What is Meditation and Why Should I Care?

Have you ever wondered how to meet the challenges of living in a fast paced world with more ease and resilience? Have you experienced a time when you said something and immediately wished you could have taken the words back or possibly arrived at a destination completely frustrated by traffic?

Many of us look for tools to help us think, speak and act in more thoughtful ways in our lives. We search for ways to be completely present for the people and moments in our lives; not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. There is a desire for resilience to smooth the rough edges of life.

Meditation offers an endless variety of tools to explore and experience ourselves. Mediation can be movement, silence, eating or listening and performed while sitting, lying down, standing, moving or even driving. You can surround yourself with incense and bells, woodland paths and creatures or music and movement.

There are many forms of meditations focusing on the breath (pranayama). One simple method is breath awareness which simply means staying mentally aware of your inhalation and exhalation. This can be accomplished by maintaining the thought of “in” connected with the inhalation and “out” connected with the exhalation. The beauty of this breath meditation is that it is available any time, anywhere.

Other forms of meditation include:
Gazing – which is fixing your gaze onto an object, usually a candle flame.
Third Eye Meditation – focuses the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows”.
Chakra Meditation – usually a visualization focusing on the seven chakras.
Sound Meditation – examples are listening to singing bowls, drumming, gentle music or chanting.
Movement meditations – such as some forms of yoga, dance and Qigong.
Other forms include meditations for sleeping, awakening, laughing, relaxing, recovery, gratitude and more.

So, what does experimenting and cultivating a meditation practice do for us? There are over 3000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation! The following is a brief overview. Meditation reduces stress by turning on the parasympathetic nervous system which benefits the immune system, reduces blood pressure, lessens inflammatory disorders and supports the body’s ability to heal and renew.

Meditation also supports emotional well being by lessening worry, stress, fear and anxiety to name a few. It improves resilience, increases optimism and relaxation and enhances self esteem. Meditation is also good for the mind by increasing mental strength and focus. The practice helps us learn to ignore distractions and allows us to make better decisions and problem solve.

The benefits to meditation are cumulative! Each moment of practice carves out a little more space for us to return to. A home base. A place of safety where we can “be” with ourselves. Maybe the next time you find yourself sitting in a traffic jam there will be a moment of memory, or the safety of home base and with just one intentional breath, you will be able to create ease.

By Mari Coryell

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