Meditation: Calming the Mind, Balancing Your Life
Have you ever taken a moment during a busy day to take a few deep breaths and just pause before returning to the task at hand? If so, then you have used some of the key concepts of meditation and mindfulness to help yourself relax or re-focus.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. In many traditions, meditation is used to achieve insight and expanded awareness. People can meditate while sitting quietly, chanting or reciting a short phrase, or moving mindfully, as in walking meditation, tai chi, aikido, or yoga.
While meditation is a practice, it can also be viewed as a way of being.
When one expands his capacity for awareness and for self-knowing, he is ultimately freed from routine thought patterns and the destructive mind-states and emotions that accompany them. When people are able to escape from highly conditioned, reactive, and habitual thinking, they are able to respond in more effective and authentic ways.
One way to learn about meditation is through programs such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR is about generating awareness of influences that affect our well-being and health, and finding peace-of-mind and balance in an oftentimes chaotic world. The program, which was developed by renowned practitioner and author Jon Kabat-Zinn, teaches participants to intentionally deal and cope with stress, pain, illness, and the demands of everyday life.
How Can Meditation Help Me?
Research has shown that individuals can learn to use their own innate resources to:
- Cope more effectively with stressful situations
- Increase their ability to relax
- Decrease physical and psychological symptoms from illness
- Reduce pain levels and have an enhanced ability to cope with chronic pain
Several researchers, including University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Richard Davidson, in collaboration with the Dalai Lama, are currently studying the effects of meditation on the brain. This research has shown that meditation has a positive effect on the brain, characterized by significant decreases in anxiety and depression, boosts to the immune system, reductions in cortizol levels (which lead to stress), and lower blood pressure.
During the month of May, National Meditation Month, take a moment to give meditation a try—even if it's just for a few minutes a day. To start, click on the Meditation Exercise to the left and give it a try!
Lab for Effective Neuroscience - University of Wisconsin-Madison
Meditation Online Learning Module - click on the Meditation Link halfway down the page in the left column
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course - offered through the Center for Spirituality & Healing