Meditation is as difficult to define as it appears to be able to perform. However, it has been scientifically proven to be a great tool for reducing stress and thereby slowing the aging process. Stress is probably the number factor when it comes to aging. Sure unhealthy habits and an unhealthy lifestyle contribute to premature aging, but often times it is stress that is behind those unhealthy habits.
Meditation is purported to increase happiness, decrease stress, improve health, slow the aging process, reduce anxiety and bring us inner peace. This may sound like a lot of hyperbole, but research now supports that meditation can boost immunity while helping to reduce cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, combat insomnia and fight depression. High cortisol levels and high blood pressure along with insomnia and depression are factors that contribute to speeding up the aging process.
What meditation does is bring balance to the autonomic nervous system. Neurons in your body carry involuntary messages to the autonomic nervous system. The word autonomic in Greek means self- governing. Literally this part of the nervous system takes care of you. In general it works to bring homeostasis or balance to the body. It does this by carrying messages that speed up or slow down the activities of your heart, glands, muscles, digestion, excretory and circulatory systems. The messages are carried on separate neurons separating the autonomic nervous system into two parts; the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. Generally speaking the sympathetic nervous system gets the body ready to combat stress where the parasympathetic nervous system slows the body down and seeks to restore energy. We need both, but we also need the energy of the body to be balanced between stagnation and hyperactivity. It’s called homeostasis.
By training your brain to be less responsive to stress you can literally rewire your entire being to find a state of complete balance in the mist of chaos. Reducing stress and developing a more positive outlook on life is a Proactive approach to anti-aging.
What is meditation? To speak of meditation is a contradiction. Meditation is silence, stillness and peacefulness. But in a world of symbols (language) we are left with at best an awkward way to define it. Meditation is really a glimpse of ultimate reality which teaches us that we are not separate from the universe. This requires our ability to let go of the constant chatter in our minds and focus on silence. Meditation is somewhat like dancing. When we dance we do not aim to arrive at a particular spot on the floor. The dance is simply about the journey and not the destination. Meditation is the discovery that the point of the journey is arrived at in the immediate moment. When we become quiet and cease our internal chatter, we discover the flow of the dance or the present eternal now.
There is no standard definition for meditation. Every culture seems to have its own version of meditation. However, in an examination of all cultures it becomes apparent that all perceive meditation as being about union, balance, the experience and connection with the present now.
In the first book of genesis chaos is depicted as being reduced to order by the separation of opposites; day to night, water to land and light to darkness. Meditation therefore seeks to bring about the reunion of opposites or polarities into a state of peace and serenity.
What is clear with all disciplines is that meditation is an experience. It is an experience that is so highly valued that it is consider an inward art. Paradoxically the meditator both returns to the center of self while simultaneously transcending the limitation imposed upon self. The essence of meditation is that a person experiences an intuitive ink that expands the mind beyond imagination. So let’s just say that meditation is an experience and that experience is a moment we would all like to have. People spend millions of dollars to find peace and serenity. But really it cost you nothing and is so easy to have.
What do I need to meditate? Sometimes we empty the mind and sometimes we fill the mind by focusing on specific thoughts or sounds. With practice the goal is to balance the two opposing forces of the universe and create union. To do this we need to experience flow or the movement of oneness. You don’t need elaborate equipment or extensive training to meditate. It has no unpleasant side effects. It require only a few minutes. In my video Take Five – learn to meditate in five minutes, http://www.doctorlynn.com
I introduce the student to what is required to sit quietly and meditate. All you need is a clean warm room, loose clothing, a yoga mat, either music or not, aromatherapy or not, and being open to reuniting yourself.
What will I get out of it? The better you get at incorporating meditation into your life the more you will see personal growth, increased wisdom and a sense of fulfillment come into your life. Karma will be much easier to understand and to work through. Your decisions will become more focused and your reactions to life a lot calmer. Appreciation and gratefulness will abide. Your stress levels will be lowered and your general overall health will improve. You’ll slow down a bit and begin to experience the moments of life. Meditation will keep you vital and strong. You will learn how to act proactively as you age. Body, mind and soul will find a place of balance and balance is the essence of health.
How do I meditate? There are two ways to meditate; active and passive. There are also two mind sets. One is to empty the mind and the other is to give the mind something to focus on such as the breath. Either way both require the use of the breath. We also need an open and ready attitude. This is the ability to just let go and let consciousness slip into the subconscious. Don’t try to meditate. Just breathe and let it happen.
We can meditate by sitting still on a yoga mat or lying down. It is best to hold a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep. Cross legged in easy pose, the lotus pose or the adept pose is usually used for sitting. Corpse pose is usually used for a lying position. In my video Take Five we sit quiet in a room with candles and soft music. Music is used because it is the easiest and fastest way to experience meditation. When listening to music we are in the moment of the note. We cannot hear the note in front of us or the note we last heard. The mind empties itself and simply follows the music just as it follows the breath.
With the eyes closed we focus on the inhale and the exhale of the breath. This is the expansion and contraction of life. By giving the mind something to focus on, such as the breath, it becomes quiet and still. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems find a state of balance or homeostasis. We’ve all been told that when we are about to lose our temper to take a deep breath and count to ten. A deep breath creates calmness. It reduces stress.
Sometimes we add aromatherapy to a meditative ritual. Scents have been used since the beginning of civilization in rituals and worships.
When you first begin to meditate you will notice that your breath seems to run freely. You will become aware of how your breath automatically happens to you without you consciously participating. By focusing on this we begin to see the division between what seems to happen to us and what we can control. Like all things in life we can learn to control the nature of each and every breath we take. Focused control is merely a conscious process. By watching the voluntary and involuntary aspects of breathing we experience the flow of energy even when we are not conscious of it. At the same time understand how to harness and control energy.
As you begin to focus on your breath you will discover that your breathing gets deeper and deeper. Envision a whirl of white light releasing out from the body and then returning as you breathe in.
This slow deep rhythmic breathing allows us to enter the deeper state of meditation.
Quietly and calmly experience the sensation of breathing in and releasing out. Don’t hurry or fret about your progress. Simply observe the experience and connect in the moment.
Meditation can be incorporated into every aspect of your life. Remember meditation is also active. While teaching my cycle classes I have my students use a seven minute song and try and experience the moments where they are one with the movement of the cycle. This is the flow or the experience. It’s a moment of meditation. Zen calls this being in the moment. This means that any activity from the most mundane (doing dishes) to the most intense can be an experience of meditation. You just need to learn to stay focused and aware in the moment.
Don’t worry if you have a hard time letting go. Try my Take Five video. It is an easy introduction into meditation and something you can do in five minutes. As I remind my students to achieve anything in life takes practice and practice means commitment to your work or your karma. Be good to yourself and Take Five because anyone can find five minutes a day to improve the quality of life. Meditation will bring you, health, happiness and peace; could you want for anything more?