It’s been an essential part of religion and spiritualism for centuries, but only recently has meditation become mainstream (doctor recommended, even!). Celebrities, business executives and school children are now setting aside 20 minutes a day to simply practice stillness. Why? Fans of meditation swear it lets you focus your thoughts, make better decisions, improves your health and increases happiness.
Meditation 101: Mantras, Guides or Movement?
One of the most simple, pure ways to meditate is to find a quiet space, sit down, relax your breathing and clear your mind for 15 or 20 minutes. Mantra meditation uses a repeated word or significant phrase (like “om” or “I am relaxed”) and concentrated breathing to eliminate jumbled thoughts and create stillness in your mind. Although it sounds easy, it does take practice. The book How to Meditate, by Pema Chodron, available in Pharmaca stores, is a good step-by-step guide to help you get started.
You can meditate interactively, too. Guided meditation walks you through a meditation with a coach or trainer, and you can find many guided recordings like those from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Resource Center on the web. Or pick up the easy-to-follow Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a DVD/book combo at Pharmaca stores. Some find meditation combined with deliberate physical movements beneficial, and Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga (especially Hatha Yoga) incorporate both movement and mindfulness.
Clear mind, healthy body
Devotees of the practice know that relaxation and stress relief are some of the greatest benefits of daily meditation. It can help you gain perspective on difficult situations, focus your thoughts on the present instead of future worries or past regrets, and generally make you feel more positive. Physically, scientists studying mind-body medicine say that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system. Meditation has also been shown to significantly help those with chronic conditions manage pain, especially back pain, headaches and gastrointestinal woes. Those who are facing surgery or a hospital stay can benefit, too. The free recording Guided Imagery and Relaxation for Surgery can help you focus your body’s healing response and experience less pain, according to the staff at California Pacific Medical Center.
Setting the stage for tranquility
While all you really need to meditate is a quiet place to focus your thoughts, sometimes setting the mood with a calming ritual can help center your intentions. Essential oils, for example, can be a trigger for your brain to be open to stillness. SpaRoom Essentials’ AromaMist Diffuser fills the air with customized essential oil scents. If your intention is to relax, Pharmaca Essential Oil of French Lavender is a good choice. Need grounding? Choose sandalwood or patchouli oil. And frankincense is said to enhance enlightenment.
Salt lamps release negative ions that can help clear the air and create a tranquil environment. The soft, warm glow from a Himalayan Crystal Salt Lamp can enhance your meditation experience.