Meditation is becoming more and more popular. Some people attend meditation halls or classes, others have found moving meditations such as Tai Chi or Qigong. Many people meditate in their homes as well. Some of the benefits of meditation include a clearer mind, a relaxed body, a calm spirit, greater self awareness, relief from stress and an enhanced memory and mental function to name a few. Why are these things important?
We live in an age where we are bombarded with information constantly. Everything seems to be fast paced; information, food, travel. Our brains are constantly analyzing and storing information. When do we take a break from that? When we sleep would be one answer. Sleep is our way of shutting down and re setting. However as soon as we wake up we are right back at it. The information download begins and we must become ready to face the challenges of the day. Mental overload or even stress can result from lending our thoughts to outside sources and problems on a constant basis. Stress can lead to depression, mental illness, physical sickness and many forms of ailments if left unchecked. It’s good to take some time during the day and let go of some of those excess thoughts
I’m certainly not saying that we should not think or that we should not handle the things that we need to. Life does not stop and there are always things to deal with. I will say that we can handle things better when we are refreshed, clear minded and relaxed.
When we meditate our thoughts are focused on a specific task such as energy circulation or focusing on the breath or we are letting go of our thoughts and peering into the depths of who we are. There is no time for outside sources to influence or state of being. In this state the muscles can relax, in doing so our energy and circulation flow freely, our breath is deep and nourishing to the brain and body, all seems in harmony. Then a thought creeps in. It may be a thought about what time you need to leave or forgetting to go to the grocery store or a thought about a bill. What happens when that thought occurs? Something in the body tenses. It may be a major tension or it may be subtle but somewhere tension will arise. You don’t even have to be meditating for this to happen. You could be sitting down relaxing when a certain thought occurs and notice your shoulders rising or your neck tensing up. Does this happen if you are thinking about crystal blue waters in Tahiti? Probably not. If you remember you have a long drive that you aren’t thrilled about doing or some other task then probably yes. Think about someone or something you don’t like, a bad occurrence or an altercation that you had. Remember the details. Chances are your hand might start curling into an almost fist like shape or you become warm, your heart rate might raise or you may notice some other physiological change. These changes can raise blood pressure, cut off or hinder your flow of energy in the body and over time affect your overall well being.
Thoughts are a natural occurrence that cannot be stopped. The idea is to control your thoughts power over you. If an unwanted thought occurs simply acknowledge it but do not entertain it, let it go. After awhile you will be able to sense where it created tension and release it. This is something you can learn to do during meditation. Practices like Tai Chi and Qigong also build a certain sensitivity and awareness that give a person the ability to “listen” to what is occurring in the mind and body.
The next time you are deep in thought take a moment to do a self analysis. Are your hands clutching the steering wheel at a light? Are your shoulders, neck or back tense? Is your breathing shallow? If so relax, release the tension and take deep slow breaths. The more you do this the more you will become aware of when tension is building and you will learn to stop it as it is happening. This practice can give you a tool to use to negate some of the effects caused by the stresses we face and deal with on a regular basis.