How can sitting quietly to meditate truly have the benefits science is proving? Regular meditation has been found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve memory and generate greater feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
The neuroscience lab at the University of Wisconsin has discovered that brain circuitry is different in long-term meditators than in non-meditators. Change our brain function? Cool! I need all the help I can get!
Regular meditators routinely rest their brain, resulting in especially high activity in a part of the brain associated with happiness and optimism. (The left prefrontal cortex.)
Imagine running on a treadmill 16 hours a day without resting. Your body would give out. Now take a look at what your brain is doing. How many hours each day is it running? How many rest periods does it get?
Meditation is a powerful tool for letting your brain get off the treadmill and revitalize itself.
Regular meditation trains your mind to focus your attention. Whether you are envisioning a candle flame, repeating a mantra or seeing yourself winning a race, the mental focus is the key.
But just sit, breathe and quiet the mind? Doesn’t work for most of us. Using a specific focus strengthens our ability to get calm and peaceful.
I suggest trying a variety of meditation styles to find those that are best for you. Here are a few to choose from:
Sit tall, breathe deeply and silently repeat a word or sound. Try a word like “peace” or “love,” or experiment with a sound like Ham-sah (sounds like the ‘a’ in ah-ha) or Om.
Your mind will wander. Gently bring your focus back to your mantra. When we repeat the sound, it is soft and gentle, drifting through like a gentle breeze.
We begin by relaxing deeply. Then the teacher or CD recording guides us to a peaceful sanctuary, a walk on a warm tropical beach, a pleasant vacation or anyplace where we feel safe and peaceful. From there we can relax and focus on our inner sanctuary.
Or continue on with a different focus, such as to heal emotional hurts, seek out a wise inner-guide or drift to sleep while envisioning an exceptional day tomorrow.
We relax and then use our imagination to ‘see’ a desired event or outcome. For example, passing a test. You would be guided to sense the feelings of exuberance and success, the sounds of friends congratulating you, the sight of your super test score, the taste of your celebration dinner, the smell of success, the joyful expression on your face and the sense of exhilaration felt in your body.
You can attract changes like a new car, better relationships or improved health.
For example, after three years of foot pain resulting from a bone spur, I was trying to avoid surgery. Orthotics, taping, cortisone, exercise, ice, heat – I did it all. Still, I had pain with every step.
Finally I used creative visualization. In my mind’s eye, I pictured jogging down a path, my foot pain-free. I smelled the sweet fragrance of evergreens and fresh air and felt my warm muscles and the forest path below my feet.
I ‘heard’ myself telling a friend how great my foot felt. It seemed impossible, but I stayed with the visualization, focusing on my heart’s desire.
Every morning and at bedtime I visualized myself doing these seemingly impossible activities. About four months later I realized the walk on the beach was painless. I had begun to dance and hike again. My foot was pain free.
Would my foot have healed without the power of my mind? I can’t say for sure. But it did heal!
What can meditation offer you? Sit quietly, breathe deeply and discover for yourself.