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Meditating on Meditation, Part 1: The Overview

Filed Under: Health Aids at 5:26 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Man in Lotus PositionI recently had the opportunity to speak with several yoga and meditation instructors on the phone. While each one had different techniques and thoughts on meditation, I found one common thread. When I hung up, I was calm, often much calmer than I had been prior to dialing. The frenzied finger tapping as I listened to another ring and the anxiety over my lengthy to-do list was silenced, for about five minutes. But, five minutes or not, I was shocked. These women had achieved a level of serenity that not only permanently affected their lives but temporarily affected mine as well. How had they done it? More importantly, how could I?

As a practice, meditation has gained mass popularity only recently, in the United States. It was thought, at first, to be a strange Eastern tradition employed by hippies amidst their beads. Then, it was thought to be a luxury used by people with a lot of free time to de-stress (although what stress they could have when they had time to meditate, was beyond understanding to the crazed, over-busy, “normal” people). Now it is seen as a means of alternative medicine. In conjunction with conventional methods, meditation is used to treat addictions, anxiety, stress, depression, menopausal symptoms and pain.  It has been proven to help combat blood pressure  and blood sugar complications, and improves mental and physical alertness as well as intellect. It is, when done correctly, a source of unlimited benefits.  So why aren’t more people meditating?

I would imagine that some of the old stigmas associated with meditation still apply, and are, thus, keeping many from trying. I would also think that many people are like me: uncertain as to how to start and whether or not it will truly work. So, over the next few weeks I am going to try the various forms of meditation (mindful, concentrative, transcendental and walking). As I do, I will keep you informed, telling you what they are, what they are supposed to entail and how I did. Hopefully within one of the descriptions, you will find a meditation that suits your purpose, one that you can attempt to incorporate into your daily life. For today, I will leave you with a few basic tips on how to get started:

1. Find a comfortable position – you don’t have to sit cross legged on the floor. If you’re going to spend more time thinking about how uncomfortable you are than actually meditating, you’ll accomplish nothing. Try sitting on a chair or doing yoga poses, whatever puts you in the most at-ease position.
2. Observe first – no, I don’t mean watch others meditate. When you first begin meditation, observe your breaths rather than trying to control them. Be aware of each inhale and exhale, eventually warping them into an exercise.
3. Start small – you have about a million things to do. Sitting for a half an hour trying to achieve a sense of calm will probably only result in a minor anxiety attack the first time. So, begin with five minutes. You know you can spare five minutes. Once you have the hang of it, you can lengthen the duration.
4. Stay tuned – my trip into the world of meditation is just beginning. Stick with me and together we’ll find serenity . . . or have a good time looking for it.

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