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Meditation techniques bring calm, help with healing
by Arline Rowden, Reiki Master Teacher © 2006
Meditation is one of the most well known complementary therapies today. It focuses on the whole person (mind, body and spirit) and works very well in conjunction with western medicine. It enhances the body's ability to reduce stress, create relaxation, promote healing and relieve pain, thereby improving a person's sense of overall well-being and peace of mind. A meditation practice can help to calm and smooth out one's emotional life, too. As a spiritual practice, a person, while meditating, may feel they are sensing the energy of one's higher self and beyond. Meditation, with a spiritual focus, could facilitate a deeper understanding of life and of one's place in the greater design of life.
In meditation, we concentrate on learning to focus and direct our awareness onto our breath, an object, a phrase, an image, etc. Meditation is a simple process but it can be difficult to practice. A person could become discouraged by or critical of their meditation experiences. For that reason, meeting with a meditation group or taking meditation classes can be helpful, especially when starting the process of meditation. Dean Ornish, MD, said, “It is the process of meditation that makes it so beneficial, not how well you perform." It's best to be kind, gentle and accepting of one's experience during their practice of meditation.
There are many forms of meditation for people to experience. Each person can choose a form that works best and is the most satisfying to them personally. Some of the forms are visualization (such as visualizing yourself in a peaceful place in nature); using a mantra (repeating a word or phrase); mindfulness (focusing on your breath, sensations in your body, etc.); contemplation of loving kindness, compassion or other positive concepts; relaxing or walking out in nature; or chanting, to name just a few of the more popular forms.
The reasons that people decide to meditate can be as varied as the forms of meditation. A desire to relieve stress might be the most common reason that a person begins to meditate. Thirty years ago, when I started to meditate, it was because I was experiencing a lot of stress in my work and personal life. Now it's not unusual for doctors to suggest meditation to their patients as a form of stress reduction therapy. When I started to meditate, it was not such a well-known or accepted practice here in the United States. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation since that time and the medical community has come to accept and even embrace meditation as a credible complementary therapy.
Most people who meditate regularly find that they become more aware of themselves and their environment. This enhanced awareness can provide information about how they are doing moment to moment. It's important to tune into one's body and notice any sensations or feelings. This is the mind-body connection. The physical body must rely on the mind to recognize an unhealthy condition and direct action to resolve the problem. The action might be to get more sleep, relaxation, or exercise, or to go to the doctor. If the mind doesn't receive and recognize the energy communication, then the body will instinctively hold onto the message until the mind acknowledges it. This “holding on” could be what we notice as stress and pain in the body.
Once a person decides to try meditation, it's helpful to try various forms to see what works best and is most appealing. Often guided imagery for body relaxation is a good place to begin. Teaching one's body to relax, perhaps while breathing slowly and deeply, can also result in training one's mind to focus on what that person wants it to focus on. Often the beginning practices of mindfulness meditation focus on counting each inhalation and exhalation, which will result in body relaxation and mental focus, too. If you decide to take meditation classes, it could be helpful to take classes that give you the opportunity to explore various forms of meditation rather than teaching you just one form. Once you decide what works best for you, then you could decide to take training in just that form, if you are having difficulties practicing it on your own.
Sometimes meditation can be combined with other complementary practices. If a person has taken a Reiki class, then doing self-Reiki while meditating can be a very empowering experience. Some energy systems, such as the Light Body course, are learned in a meditative process. Meditation is often a part of eastern practices such as yoga. Tai Chi could be considered a moving meditation. Certain meditative practices could even be considered complementary medicine when techniques are taught for recovery from cancer, or to lower blood pressure, or to lessen chronic pain.
I believe meditation has come into the mainstream because so many people have personally experienced the benefits of a meditation practice. Scientific studies are always helpful, but it’s antidotal evidence – the personal testimonies of those who have practiced meditation – that has demonstrated how meditation can relieve stress, and so much more.
This article was printed in the 2006/2007 Issue of Healing Arts Magazine, published by NursingMatters and Capital Newspapers in Madison, WI