By Holly Konrady, M.Ed., e-RYT 500
Executives are practicing at their desks, moms and dads in their living rooms before the kids get up, groups have formed all over the country to practice in dimly lit fragrant rooms, others take a moment at a red light or a waiting room chair before an appointment and many others are sitting on airplanes with earplugs in- guided by a voice.
Meditation is the act of being mindful. We hear these terms sometimes interchangeably- and I think they basically are. The practice of meditation guides you to being mindful. And, you have everything you need right now to begin.
The practice of meditation is thousands of years old and for some it was a devotional practice to expand spiritual energy. While this may still be true for some, modern day meditation has become more mainstream with the goal to improve mental health, overall well-being and manage stress.
In our modern day approach to meditation the definition has changed from that of a more spiritual definition to one that may guide us to control the Relaxation Response, coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, graduate of Harvard Medical School and the founding president of Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (2006). The Relaxation Response is elicited through meditation and is used as a self-regulatory tool that teaches focal points for maintaining attention and awareness in the present moment. Further, Jon Kabat-Zinn would define mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” He then sometimes adds, “in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” If you do this on purpose it suggests that you are not spacing out on the couch, but that a certain volition of your own is needed to pay attention to what is happening in the moment. Even your food will taste better!
This may sound cliché, but we have pure abundance within our hearts to be present and access what we need. Abundance is not a circumstance or a condition, but a state of mind or a state of the heart. It has nothing to do with how much money you earn or how many close relationships you enjoy. These conditions are temporary — you are passing through them as you move through your life. Let’s consider abundance as always there. It’s what is in your heart- it’s how you do anything from thinking to relaxing… taking a bubble bath or taking the trash out. Through this practice of mindfulness / meditation we might become more aware of all that we do in the moment and be able to let go of memories of the past or fantasies or fears about the future.
The claim is that meditation will smooth our way to a happier, healthier life; that the practice will help us feel calmer, more peaceful, loving, balanced, and less exposed to daily stress. Even better, the long-term effects of practicing daily meditation can be seen in how our brains function and decreases our chances of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancers, obesity, diabetes, to name a few. Dr. Deam Ornish studied the length of our telomeres which are the ends of our chromosomes that control aging. Through meditation we can actually lengthen these giving us more years to live.
While there is not one silver bullet to improve brain function or overall health, reviewed studies suggested a positive effect of meditation techniques, particularly in the area of attention, as well as memory, verbal fluency, cognitive flexibility and greater peace of mind, positive emotions, such as love and happiness, a longer fuse due to reduction of fear and anger or simply better able to manage the challenges, changes, and or demands of life when they come- and they will!
Meditation allows us the huge practice of refocusing our minds away from the drift of past and future thoughts and establish focus on something present moment. This helps us to relax our minds- a much needed skill especially if you are one who gets caught in a re-cursive mental dialogue and are unable to refocus thinking that causes suffering. Worry is a form of negative mental imagery that causes suffering even though it is created in the mind and hasn’t even happened yet!
Sometimes people think that the way they feel is the way it has to be; a victim mentality stops us from ever feeling well or happy. If you are not well or happy, you may experience more stress and a vicious cycle ensues, ultimately resulting in disease, if it’s not stopped.
You have everything you need- to begin this practice today. There are no negative side effects from training your mind to feel well and experience greater calm in all that you do. Meditation may become the next thing that we do automatically- brush teeth, exercise, make healthy meals, meditate, and be grateful for the abundance in your life.
Holly Konrady, M.Ed., e-RYT 500 is a stress management specialist and yoga instructor for recovering cardiac patients at New Hanover Regional Medical Center offering personal stress management sessions, yoga classes, workshops and corporate wellness. Holly believes in the human capacity to make change through awareness to begin the healing process and live with greater ease. Desire and conscious action can lead to living abundantly in good health and happiness. Private sessions are available in her A Road Studio or through Zoom. Holly can be found at www.hollymkonrady.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-228-9623.
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