Debra Haverson Psychotherapy Services LLC

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and greater contentment in your life

The Benefits of Meditation:  Part I
Meditation has existed for thousands of years as a part of many religious traditions. Only recently has it become a more well-known practice in Western culture, done both as part of a spiritual practice and with a more non-denominational wellness and stress reduction focus.  In the English language, the word “meditate” has also been defined to mean reflect on or think about; however, in meditation, there is actually intention to quiet the mind. Thinking doesn’t necessarily stop although there can be blissful moments with no thought. Also, some types of meditation can resemble prayer – not the kind in which a person prays for a particular outcome, but rather the devotional, praising G-d method of prayer in which the individual becomes highly focused and sets aside more mundane thoughts.
Breath is central to meditation, both as an object of focus and because the very act of observing and slowing the breath can help the individual self-regulate and lower the heart rate. When you first learn how to meditate, you often begin by counting and/or watching the breath, noticing the inhales and exhales and the differing sensations of air as it moves in and out of the body. It is a simple technique, but one that turns out to be anything but simple as the mind keeps drifting to something that seems more interesting.

Meditation creates a quieting pause in the middle of a busy life during which you minimize input from external stimuli like conversations, work, music, TV, computers, books and other reading material. A quiet piece of music or the sounds in nature can be used as the background or even the point of focus for meditation if you like. Those who have trouble sitting still may prefer moving meditations like tai chi, walking meditation, use of walking labyrinths, or yoga. The key is not to have multiple stimuli, to narrow your mental focus in order to keep it still.
When you do actually make the time to sit quietly and meditate, don’t be disappointed that your mind does not stay still. As you observe the many thoughts that occur, you may even worry that you are losing your mind. Don’t worry; you’re not. Most of us believe that we control what happens in the mind, and initial efforts at meditation usually teach us that this dizzying stream of thoughts arises uninvited. In fact, these thoughts seem in control of us. This is the way most of our minds work, unless otherwise focused on a specific intellectual activity or entertaining subject. In the attempt to quiet the mind, we finally notice this typical state of our own minds. At this point, books may be helpful. It’s also of great value to find a teacher or more experienced meditators who can provide guidance and answer practical questions.
Ultimately, meditation can provide much more than just a few minutes of feeling less stressed by life. Part II of this article explains how meditation can lead to the cultivation of greater insight and inner peace; it also describes how meditation relates to psychology and to the work done in therapy.

© 2008 Debra Haverson

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