Meditation goes mainstream

About 10 million Americans say they practice the ancient art of meditation, moving their focus from the activity of the outside world to silent states of awareness.

by Sarah McLean — 

Meditation is a buzzword these days. Some people cannot live without it, but others think it is too difficult or too New Age. What exactly is involved and why would anyone want to do it? In our daily lives, it’s easy to become overstimulated — visually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Not surprisingly, taking a break from this stimulation can actually improve our health.

About 10 million Americans say they practice the ancient art of meditation, moving their focus from the activity of the outside world to silent states of awareness. Meditation has been adopted by schools to help relieve students’ anxiety, by new parents to regain a sense of calm and rest, by corporate executives to effectively reduce stress and make better decisions, and by those with health challenges to find wellness.

Science has begun to validate meditation health claims. Meditation produces physical relaxation for a very deep rest, allowing the release of stress-induced physical symptoms. Studies link the practice with reducing pain, anxiety, depression, blood pressure and insomnia. Meditation also can help improve outcomes for patients with heart disease, cancer, diabetes or addictions.

Other benefits include increased energy and vitality, improved quality of sleep, reduced chronological aging, improved concentration, improved visual acuity, increased alertness and heightened immunity. It also creates a sense of inner peace and overall well-being. Rarely is there a reason not to meditate.

Meditation usually involves focusing on an object — a flower, a burning candle, a sound or word, or even one’s own breath — however, there are many different types of meditation to choose from. Different practices suit different people. The important thing is to find one you like and stay with it. Like exercise, the benefits come when you keep at it. The best times to meditate are in the morning when you just wake up and before you eat, or in the evening before dinner.

An easy meditation you can practice

  • Find a quiet place free from distraction or disturbance.
  • Make sure you can see a watch or clock to keep time.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair with your limbs uncrossed and your back straight.
  • Let your hands rest on your lap or knees. Shoulders and arms are relaxed.
  • Keep your head upright, and close your eyes.
  • Breathe in a relaxed, natural way.
  • Focus your attention on the natural rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
  • Focus on the sensations, as your breath enters and exits your nostrils.
  • Notice how your chest rises and your stomach expands with each inhale; with each exhale, notice your chest fall and your stomach contract.
  • Do not try to change anything — just notice the sensations of your breath.
  • When you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your focus on the breath, bring your attention back. It does not matter how many times you are distracted.
  • Continue this way for 10 minutes, starting with 10 to 15 minutes. You can gradually increase the duration, up to 30 minutes.
  • When the time is up, sit quietly for a minute or two before returning to your regular activity.

 

Sarah McLean, director of the Sedona Meditation Training, works with Dr. Deepak Chopra and was the education director of the Chopra Center in California. She has taught hundreds of people to meditate. 928-204-0067 or www.SedonaMeditation.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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