Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

4 Ways You Can Benefit from Meditation

How often do you sit down during the course of the day, close your eyes and just do and think nothing at all? Most people are so tired that when they do sit down and close their eyes they fall asleep. Others find it difficult or even uncomfortable to sit still and do nothing. I know, because I used to be this way myself.

As a single mom of two boys working at a mentally draining career while balancing the demands of home, health, and child-rearing, I wish someone would have suggested this to me years ago. Sit down and rest my mind. The second step in learning to discipline the mind is meditation, a practice which archaeologists and scholars believe has been around for over 5,000 years. The earliest documentation of meditation is found in the Hindu sacred text known as the Vedas from ancient India but it has its own place in Western religions as well.

Industrialization and the rapid advancement of technology have dramatically increased the pace of life and the hurry up, get-it-done-yesterday mindset has side-lined this important discipline. As the rate of stress-related illnesses soars, many are realizing this non-stop freneticism is not only unhealthy but unprofitable as well.

In the same way the body needs a good amount of rest to restore and renew itself, so too does the mind.  Often, even when the body is asleep, the mind continues to churn away on the problems and issues of the day. No wonder we wake up feeling unrefreshed. The mind didn't know it was bedtime.

When we sit down to meditate, we allow the "mental clutter" to settle.

Benefit #1: Meditation calms our minds and our bodies. 
It slows the heart rate, the breath, and lowers the blood pressure. Also, it allows confusion to dissipate and clarity and creativity to spark so we can find answers to our problems.

There are different forms of meditation so whether your spiritual path is eastern or western, you can benefit from this ancient practice. In eastern religions, such as buddhism, the goal of meditation is to focus the mind on something constant such as the breath. The basic premise is that by focusing the mind, the practitioner becomes increasingly aware of the flow of thoughts as they occur and is able to disengage, clear the mind and enter the place of rest where the mind is calm. Some well-known forms of eastern meditation are Vipassana and Transcendental meditation.

Benefit #2: Helps us to connect with ourselves and God
When we still our bodies, the monkey thoughts in our minds settle as well. This allows us to see what is going on with our feelings and emotions and to get in touch with what we truly desire in life. When we are moving so fast all day, we ignore that still small voice and our thoughts and emotions rarely get noticed.

The practice of meditation in Christian religions is similar in that the goal is to focus and calm the mind. In addition, Christian practitioners also have the goal of calming the spirit and connecting more deeply with God which is done by reading or repeating phrases or words of Holy Scripture or Christian devotions. Early proponents of Christian meditation are St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. John of the Cross.

Benefit #3: Brings awareness of negative thoughts
Whatever your spiritual path, meditation is an important skill that will help you bring more awareness to your life.  When we slow down and calm our minds, we are more able to identify the types of thoughts that float through on a daily basis. I find I am more aware of the pesky negative thoughts that try to steal my peace and joy and then I am more easily able to dismiss them, refocus, and carry on with my day. Unawareness leads to a vicious downward spiral and becoming more aware of our thoughts is a tool to stop this cycle.

Benefit #4: Increases sense of peace and well-being
Many of us run around all day frenetically going from one thing to another. As a single parent, this pace became my norm. Although I no longer have the need, I have to untrain myself so when I feel like I'm moving too fast, an alarm goes off in my mind and I make myself sit down and meditate for 15 - 20 minutes. If I fall asleep, then that means I'm tired. I don't berate myself for falling asleep. Meditation helps us to become more aware of when we are feeling stressed and hurried and we will enjoy a greater sense of peace and well-being during our busy days. You will come to find stillness as a gift and look forward to your times of meditation.

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Until next time, I wish you peace and stillness and remember...

Keep looking up!