Meditate, Meditate!

Just in case you needed one more reason to take up meditation practice, a new study indicates that Transcendental Meditation benefits patients with heart disease.

According to multiple outlets, in a study of adults with coronary heart disease (who were stable and receiving optimal medical care), 16 weeks of Transcendental Meditation not only reduced blood pressure significantly, but also improved heart rate variability and insulin resistance, which is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. These benefits were achieved without weight loss, medication or psychosocial variables. In other words, meditation alone fostered these improvements for patients. Hats off to the mind/body/spirit connection!

Now of course it’s completely inadvisable to forego medical treatment for any illness in favor of simply meditating. So don’t even think about that! But combining meditation with any treatment plan you get from the doctor you trust seems more and more likely to be helpful, as continues to be proven. In the last year alone, one study after the next has been released touting the benefits of quieting the mind on a regular basis – for the sick and for the healthy. So don’t wait until you’ve got a condition that needs curing to get started – meditation has perks for everyone!

For starters, meditation lowers stress levels and promotes a calm, connected feeling. It improves focus and concentration and boosts your energy (physical and mental) as well as sharpening your mental clarity. Meditate in nature to experience even greater benefits – and a oneness with the world around you. All it takes is a few minutes a day and you can be on your path to a far more pleasant, healthier existence. Meditation is like recharging your batteries.

Sound intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. Sure, there are people who meditate for hours, but ten minutes a day will do the trick for the busy individual (and you can even start with five).

Start by clearing your calendar for fifteen minutes, just to make sure you’ve got enough time to prepare beforehand and then ease back into your day after you’re done. Mornings are great (especially if you can get up just a little bit early), but so is the time just after work before you eat dinner. Naturally, any time you can spare will work.

First, turn off the TV, computer and any (and all) phones. Create a comfortable space where you will not be disturbed. When beginning your practice, you may want to set a timer. Start with five minutes.

Next, get yourself into a comfortable, seated position. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor and you should be sitting up straight. For this reason, a chair is probably better than on the floor (unless you’re a Pilates junky with posture to spare)!

Then, once you’re settled and comfortable, clear your mind of any stray thoughts, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in through your nose in a way that you can hear your breath as it enters. Breathe out through your nose the same way.

The idea is to breathe deeply and evenly. Some people find counting helpful. If that works for you, breathe in on a four count and out on a four count. Focusing on your breath is not necessary, but many people find it helps their minds from wandering.

A certain amount of thought activity is normal, especially at first. So, as stray thoughts enter your mind, politely send them away. Don’t get angry at yourself for these thoughts – they’re natural. It’s not easy to quiet the mind, and even five minutes may feel like a lot at first. Just do your best to make it through as long as you can, aware that your meditation stamina will increase as you continue to practice.

When the timer goes off, take a moment complete a final breath and open your eyes. Allow yourself to re-acclimate to your surroundings. You should find that even after just a few minutes, you feel alert and refreshed.

If you keep this up daily for a few weeks, it will become ingrained and you should be able to extend your practice time.

On a last note, if you find you fall asleep during meditation, you’re not alone. Consider opening a window, or play some gentle music to help keep you awake. Also, pay special attention to your posture and the grounding of your feet. Try not to meditate before bed at first, just in case… while it may lull you off sweetly, it will also defeat the purpose.

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