Patients ask, “What exactly is meditation?”. Not an easy question to answer. My best description would be, “A calming or clearing of the mind from the constant chatter of daily life”. Like mud settling at the bottom of a river revealing crystal clear water. Our minds, like a muddy river, need quiet time to settle. It’s a gently flowing process which is just as important as the end result.
There are many schools of meditation, some involving guided imagery, music or even walking. The key is to find a school that has meaning for you, one you can incorporate into your daily life. For mediation to help change your life, a daily practice is essential.
The hybrid form of meditation that I teach is a combination of mindful breathing followed by a period of calming and clearing your mind. In meditation terms, this hybrid blends the Vipassana school (breath meditation) with the Zen school (don’t know mind meditation). So, 10 minutes of breathing followed by 10-15 minutes of quieting the mind. The idea is to let thoughts gently drift away, returning the mind to a quiet place.
Start with the breathing technique described in my post on deep breathing. Then move on to clearing your mind of thoughts. This is not easy; it takes daily practice. Relax and try to slow the constant thinking of the mind. When thoughts float in, gently bring your awareness back to your breathing. This helps to clear your thoughts. It takes practice, discipline and commitment. But the rich reward of more peace and clarity is well worth it.
One of my favorite Zen sayings is: “No thinking, no problems. Clear mind, calm heart”. For over 30 years, every day, I try to get to that state. Some days, I’m successful. Others, not as much. But every day I practice and remember the old Buddhist philosophy, “No effort is ever wasted, no matter how small”. So I keep on practicing and practicing.
There are many health benefits associated with of a daily meditation practice. One interesting finding was published recently by UCLA researchers (February 2015). This study clearly showed, on MRI scanning, less gray-matter loss in the brains of meditators versus non-meditators, hence a prominent anti-aging effect. The researchers were quite surprised at the positive effects seen throughout all areas of the brain.
Other health benefits of a daily meditation practice include lower blood pressure, lower anxiety levels, a lower incidence of heart attacks and strokes and a calmer attitude towards life. So start slow, keep practicing and don’t give up. You will feel positive results in a relatively short period of time.
Dr. Allan Bazzoli, MD is a practitioner of Acupuncture, Holistic Medicine, and Physical Medicine in the Mt. Vernon/Central Ohio and Columbus area. He is available for speaking engagements on a variety of holistic medical topics. This material can be distributed free to the public as long as there is no remuneration and credit is given to the author.