What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice to relax and calm the mind and body. It uses the connection between a person’s physical health and her/his mind or spirit. Meditation can be done in many different ways. All of these ways focus a person’s awareness on the silence and stillness of the present moment to relax and calm the body and mind. University of Massachusetts professor Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Meditation is simplicity itself. It’s about stopping and being present. That is all.” Father Thomas Keating adds that, “Meditation is for everyone, not just for monks.”
In meditation a person directs her/his attention toward a word, sound, image, prayer, or the breath, allowing the mind to settle into the present moment. It can be compared to a radio dial. Countless thoughts and feelings that preoccupy the mind each day are like static on a radio. Practicing meditation is like fine tuning the radio dial. It can bring balance and harmony in the midst of continual change.
How can meditation increase health?
Meditation can be an important part of your health. Practicing meditation regularly can help calm your mind and body, which promotes healing. It can help a person meet challenges resulting from illness and long-term disease. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions.
How to Meditate: Simple meditation for beginners
This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.