While studing Buddhism, I’ve come across a number of ways to meditate, and a number of different reasons why people have practiced these techniques for centuries.
For me, it’s a tonic from day-to-day stress, a time when I get in touch with my body, and feel (not think about) the world around me. It’s a quiet time when I bring myself into focus, and give my mind, and subsequently my body, a profound rest.
I’ve found that meditation doesn’t require awkward-sitting positions or visualizations or mantras, although many people do practice these techniques. It can be as easy as breathing in and breathing out. Sounds easy? Well, yes and no.
I choose to follow Zen Buddhism, which practices mindfulness meditation, a means of paying attention with purpose and without judgment. It means having an overall awareness of your body and surroundings to pull you into the present moment and away from the daily worries and distractions that normally bombard your mind.
I generally start by sitting in a quiet place and in a relaxed position. I then focus all my awareness on my breathing in and out, slowly, feeling my belly and chest expand and contract. When I am fully focused on my breathing, I am present in that moment. And when I am present and mindful, all other cares, worries and distractions fall away, and I can take a revitalizing break from my otherwise stressful life. Once I’m completely focused, I can expand my awareness to other parts of my body, and then to the sights and sounds around me, but without actually thinking about them, only witnessing them.
It’s amazing the deep level of relaxation I can achieve while meditating. It’s like taking a two-week vacation on a deserted tropical beach in the span of an hour.
The beauty of mindfulness meditation is that it can be practiced anywhere, walking in the park, standing in line at the grocery store, even driving a car. It’s surprising how a five-minute session while standing in line at the bank can lift my entire morning.
The literature I’ve read indicates that mindfulness meditation can have profound health benefits—a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate, a stronger immune system, greater focus and a general sense of well-being.
Anyone wanting more information about this topic can leave a comment or contact me via email. I’ll be happy to share what I know.