When I first started to teach yoga and meditation in the 1990s, I was surprised at how prevalent stress and stress related problems were. Now, many years later, it is even worse! Many people come to a crucial point when they feel that they simply have to do something about their stress levels. Instead of relying on medication or stimulants, they now increasingly turn to meditation.
However, people meditate for all sorts of reasons, not only to deal with stress, but to improve relationships, understand themselves better, tap into their potential, increase creativity, find meaning and purpose in life, awaken their spirituality. Whatever your reason is for trying meditation, it is an effective way to experience a sense of peace and wellbeing.
In the past, many people thought that meditation was something strange or something that only monks on mountain tops were doing. I am pleased to say that this perception has changed radically! One reason for this is that there is now overwhelming research showing incredible benefits of meditation. Numerous studies have indicated the many physiological benefits of meditation. An eight-week study, conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s greymatter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey-matter. The study involved taking magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 16 study participants two weeks prior to participating in the study. MRI images of the participants were also taken after the study was completed.
“The analysis of MR images, which focused on areas where meditationassociated differences were seen in earlier studies, found increased greymatter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection”
Can anyone meditate?
Yes! But it is a good question to ask, as many people think they don’t have the temperament for meditation, have tried it briefly only to give up, or they see it as an esoteric discipline without application to their lives. Under the right circumstances, anybody can meditate.
People often confuse meditation with relaxation or some other special state that you have to get to or feel. Some people try to meditate and don’t feel that they are getting anywhere or feel anything special, so they think that they are one of those people who can’t do it.
However, meditation is not about feeling a certain way or experiencing anything in particular. It is about being still and feeling the way you feel. It’s not about emptying the mind and getting rid of all thoughts, although with time you will experience more stillness and fewer thoughts. Above all, meditation is about letting the mind be as it is and relaxing into that. It is not about reaching a certain goal, but about allowing yourself to be in the moment. It is really very simple, but we love to make it complicated!
How to meditate
A common misconception about meditation is that you
have to sit in a certain way, but all you have to do is
place yourself in a position that is most comfortable
to you. It could be sitting cross legged, or sitting on a
chair, it is your choice.
Meditation Practice – 5 to 15 min:
1. Find a comfortable position, and sit with your spine straight.
2. Take a few deep breaths, and relax.
3. Allow your breath to settle into its natural rhythm.
4. Count your breaths:
Inhalation – 1, Exhalation – 1, Inhalation – 2, Exhalation – 2, etc. (up to 10 and then start on 1 again)