Mindfulness and meditation has generated much excitement over recent years and won many admirers – so what does this very simple yet very effective practice benefit us with?
It teaches us to develop a “new relationship” with our thoughts, self negative chatter is the number enemy of most people living the life they truly desire.
There’s good evidence of studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being, encourages a healthy lifestyle, increases self awareness, self acceptance and happiness.
So How Easy Is It To Meditate?
I would like to address this as newbie’s to meditation you may have some struggle at the start, I certainly did when I started some advice if you are a newbie or are wanting to try meditation for the first time, be mindful of your expectation. It’s more about acceptance about being with what is and not resisting. Your goal is not to react or manipulate your experience in any way and about surrendering to what is.
For most of us this can be challenging, what’s more it’s learning to let go and trust the process that is simple, which in many cases our logical minds are working overtime to complicate.
Just relax and go with it.
Why Does Meditation Work
Learning to train the brain and focus our attention is crucial to thriving and cultivating a peak performance in any endeavour.
Long-time psychotherapist Dr. Ron Alexander, author of Wise Mind, Open Mind, speaks of MIND STRENGTH, or the resiliency, efficacy and emotional intelligence that arise as we begin the process of controlling the mind. Mind strength is one of the most empowering tools we can employ to impact and improve all aspects of life.
The Neuroscience of Meditation
There are 5 categories of brain waves:
1. Gamma State: (30 – 100Hz) This is the state of hyperactivity and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why educators often have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around — to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information. If over stimulated, it can lead to anxiety.
2. Beta State: (13 – 30Hz) Where we function for most of the day, beta state is associated with the alert mind state of the prefrontal cortex. This is a state of the “working” or “thinking mind” — analytical, planning, assessing and categorising.
3. Alpha State: (9 – 13Hz) Brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We feel more calm, peaceful and grounded.
We often find ourselves in an “alpha state” after a yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness. The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (neural integration).
4. Theta State: (4 – 8Hz) We are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The theta state is associated visualisation.
5. Delta State: (1-3 Hz) Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase, but most of us reach this final state during deep or dreamless sleep.
Meditation also helps you identify with that part of you that is eternal, you see the true value of yourself and in all others, comparisons and divisions fade away replaced by peace and a greater knowledge that you are much more than your physical body.
It has become a very effective tool in my life in particular in finding the root cause on my inner conflict, When I understood the deeper intent of each side within me, I was able to provide understanding to the root of the problem. It was not about what was going on outside of me, it was about feeling whole and being true to myself.
There are different techniques, it’s about finding what works for you:
Whether you have just begun your journey or have a fully furnished meditation room, there are many different styles you can practice. Below are some of the most popular meditation techniques.
Popularised in the 1950s and 1960s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation explores the power of sounds and vibrations to engage and enlighten. Also known as Mantra Meditation, this technique focuses on the repetition of a particular sound or affirmation throughout the meditation session. Traditionally, these repeated words were considered sacred in nature and were only bestowed by a seasoned teacher. Today, mantra instructors and guides are commonplace and help guide personal or group sessions. For beginners, the repetition of words and sounds helps to focus the mind.
Concentration, also known as Focused Attention Meditation, requires prolonged silent focus—think Buddhist monk sitting on top of a mountain. This technique calls for an absolute focus on a physical sensation, such as air entering and leaving the lungs or hand temperature. Any time the mind wanders, attention is refocused on the particular internal or external sensation. For many, this allows the mind to let go of scattered thoughts and provides relief from sensory overload.
The practice of mindfulness has been trending for quite some time. Everyone from celebrities to sports stars is extolling the benefits of mindfulness, but what exactly is it? In essence, mindfulness is being in the moment—-focusing on the internal and external experiences that occur from moment to moment to gain an appreciation and calmness for life as it happens. If you are constantly bombarded by worrisome thoughts about the future or the past, you might appreciate mindfulness techniques.
Although yoga and meditation are two separate practices, they do support each other and many yoga instructors even reserve time at the beginning or end of class to practice some form of meditation. The posture and concentration required during yoga help to encourage focus and balance.
Tai Chi like yoga, Tai Chi alone is not meditation. Instead, Tai Chi uses ancient practices that focus on the physical and spiritual aspects of life. Among them are two methods—Neigong and Qi Gong—which concentrate on “life energy.” Both emphasise the importance of body posture, breathing, and meditation to restore energy or “chi.”
Not every form of meditation is done while sitting or standing in silence. Walking meditation allows you to get up and move around. While walking is not the only form of moving meditation, it is one of the most popular. It uses aspects of the concentration meditation technique, and proponents say it is easier for people to focus on sensations while they walk. The distance and destination are arbitrary, the focus on steps and breathing is what’s important. You can do this while walking anywhere but it may be most beneficial at your favourite park or beach or my favourite in nature the forest.
Guided imagery meditation is ideal for beginners and feels like an exercise for your mind. Often you can perform this type of meditation in a group class or with the aid of a website or phone app. The teacher or instructor walks participants through mind sensory visualisations of sights, sounds, smells, textures, movements, and more. If your mind wanders from the guided images, just return your focus and concentration.