Take a deep breath. And another. And another. Great. You’ve just started to consciously meditate. Follow your breathe in and out as you breath. You don’t have to move while you do this. Just sit, and with your mind’s eye, watch your breath come into your body and leave your body. Then you’ll notice that suddenly you’re thinking about something else. How did that happen? It doesn’t matter. Just follow your breath again in and out. Don’t move and just observe. Don’t judge and just watch your breath and your thoughts, both coming and then going. You’ll start to notice a pattern in this and then you’ll become more and more detached from this pattern and more and more an objective observer of what your mind and body are doing so actively.
Our thoughts pull us constantly in so many directions every day. The simple mindful meditation, like the one described above, helps to unplug from our minds which are the constant attention grabbers. Inside us there exists our inner voice, which is quiet and very gentle and patient and omnipresent. When we are continually on the go, hearing our inner voice is difficult. Hearing that inner voice is like hearing our own personal guide urging us in the directions, scenarios, decisions and circumstances which are the best for our lives than any external guidance system ever will give us. The magical thing is that this gentle, soft voice and inner urging grows stronger and clearer the more we listen to it. All we need to do is to be still enough to hear it.
Hearing our inner guidance system, our inner voice, which leads us to make the best possible choices in our lives is what leads us to happiness, health and well being. There are no prescription drugs involved. There is no money spent. It is free and never-ending. This inner voice is always ready to be heard and for you to listen to it. The positive changes that will happen and occur in your life by meditating daily are numerous. Meditation is literally a life changer. During meditation, with your focused attention on your breath and thoughts, you’re quieting the stream of endless thoughts which crowd your mind and cause stress.
I’d like to refresh your memory about the ill health that constant stress can create in your body. Too much stress creates an increase in levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Having this hormone is important at certain times during your life but when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone will hurt you more than it will help you. The list of problems stemming from too much cortisol (stress) in the system include:
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Impaired brain function
Weakened immune system
Personally, I have suffered from things on that list, the biggest one being osteoporosis and until I wrote this article, I had no idea that higher levels of cortisol was one cause of osteoporosis. This made me reflect on my own life and I could see the very stressful parts of my life in the past that would have lead to this symptom. This was an ‘Aha’ moment for me showing me, once again, how we are create our reality. At the time when my life was very stressful, I never knew how damaging stress would be on my body. Now I’m living with the effects of too much stress, too much cortisol over a long period of time and I’m happy to learn that my habits of today will change and correct my health. I didn’t meditate before. I was always pushing myself to do more and I never realized my sleep was never enough. I just kept going and doing and taxing my body. Today, I get enough rest, I have lighted my schedule so I’m not pushing myself to always be busy and I don’t pressure myself to feel like I have to do more. I love my daily mediation sessions so much that I find myself practicing several times a day, even if for only five minute sessions at a time.
There is so much scientific evidence on the benefits of meditate that the positive effects cannot be denied. Meditation helps to:
Lowers blood pressure
Strength your immune system
Improve your concentration
Improve your responses to stress
Create a positive mood and positive outlook
Reduce overall stress on the body
Promote emotional health
Relieve tension headaches
Practicing the things on the list below, combined with mediation, will improve your overall health:
Laughing a lot
Maintaining loving relationships
Having outdoor hobbies
Stop feeling shame, guilt or inadequate and forgive, forgive, forgive
Taking care of a pet
Exercising, but not too much, or else you create too much stress in the body
Getting enough sleep
The beautiful thing about meditation is doesn’t require a membership. You don’t need to buy anything to begin your practice. Don’t judge your skill at meditating, which only causes more stress, but simply try what it feels like to sit quietly with your thoughts. You might be amazed at how much activity goes on in your mind, or you might be surprised at how fast the time went and how much more relaxed you feel.
There are different styles of meditation available. They all share the same goal of achieving inner peace and better health. Adapt a style that suits your needs and that feels right for you. Meditation is supposed to feel good and help you feel better overall so keep at it until you find a style you really like.
UCLA offers free guided meditation exercises. Check on YouTube for the multifarious guided meditations offered. Try different styles to find one that suits you best. If your regular work and home environments do not allow for consistent, quite alone time, consider participating in a class. This can also improve your chances of success by providing a supportive community.
After you see the health benefits of practicing meditation on a regular basis, it’s a good argument to begin practicing. Why not? We all want good health as we age. However, the other benefit which, to me is more important, is being able to listen to, to hear and to understand your inner voice more clearly. Our inner voice is a gift we are given at birth and we slowly listen to it or hear it less and less as we grow up. This voice is our inner guidance system which always steers us in the best direction for us every time we ask, even sometimes when we don’t ask. It always has our backs and loves us unconditionally. Why wouldn’t we want to connect with it more strongly each day? It helps us to become more self-reliant, peaceful in our lives, content with our choices, and filled with grace. This inner voice, when given room to get closer again with us, gives us a radiance which positively effects people near and around us.
The best time to meditate for me is in the afternoon during that transition period from the afternoon to the evening. To meditate at this time helps me drop the stress from day. I feel the stress actually drop away from my shoulders and is replaced with a sense of calm and balance. The muscles in my face soften and I feel so much more centered and my happiness level rises.
Meditation is like the best kept beauty secret to increase your health, wellbeing and overall self-confidence. Meditation isn’t a replacement for traditional medical treatment, of course, but it’s a beneficial and healthful addition to other practices and/or treatments you may have to help you age more gracefully. So, do you want to improve your health and your mood? Then sit still and gently breathe.
What are your experiences with meditation?