What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation for stress relief is extremely effective, and moreover it’s FREE and can be done practically anywhere. The mind never stops thinking, analyzing, and trying to figure things out – a person has about 70,000 thoughts per day. Yet most of the time we are unaware of this self-talk. What meditation does is still the mind and the constant thoughts for a period of extreme relaxation which reduces stress and anxiety levels – like a pressure release valve.
It’s also excellent for improving your health. There has been a lot of research done on meditation which has shown multiple benefits:
- Improves your sleep,
- boosts energy levels, mental clarity and alertness
- boosts the immune system
- leads to more emotional resilience
- brings improvements to physical health and overall wellbeing, including lowering blood pressure, helping with intestinal disorders and even re-building grey matter in the brain (according to a Harvard study).
And importantly, it’s FREE, it’s very SIMPLE, it can easily fit into ANYONE’s life, no matter how hectic. In fact it’s those with the craziest schedules and least free time who stand to benefit the most. Many business leaders and company directors are using modern meditation techniques to help them improve their performance and productivity. At the same time they are improving their health and resilience. Many schools are starting to see the benefits of meditation on their pupils performance, behaviour and emotional wellbeing.
Learn to still the Monkey Mind
The initial challenge is to train the ‘monkey mind’ to let go for a brief period so we can tune in to the deeper, inner part of ourselves. The monkey mind is the limbic system. It’s responsible for our survival, our fight and flight responses and it’s what alerts us when we are about to step in front of a car. But it is also where we tend to get caught up in patterns of self-talk which is often negative. The monkey mind likes to ruminate on the past, worry about the future and focus on the ‘I am’ self in relation to the rest of the world. (For more tips on how to break the patterns of negative self-talk, see Change your Negatives to Positives.)
Meditation teaches us to quiet down this area. Thoughts may still come and go, but gradually by meditating we re-train the monkey mind to let go of focusing on thoughts as we do in our normal conscious state. We learn to choose whether to engage with them or not. Basically it give the monkey mind a real rest from the need to analyse every thought and step into self-doubt, judgement, fear or worry about it. The energy can be used instead for healing and cellular repair. Research shows that after several weeks practice, meditation can even shrink the amygdala. This is the part of the brain responsible for fear responses.
Meditate to know your inner nature
Meditation actually slows down brain waves so that we can flow into a state of effortless awareness and a stronger connection to our own Inner Being or core self. This is the vast part of us in the non-physical which is our very life force, the source of our wellbeing. Strengthening this connection to our inner selves, by meditating regularly, can lead wonderful feelings of relaxation, connectedness and wellbeing. With enough practice, you can access states of pure bliss and joy, which is the permanent state of your Inner Being.
How to meditate
There are many ways to enter into meditation – such as guided visualisation, relaxing music, focusing on your breath, body scanning or a mantra. Each approach moves the focus away from your thoughts. It allows another quieter voice, the voice of your core self, to emerge.
It helps to start to meditate using a guided meditation as the words occupy the monkey mind and lull it into a comfortable relaxed place. But it shouldn’t become the main focus. Gradually, with regular practice, you will find just listening to a relaxing music track is all you need to start to take you into that peaceful state. With continued practice you will be to let go in silence. See my Christina Cherry Healing Youtube Channel for suggested guided meditations to get you started.
Meditation is really about ‘not doing’, becoming receptive and still rather than active. You don’t need to try to empty your mind completely. Let any thoughts, sensations, feelings or emotions that come up just present themselves. But don’t judge them or focus on them, just let them pass. Be at peace with whatever you experience.
When and where to meditate
You can do it anywhere – on a train, plane, though not automobile if you’re the one driving! Just 5 minutes per day is enough to start to still the mind, though 20 minutes is ideal. It’s important to find a regular time to meditate. This then allows you to start to feel comfortable with the practice. Your body also come to expect the relief and peace that will develop during that time.
Choose somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. It is best to sit comfortably with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. A reclining chair is also good. You can lie down on your back, though if you’re new to meditating, this may lead you to fall into sleep rather than the meditative state. Keep your eyes closed so there are no distractions.
When you are accustomed to finding the meditative state, you can also engage your mind in that state while you’re walking, running, or listening to relaxing music. Repetitive action such as walking or running also helps to occupy and calm the monkey mind. If you can meditate just before you go to sleep, then you allow yourself to be in a receptive state all through the night, allowing deeper and more restorative sleep.
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