With all the buzz, hype and touted benefits of meditation, we often think it’s supposed to be something big, maybe complicated and possibly difficult to access. The basic tenet of meditation is simply listening to what’s going on inside instead of outside.
Yoga and meditation expert Dina Lang likened meditation to being on a rafting trip at the Hyatt Training lecture on May 7. When you fall out of the boat, you float on your back, arms in, relaxed with knees up ready to bounce off of any rocks coming your way. Once you pass said rock, you don’t think about it again because all your attention has turned to what’s coming next. You are fully in the moment, aware and not thinking about anything except the present.
Benefits of meditation
- Improved brain function. Specifically, MRI brain scans taken before and after a meditation research study showed increased gray matter in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory). The scans also showed a reduction in gray matter in the amygdala (connected to anxiety and stress).
- Improved heart health. In 2009 the American Heart Association found that high-risk coronary patients cut their risk of heart attacks, strokes and even death in half by doing 20 minutes of daily meditation. The study also found a significant reduction in blood pressure among regular meditators.
- Lasting effects. A meditation practice has a cumulative effect, creating cellular impressions in our body each time we meditate. Like the rings of a tree, those impressions are always there. Each time we meditate we build on those initial impressions, no matter how much time has passed.
Meditation basics: Some tips
- The only wrong way to meditate is not to try.
- Sit somewhere that is natural and comfortable. This might be a chair or the floor, but it doesn’t have to be (and for most people it shouldn’t be) lotus pose.
- Place your hands where they feel natural. Palms up is generally used to tune to the outside; palms down is generally used to tune in to yourself.
- Start with five-minute sessions.
- Create a true habit by doing it at around the same time every day.
- Set an intention. Energy flows where your attention goes. Make it positive: “I will do …”, rather than negative “I won’t …”.