Meditation for Reducing Stress

In today’s world, it is most unlikely that you have escaped all exposure to this most celebrated vehicle for quieting your mind. You may, however, have encountered some misleading information about it and formed opinions based on inaccurate data. Meditation is not the province of some oddly garbed sect where devotees shave their heads and chant themselves into a trance. Nor is it part of any particular religious organization. Buddhists may meditate, but so might Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. It is not affiliated with leftist politics, vegetarianism, animal rights, or ecology movements.

Meditation is practiced all over the world by people very different from you and very like you. In the 1970s, a meditation room was established in the Pentagon so that America’s top military officials could find some tranquility and rejuvenation amid their high-stress lives. Practiced meditators find that the sense of inner peace they can reach is critical to their ability to cope when external problems threaten to overwhelm.

Research into the physical changes that occur during meditation has been going on for decades. These studies have shown that significant, observable benefits occur.

For example:
•Lowered blood pressure
•Improved circulation
•Slowed respiration
•Reduction of harmful lactic acid in the body
•Slowed pulse rate

In addition, meditation produces a change in the electrical activity of the brain, as measured by an EEG. Scientists attribute this regulating effect to the feelings of inner peace that meditators describe.

Meditation can sound a lot like one more relaxation technique, but it’s not. In relaxation exercises, your focus is an internal one. You observe the changes in your tension level, your breathing, and your body in general. In meditation, the focus is actually external. This may sound like a major contradiction if we are looking for inner peace, but by focusing on an external object, idea, or sound, without judgment or opinion, we can free our minds. That is what meditation is.

When you begin, it may be helpful to establish a regular time and place for meditating. This will help you form the habit. People find that meditating on an empty stomach is also helpful. Avoid alcohol and any kind of medication prior to meditating. You may find that five to ten minutes of breathing or relaxation exercises will help prepare your body for the experience.