Just Breathe - The Benefits of Meditation

January 08, 2015

There is a reason why many people try meditation and few stick with it:  Mastering meditation is difficult.  It requires you to focus 100 percent of your attention for an extended period of time.  Anyone who has tried to focus all of thier attention on anything for more than a few minutes knows how challenging it can be, especially today when distractions abound.  Of course, meditation can help reduce stress, combat disease, boost creativity, fight depression, and provide oher significant benefits, and that makes meditation worth the time and effort.  

Meditation has spriritual and scientific aspects

Mediation has played an important role in culture and religion since ancient times.  In the 1920's archeologist Sir John Marshall discovered a carved seal featuring the figure of a person sitting ina pose suggesting meditation.  The seal was found during excavations of Mohenjo-daro, the captial city of the Indus Valley civilization, which dates bck to 2,500 to 1,700 BCE and is found in present day Pakistan.  

Although approaches to meditation vary from culture to culture, people around the world believe it is an essential cornerstone of spiritual development.  It also can play an important role in the mental and emotional health.  Scientists studying neuroplasticity-the adult brain's ability to change its structure or function in an enduring way-have found mindful meditation, which requires the objective, non-judgemental observation of thoughts and feelings, helps improve emotional resilience by strengthening the left prefrontal cortex.  Recent studies released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine have found meditation may be as effective as antidepressants in reducing anxiety, depression, and pain.  

Practicing Meditation

There are many different ways to practice meditation.  Mindful meditation involves finding comfortable position and then quietly observing your mbreath.  If you want to try it, it's a good ideas to read a book, watch an instructional video, or attend a class.  Here are some other tips that my help:

  • Practice in a quiet space at the same time each day
  • Use counting to focus your efforts (count your breaths up to 5 silently and then start over again) or focus on your intent (to find balance, calm, etc.)
  • Be aware when your mind wnaders, accept the frustration, and refocus
Pulitzer prize-winning author Alice Walker described her experiene with meditation like this, "At once point I learned Transcendental meditation.  This was 30-something years ago.  It took me back to the way that I naturally was as a child growing up in the country, rarley seeing people.  I was in the state of oneness with creation and it was as if I didn't exist except as part of everything."