experience only fantasies, daydreams, or hallucinations. They never attain the stillness that distinguishes the genuine experience of deep meditation.
We are taught how to move and behave in the outer world, but we are not taught how to be still and examine our inner world.
Benefits of Meditation
In this way meditation is very therapeutic. We become aware of our thoughts and how negative our thinking can be. This information helps us transform and grow in self-knowledge and self-improvement.
Since stress can affect the functioning of the Immune System, resulting in disease and illness, one needs to learn how to handle stress and relax through a Meditation practice.
Many stress therapists, recognize that regular meditation can be of significant help in reducing stress. This is one of the most common reasons that people want to learn meditation. In other words: “Stop and smell the roses” isn’t just good advice—it’s also a powerful safeguard against stress.
Benson, M.D., Herbert; The Relaxation Response
Wall Street Journal. June 30, 2017. “Transcendental Meditation for Everyone”.