Meditation is thousands of years old, and in some regards, is untraceable in origin. While people have been meditating in some form all over the world, the purpose remains essentially the same: clear the mind in pursuit of bettering the person as a whole.
At its root, meditation is a mind-body practice stemming from the broader category of complementary and alternative medicine. It can be used for simple things like inducing calmness or it can be used for more serious purposes, like dealing with or combating a disease or other ailments.
While the science behind this seemingly “mystical” practice is not completely clear, numerous benefits can be observed by those who practice and study meditation.
A key benefit of meditation is stress relief. This may indeed be the most common use of mediation, to help release pent up energy that may have worked its way inside our mind, body, or soul. Closing your eyes, visualizing the negative energy, and letting it go often helps to symbolically aid stressful situations. This promotes psychological balance, as well as physical relaxation.
Meditation also teaches one how to direct his or her focus. When it comes to meditating, one must allow the distractions, burdensome thoughts, and external variables to simply pass by. One must know these things exist, but not allow them to bear weight on the exercise. Clearing the mind of these requires strong focus and determination, but in a way that is not stress-inducing.
Patience, determination, and open-mindedness are, then, lessons of meditation. Having the patience to deal with the external factors, having the determination to move forward, and having an open and clear mind that grant you the ability to accept these things are required for successful practice. While these do not come instantly, one slowly begins to master each virtue. Overall, we can see how this betters one’s character.
The Science of Meditation
While the science is indeed unclear, there are still changes we notice in the body and mind. As reported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “Some types of meditation might work by affecting the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. This system regulates many organs and muscles, controlling functions such as heartbeat, sweating, breathing, and digestion.”
More specifically, we see changes in our nervous systems. With meditation, we move from a state of action – as dictated by out sympathetic nervous system – to a state of relaxation – as dictated by our parasympathetic nervous system. Here, we see a decrease in heart rate, a lowering of blood pressure, a widening of blood vessels (vasodilatation), and an increase in the flow of digestive juices.
In the brain, we see other positive changes. According to Psychology Today, “Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex – brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.”
Indeed, meditating provides us with a calmer, more stable mental environment, underscoring the benefits of meditating further.
Have your own experiences with mediation? We’d love to hear!
Dr. Berkas Comment
Meditation is an integral part of a balanced healthy lifestyle. First, you do not have to sit cross legged in lotus position to meditate. In fact, meditation can be better understood as introspective awareness. As we become of aware of ourselves, our breath, our heart beat, etc, we become more aware of the world around us. Prayer is like talking, meditation is listening.
If you have never tried to meditate. GOOD! Let do this together:
- Take a few breaths with me.
- Inhale (3 seconds). Exhale (3 seconds).
Just a few conscious breaths can reset your nervous system. This can also have balancing effects on everything from heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, hormones, Cholesterol, and more.
What’s best? More oxygen = more energy.
Everyone would like more ENERGY.
Originally published April 25th, 2011.