Health Benefits of Meditation
The health benefits of meditation, whether secular or spiritual, have long been recognized in the East, and now these benefits have successfully been tested in the rigors of the scientific community with excellent results. More and more peer-reviewed research on meditation confirms that it is a viable method of improving health and psychological/emotional well being, helping with issues ranging from cardiovascular disease, inflammation, immune activity, to pain, anxiety, depression, mental imbalances, and more. As a relaxation technique, meditation offers many benefits, and it is well known in the medical world that reduction of stress improves the condition of many disease states and helps to greatly reduce health risks related to physical, mental, and emotional overload. Risk factors for a multitude of diseases including life-threatening heart disease and stroke have been improved with the regular use of meditation as a balancing and strengthening self-care modality.
The benefits of meditation are most noticeable when it is practiced on a regular, preferably daily, basis. The most important thing to remember is to start out at a pace that is reasonable for you, say, 10 minutes every evening before bed. If you place a lofty goal of meditating for two hours every morning and are unable to reach it, it is very easy to give up and, as they say in Buddhism, your mind is always looking for an excuse to avoid meditation. Commanded by our egos, the resistance of our hyperactive minds to the gradual and gentle quieting influence of our natural inner calm, our true essence, is one of the greatest challenges to a successful commitment to meditation. By gaining control over this hyper-reactive mind state through the gentle discipline of a budding meditation practice, we can experience greater and more profound access to our natural inner essence, leading to increased awareness and a more profound experience of being. The health benefits that this expanded depth of experience can provide are numerous, but most often they are marked by a greater mental and emotional stability and a balancing and strengthening of our physical energy.
Developing a regular meditation practice requires only a quiet space and a commitment to continuing to make time to meditate, no matter what obstacles seem to arise, and believe me, they do. One of the biggest obstacles is the endless busy-ness of day to day life, whereby an extra 10 minutes often seems too much to spare. It is important to realize, however, that by granting yourself these precious moments on a regular basis, the overall quality of your life will improve, and things that seemed to take away from your time and energy may resolve themselves as your clarity, focus and stamina are improved.
There are thousands of styles of meditation practice, but one of the most profound also happens to be one of the simplest. This is the ancient Tibetan practice of Shamatha meditation. Shamatha means “calm abiding” in Sanskrit, and this meditation is intended to let the mind’s natural state of tranquility and clarity be accessed by focusing the breath on a specific object, and letting all other thoughts arise and slip away as the attention is turned back to the breath. Eventually, as our practice deepens, the space between thoughts becomes greater and more profound. Resting in this quiet space, we make room for our true inner nature of love, peace, and tranquility to arise and expand. The layers of obstructions, in the form of attachments, aversions, hopes, and fears, slowly peel away and, as our inner light becomes brighter and clearer, healing takes a quantum leap.