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Fundamentally meditation is about detaching from the world around you and reaching a state of deep relaxation and increased mental clarity. Depending on the context it is described in many ways, for example meditation could be a condition in which the mind focuses on a thought or an image, or an open receptiveness to whatever enters the mind, or a state of relaxed awareness, or a state in which the mind is “empty”. Meditation has been proven to be very beneficial in reversing the effects of stress. In some people the “flight or fight” response (increased adrenalin, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and shallow breathing) occurs not only when they are faced with real danger but also when they are faced with any situation they deem to be stressful.

In its extreme form this might be an anxiety disorder. Meditation reverses this process and people who practice meditation regularly can shift into a meditative state at will, and hence deal with stress really well.

There are many techniques that can be used to achieve a meditative state, although it takes practice to be able to do it for a longer than a few minutes. The person meditating must always start in a comfortable position with good posture, in a warm environment, and wearing loose clothes. Examples of techniques that then may be used are:

  • Mantra meditation, repeating a word or phrase continually, perhaps using rosary beads or a Tibetan prayer wheel. “Om” is considered by Hindus to be the most sacred mantra, and is defined as the original sound of the universe.
  • Breath awareness meditation where the person meditating focuses on their breathing, perhaps inwardly counting or using peaceful words on the in and/or out breath.
  • Entering a state of mindfulness where you are completely aware of but detached from everything you are experiencing.
  • Active meditation that involves performing a rhythmic activity that allows the mind to focus on achieving a meditative state, such as walking, t’ai chi, and swimming.
  • Object meditation that involves concentrating on a specific object such as flowers, a candle, a portrait, and feeling its presence, shape, and weight.

There are many ways to teach yourself to meditate, however the easiest way is to go to classes, or consult with a teacher one-to-one. There are also books, videos, dvds, and cds that are very helpful. 15-20 minutes is a common session length to aim for.

Examples of conditions where meditation can be useful are:

  • Stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, insomnia.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Long-term pain.
  • Addictions.
  • Enhancing the immune system.
  • Personal development.
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The following meditation books are recommended as good places to start the journey into meditation:

Guided Meditation CD by Bodhipaksa

Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian

Insight Meditation Kit Audiobook by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzburg

Full Catastrophe Living: How to Cope with Stress, Pain and Illness Using Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zin

See our full range of Holistic Therapy books in the Further Exploration section.

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