What is Meditation?
Meditation was once thought of as an Eastern religious practice, but as the years tick away, those pre-conceived notions are beginning to disintegrate.
The art of being mindful can be practiced anywhere, and anytime. Zazen is a form of meditation that is taught with Buddhist principles in mind, but it can truly be practiced by anyone who has ten to twenty minutes of time to set aside. Zazen is the practice of letting thoughts go. The trick is to focus on breathing – it’s a focus point that is global in the sense that we all breathe. It’s an inexpensive way to really calm down. If you can focus on breathing in and out at a regular, natural pace, you have begun the practice of Zazen. Once that part is down, all you have to do is let your thoughts go. Don’t ponder them; if they’re important, they will come back to you.
Many people who are serious about meditation purchase a cushion to sit on during times of meditation. These are usually called zafu cushions, and they run in price from $35 on up. It’s important to have one or two places that you’re comfortable enough in, and a zafu cushion is a small way to make uncomfortable places comfortable.
If, for some reason, you are unable to sit on the floor for 10-20 minutes, or would rather not, there are alternatives. There is walking meditation, which is the act of walking in tandem with breaths. Walking meditation is oftentimes practiced within groups of people, walking in a circle. However, walking meditation can be practiced alone – just remember to focus on breathing rather than thinking.
Additionally, meditation can be practiced in a chair. Nearly any place can be one of meditation, as long as the mindset is there. It doesn’t have to be Zazen, either. Many choose other forms of meditation, such as Transcendental Mediation, or Centering Prayer. These are equally beneficial to the mind and body, and both incorporate the use of words instead of breathing.
What are its Benefits?
Aside from the natural feeling of relaxation, meditation offers a variety of other advantages. People who have high blood pressure are able to get the most out of meditation, as there have been numerous studies that prove high blood pressure can indeed lower blood pressure. Dr. Herbert Benson, an American cardiologist, has pioneered the idea of the relaxation response, and has written books in accordance of such. Blood pressure was not previously linked to stress before the research conducted by Benson was published. Now, we have the technology and information to prove that a stress-free life is conducive to healthy living. Meditation can be a way to reduce stress, and thereby, reduce some stress-related illnesses.
Institutes such as the Mind and Life Institute, can provide more in-depth information on all these forms of meditation, as well as the impacts they can have on our lives.