The word meditate comes from the Latin root meditatum, i.e. to ponder. Meditation is a practice that is developed to learn to quiet your inner self. This ability, to quiet yourself, may be helped along by “pondering” on some idea, focusing on breath, or just watching your thoughts. Many religions have a form of meditation specific to their religion. So the definition tends to be broad because there are so many types of meditations. And there are thousands of ways to practice meditation. Although we have lots of choices in how we meditate, one thing is certain: all require discipline. Even though only 15 minutes a day may be all that is needed to receive beneficial results, a daily practice of meditation can be difficult to maintain. But first, you have to start.
For the sake of this article, we will go with simplicity in how to begin a practice of meditation. I know that when I started meditation, I needed very simple steps because I really had no idea what meditation was or how to begin to sit quietly for a length of time, much less clear my mind. This seems to be true of many people. Every day I have conversations with clients who struggle with being able to sit with themselves. In fact, many people keep themselves busy because they just “can’t sit”. If this is you, read on.
Practicing meditation does not require external involvement. It is about sitting with oneself quietly, invoking peacefulness, calmness, or a positive internal state or feeling. It sounds “nice” but if you haven’t learned how to do this, you may not find yourself invoking calmness, but rather, anxiousness. If you are not accustomed to sitting with yourself, and you haven’t practiced clearing your mind, you may find your mind racing with thoughts. If you haven’t worked on deep breathing, to the solar plexus, you may find yourself hyperventilating due to a shallow breath. And even after much work and practice at meditating, you might still find yourself dealing with a busy mind, shallow breathing, and anxiety. Sitting with yourself means there is no place to run and no way to hide feelings that you might be avoiding. Sitting quietly can allow thoughts and feelings to float up and finally be heard.
When I first started meditating, I sat quietly with my eyes closed and listened to calm music. Later on I worked on focusing on my breath and allowing myself to be aware of thoughts, but let them go as soon as I recognized I was “thinking” again. Just sitting quietly, eyes closed, and allowing yourself to follow your breath in and out for 20 breaths can be a step. Whatever method used, the intent is that it will aid in keeping you focused internally. It is through discipline and practice that you will be able to shut down your “monkey mind” and have moments of clear nothingness. You might start out with sitting for five minutes and then work up to 20 minutes a day. Meditation is one of those activities that would benefit each of us to do on a daily basis.
Although meditation might be considered a practice for the spirit, actually it is a practice that can truly be considered beneficial for the mind/body/and spirit. Thousands of research studies have been done over the past 50 years that have validated the holistic benefits from meditation practice. Meditation is a very good stress reliever. Researchers have found that meditation activates the part of the brain that accesses the autonomic nervous system. This system manages the body functions that we can’t control such as digestion and blood pressure. This is the same area that is affected by stress. Other physiological effects include reversing heart disease, enhancing the immune system, increasing energy, reducing pain, improving sleep, and producing less of the stress hormone, cortisol. Researchers have also found that people who meditate have better relationships, can look at themselves more honestly, and are more loving people overall. (Barbor, 2010) This is just a small list of the benefits you will find reported if you google meditation benefits or what you will experience if you practice meditation. More benefits can include increasing your creativity, improving memory and cognitive functions, deepening your level of relaxation and increasing your ability to focus. Probably one of my favorite outcomes of practicing meditation is that I am reminded to remain present in the moment. During therapy focus is on the here and now and the practice of this starts to generalize to other areas of your daily life. Then you can really enjoy your life because you are staying present in the moment of now. Blessings to you as you consider partaking in this practice for yourself.
Barbor, C. (2010, September 3). Psychology Today. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from www.psychologytoday.com .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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