Greetings everyone! Well, another year is turning into the next and the change of the calendar year is always a time ripe for reflection and gratitude for the year we have had, and also for the changes we would like to make in the year to come. Why not start 2015 with a simple practice that will help improve your well-being.
For thousands of years, meditation has been used as a powerful technique to bring about a state of relaxation and calm – a counter action to the stream of constant brain and thought activity we automatically engage in.
Try closing your eyes and thinking about nothing for a few minutes and you may find that there is a flood of thoughts that enter your mind. It’s not that these thoughts are bad – we need to think – but the fact is, that for most of us, those thoughts are constantly there, preventing us from experiencing more subtle levels of consciousness. Underlying all of these thoughts, what else is there? To have a glimpse at this, is the goal of meditation.
Meditation affects all levels of the body: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Meditation has an ability to balance the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
The ANS is composed of two branches: the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest). We are familiar with the sympathetic part – stress! You know – worry about this, we may be late for that, eat on the run, stimulants…and generally not feeling at all relaxed, or balanced or in control of our emotions. The parasympathetic, this is the opposite. It allows us to digest food properly, breath properly, repair and regenerate our bodies and feel calm and be able to accomplish more with less effort.
Meditation and breathing practices are an incredibly effective way to balance the stress response. In naturopathic practice, we see so many of our patients whose level of stress is directly causing their symptoms. And to reverse or improve these symptoms with any naturopathic treatment program, it will be much more successful if we can allow the body/mind to de-stress.
Physical benefits of meditation include:
Meditation is simple but requires practice. Here is a very basic technique to get you started:
Of course within a few seconds observation of the breath will surrender to the “fluctuations” or chattering of the mind. That’s okay, just bring your attention back to the breath. The first number of sessions can be very discouraging, as you might find this an extremely difficult task. This is normal. The mind at first is no different than a weak muscle. If you continue to exercise it with meditation, it will get stronger and stronger and your ability to focus it will get better. The more you practice, the quicker it will come and the stillness under the fluctuations will reveal itself. Another trick: drop any desire to accomplish anything in your meditation. Just remain open to receive.
Another method, that can be very helpful as you are learning your own way to meditate, is to use a guided mediation. This makes the practice a lot easier as it provides focus. A great CD is called Guided Meditation by Rameen Peyrow available at the Head to Heal dispensary. You can also find different meditations (as well as online yoga classes for all ages and varying lengths as well as online breathing techniques) on Rameen’s website which currently has a free two week trial period – it is a fantastic site and you can access it through this link http://sattvayogaonline.tv.