Meditation was rediscovered more than 25 centuries ago in India by Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama or simply Buddha- the founder of Buddhism.
Meditation is an action of mind whose nature is a single-pointed concentration, and function is to make the mind peaceful and calm.
Vipassna – the style of meditation founded by Buddha means Insight; – To see things as they really are, in their true nature.
This type of meditation is the training of Sati, meaning “moment to moment awareness of present events”.
Four main benefits of meditation:
- MEDITATION SPEEDS UP BRAIN PROCESSING POTENTIAL
- MEDITATION LOOSENS OUR NEURAL PATHWAYS
- MEDITATION REDUCES THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE
- MEDITATION CAN IMPROVE MEMORY RECALL
Studies led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) demonstrated that just 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation — focusing on ‘non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings, and state of mind’ can increase gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Participants also claimed reductions in stress with decreased grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”
Further Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany says “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life,”
“Mindfulness. Your mind is full. Just what is it full of?” Byron Katie
Mindfulness can be described as; a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Mindfulness is recommended by the UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence and is as effective as medication for preventing depression.
Mindfulness can also work for anyone willing to try who may be finding it difficult to keep up with the constant demands of the modern world.
How to practice meditation and mindfulness
“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.” Rumi
The importance of meditation lies in the ability to quiet the mind, focus on the breath as well as keeping a sense of conscious, moment-to-moment awareness of our immediate surroundings, regardless of the nature of the events or happenings around us.
This is one of the important things for meditation – to be able to practice your meditation not only in serenely peaceful environments.
A common misconception surrounding meditation is that you have to act or look a certain way. This is simply not true and this is what makes meditation such a beautiful practice, similar to that of prayer or contemplation, in the sense that it can be achieved anywhere you have a little space and sometime aside to focus.
6 Basic Steps to Meditation:
- First things first, you want to make sure you are wearing the most practical clothing possible – loose and comfortable is perfect.
- Find a space to meditate.
As mentioned, meditation is your own personal practice and doesn’t have to be done in any strict fashion. You can sit cross legged, lie down, sit on the sofa or even a chair, it is your choice.(For best practice purposes I recommend either sitting on the ground comfortably on a furnishing such as a pillow or folded blanket – cross the legs and maintain a straightened back. Hands either resting gently on the edge of the knee caps or cradled in each other just below the abdomen.)
- If you choose the chair or sofa the same applies and the main things to remember are; Keep the back nice and straight (no slouching) and keep the feet placed flatly on the grounds surface, roughly shoulder width apart.
- Close the eyes gently, either fully close them (but don’t squeeze – relax) or with a slight gap in the eyelids for light to enter in.
- Focus on your breathing, long cyclical breaths of even lengths – what Yogi’s call ‘Ujjayi’ breathing.
The breath is such an important and overlooked tool for our awareness, wellbeing and peace as well as stress reduction – everything comes from the breath. Focus on the breath through the nose whenever the mind wanders, bringing your attention back to it.
- Now just be! ‘Let the waters settle’
Try to be as still and as truly conscious as you can be in the moment, but don’t force anything.
Allow your thoughts to come and go as they please, not attaching to them or giving them any real focus or attention, treat them like moving clouds of no significance – just observe.As the study from the MGH suggested, have a ‘non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.’ – Go with the flow.
Meditation is about experiencing what is true in the now – not yesterday or tomorrow… Continue this for 10 – 15 minutes where possible and gradually build up as you become more advanced.
I offer guided meditations to the public as well as drum meditation and healing respectively – please see the menu bar or contact here
‘Close your eyes and you will see clearly.
Cease to listen and you will hear Truth.
Be silent and your heart will sing.
Seek no contacts and you will find union.
Be still and you will move forward on the tide of the spirit.
Be gentle and you will need no strength.
Be patient and you will achieve all things.
Be humble and you will remain entire.’