The origins of meditation
This can be traced back to as early as 5000 BCE, to ancient Egypt and China and tied to the religious practices of Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Spread along the Silk Road, it moved throughout Asia. Before the 20th century, meditation spread from Asia into the west. In the past few decades, doctors and scientists started studying meditation for its medical and other health benefits.
The basics of meditation
Setting aside time for formal meditation is an important way to establish a routine and get comfortable with the practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. “Some people complain about taking time out of their day,” said Atman Smith, who teaches meditation to underserved communities in Baltimore. “Practice is important though. It’s a tool you can use to bring yourself back to the present in stressful situations.”
Below are some types of meditation
This is the collection of techniques and practices that focus one’s thoughts on a particular object or invite suspension of thoughts, so it is often associated with our mental life. In guided meditation, a leader provides verbal prompts or instructions to direct the individual or group through the practice.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
was developed to help people suffering from tension and stress and can provide many benefits. The practice, which can be considered muscle-body based, focuses on relaxing specific muscles in a directed protocol, tightening specific muscle groups and then releasing. Research shows that PMR can help reduce anxiety and reverse stress as well as help release tight muscles.
It is also called guided visualisation, involves directing thoughts and sensations to engage positive mental images and sensory recall, meaning conjuring smells, tastes, sounds, and textures as well as visual images. Because it is multi-sensorial, it draws on our creative selves.
Why meditation is beneficial
There’s plenty of evidence supporting the numerous benefits of meditation.
Meditation can offer general health and mental/emotional benefits, including:
lower blood pressure
improved emotional regulation
healthier aging process
a greater sense of empathy and connection with others
Meditation and mindfulness induce a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Various studies demonstrate the practice can help relieve stress — as well as manage anxiety, reduce inflammation, and improve memory and attention, to boot. Such striking results have many doctors, across specialties, prescribing meditation just as they would an anti-depressant or blood pressure medication. But it remains unclear just how meditation confers so many health benefits.
A simple 5-minute concentration meditation to try
If you’re interested in trying meditation, the following steps should be taken
First, find a quiet place and get into a posture that is comfortable for you. You may wish to sit up straight with your feet on the floor, sit cross legged, or lie down.
Close your eyes if you wish and rest your hands in a comfortable position, for example, on your knees or by your sides.
Pay attention to your breath. Become aware of your inhales and your exhales.
Observe how your abdomen is rising and falling or your chest is expanding and contracting as you breathe.
Choose an aspect of your breathing to focus on. Examples include your chest, belly, or the air flowing in and out of your nose. If you are having trouble doing this, avoid passing judgement on yourself and simply listen to the sounds around you and focus on one of them.
Try to sustain your attention on the spot or sound you’ve chosen.
If you notice your mind wandering, remember that this is normal and try to redirect your attention back to whatever you were focusing on.
Repeat until the five minutes are up.