Relax, Refresh, Renew: A Simple Guide for Meditation Newbies
Meditation has become an increasingly popular practice in recent years, and for good reason. The ancient practice has been shown to have a wide variety of benefits, both mental and physical. In this blog post, we’ll explore what meditation is, its origins, the many benefits it can provide, and how it relates to alternative medicine.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind and focusing awareness. It generally involves sitting comfortably, closing the eyes, and turning attention inward. The goal is not to stop thinking – after all, it’s nearly impossible to not think at all! – but rather to become an observer of the thoughts rather than attaching to them.
There are many different types of meditation, but they all follow the same basic premise. Some common forms include:
- Mindfulness meditation – This focuses on present-moment awareness. Often the breath is used as an anchor to keep bringing the attention back to the here and now.
- Transcendental meditation – This involves silently repeating a mantra to enter a deep state of relaxation and awareness.
- Guided meditation – A teacher leads the practitioner through visualization and awareness exercises.
- Movement meditation – Walking, yoga, qigong, and tai chi all integrate mindfulness with physical movement.
No matter the type, the practice is meant to calm the chatter of the mind and allow us to tap into inner peace.
A Brief History of Meditation
While meditation has entered the mainstream in recent decades, its origins are ancient. The first records of meditation practice are over 3,000 years old and originate in the Hindu scriptures of ancient India. From Hinduism, the practice spread through Buddhism as it traveled across Asia. For thousands of years it was primarily a spiritual endeavor, practiced by monks and mystics.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that meditation came to the West. This was spurred by growing interest in Eastern spiritual practices, and also by scientific research on the effects of meditation on the mind and body. Though once considered esoteric, today meditation is practiced by people from all walks of life, for both spiritual growth and health benefits.
The Benefits of Meditation
Decades of research have shown meditation to positively impact both mental and physical health in a variety of ways:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Increased focus and concentration
- More positive emotions like compassion and joy
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced chronic pain
- Improved immunity
- Slowed aging
- And much more!
Some of these benefits come immediately from a session of meditation, while others accumulate over time with consistent practice. Even just a few minutes a day can lead to noticeable improvements.
How to Practice Meditation
Interested in giving meditation a try? It’s easy to get started with just a few minutes in a quiet space:
- Set a timer for your desired length – even 2-5 minutes is great for beginners
- Sit comfortably with a straight spine – on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze
- Bring attention to your breath and focus on the sensations
- When the mind wanders, gently return focus to the breath
- When the timer goes off, sit for a moment before opening the eyes
It’s normal for the mind to wander often during meditation – just keep bringing it back. With regular practice, concentration will improve. Guided meditations can also be very helpful for beginners to learn the proper technique.
Meditation and Alternative Medicine
Meditation is considered an integral part of alternative medicine and holistic healing approaches. This includes naturopathy, homeopathy, and functional medicine.
Rather than treating isolated symptoms, these fields aim to improve whole body health and wellbeing. Meditation helps by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. This can bolster immune function and activate the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms.
Meditation also complements other alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage therapy, and herbal remedies. By aligning the mind and body, it opens us up to improved health.
In today’s busy world, meditating even a few minutes per day can make a profound difference for both mind and body. The regular practice of entering a state of mindfulness has benefits that both modern science and ancient wisdom agree on. With a simple commitment of focus and awareness, we can tap into our inner peace and realize the powerful health benefits that meditation has to offer.