Meditation's Role in Health and Wellbeing

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • If you have been following my posts, you know that most of what I’ve written about thus far relates to nutrition and health. However, overall wellness is much more than what we feed our bodies. Many can attest that even when they are eating the absolutely best foods that they can, if they don’t feel that their mind and spirit are healthy, they won’t experience the overall positive effects good nutrition can provide. As I’ve mentioned before, health and wellness exists inside a holistic network connecting the mind, body and spirit. There are no two areas internally or externally in one’s life that are disconnected or unrelated. Although most of us know this, it’s very easy to ignore the internal process and focus primarily on the external – the physical body, physical health, specific circumstances, etc.

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    A wonderful and limitless way to access your internal wellbeing and contribute to your overall journey in life is through meditation. Although meditation has continued to grow in the West in terms of acceptance, understanding and practice, there are still many who find it intimidating.

    Meditation is a method for quieting the mind through two general techniques, concentration and awareness. Concentration exercises such as focused attention, breathing, chanting and yoga are examples of ways to connect to the self at a deeper level where other parts of our consciousness can be accessed. Alternatively, with crossover, awareness meditation is a method for noticing the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that enter the body and mind without judging or resisting them. This mindfulness technique allows you to begin to learn how to detach yourself from everything happening as a result of your external environment and to recognize that the observer in you is separate and distinct from the experience itself.

    Although more conclusive research is necessary, there have been many studies conducted linking meditation to health benefits related to conditions such as heart disease, chronic pain, cholesterol, blood pressure, sleep problems, anxiety disorders, cancer, stress management, immunity and others. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), investigations into additional clinical research, meditation-based treatment programs, and efficacy studies are currently being discussed amongst health experts. This is exciting news for those of us who have already discovered the numerous health benefits of meditation in our own lives.

    For those that don’t feel completely comfortable sitting in the cross-legged “lotus” position most of us associate with meditation, you’ll be happy to learn that there are actually a wide variety of universal forms of meditation beyond this traditional sitting position. Although the sitting position is great for accessing your inner wisdom, standing, lying, and moving meditation are all portals to help you access the divine within.

    Standing meditation is a great way to find the inner warrior and power within you. Common amongst Oriental, Tibetan and Shamanistic traditions, standing upright with your arms at your sides and eyes open and concentrated on a particular point, offers an opportunity to draw energy and strength from the earth through the soles of your feet while practicing relaxation and the act of calming the mind.

  • Lying meditation is a wonderful healing centered approach. With one elbow bent so that your hand is in the air above you, you can avoid falling asleep while in this position. For me, the lying meditation done at the end of a yoga practice in Shavasana pose is one of the most powerful ways to quiet repetitive thought patterns and receive visual guidance.

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    Finally, walking meditation is a great way to access the inner creator. This active form of meditation can be practiced by walking, dancing, cleaning, painting, running or doing any other activity that enables one to get in touch with their inner self through movement. Most of us already practice this form of meditation unconsciously through our quiet activities that we do by ourselves. In relation to walking itself, an important practice in Buddhism, one is said to be able to improve their ability to bear long journeys, endure making an effort, resist illness and disease, digest their food more easily, and develop sustainable concentration.

    No matter which form of meditation you choose, give yourself time and patience to relax into your practice and begin to reap the benefits. Even though experiencing deep relaxation and a quiet mind is not common in everyday life activities, it’s one of the most natural states to be in and becomes effortless over time. Begin with just a few minutes a day until you’re able to work up to an extended period of time that feels comfortable and useful.

Published On: April 15, 2010