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SALT LAKE CITY — Human beings work hard at buffing and “detoxing” their bodies. We work on organizing our time, getting the ultimate value for our dollar, and maximizing the spaces in our homes, but what about working to calm our minds? In our very busy lives, is meditation really necessary?
What is mediation?
Meditation is a practical tool that we can adapt into our lives to help us sleep better at night, de-stress and learn how to focus better during the day. It is a way of resting our brain from all the work it has done during the day by focusing on a peaceful thought.
Is meditation important to our well-being? All the research seems to point to a resounding yes. According to the Jan. 28, 2011, New York Times article "How meditation may change your brain" by Sindya N. Bhanoo, practicing meditation actually increases the grey matter in your brain. “Researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress,” Bhanoo wrote. That is quite an accomplishment, and all from taking 30 minutes of quiet time a day to clear our minds and ponder good thoughts.
Why should we meditate?
We are always using our brains in every task we undertake. While at work or at school, while on the computer or reading, and during many other daily activities, our brains are always working. All that work can lead to a lot of stress.
- Good posture Keep your spine upright and your head up.
- Open eyes Lower your eyes, but don't close them, as that may distract your thoughts.
- Focus: Wake up "Pay soft attention to whatever you place in the center of awareness."
- Attentive breathing Let it be natural, but notice the rhythm. Counting breaths may help.
- Be still If a thought comes to mind, focus on your breath. Keep your surroundings silent. Only meditate for as long as you feel comfortable. Enjoy the experience.
Info: Good Life Zen
From project-meditation.org, we learn that “one of the most important benefits of meditation is how it releases stress from our bodies. Meditation practiced regularly will lead you to a deeper level of relaxation and contemplation. If you want to be free of constant worry, pressure and stress the benefits of meditation can give you a life that is calm, peaceful, happy and relaxed. Even 10 minutes of meditation a day will help alleviate stress.”
How do we meditate?
According to Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and author on mediation studies, “The main idea is to use different objects to focus one’s attention, and it could be a focus on sensations of breathing, or emotions or thoughts, or observing any type of body sensations. But it’s about bringing the mind back to the here and now, as opposed to letting the mind drift.”
Try focusing on peaceful thoughts, which can liberate your mind for a few minutes of rest. Visualize tranquil settings like a beach on an island or a spot in the forest. For those who are religious, the focus of meditation can be a scripture read that day, positive thoughts about friends and family, or finding a safe place in your mind for a conversation with a spiritual deity.
How do we take the time to meditate every day?
The answer to this question is a matter of time management. If we feel meditation to be an important part of our life after understanding how meditation can help us, then we will take the time. Whether in the morning or the evening, 15 to 30 minutes a day of meditation is a great way to relieve stress, improve brain function and feel more relaxed in life.
Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children who lives on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and is the author of four books, including "Of One Heart: Being Single in the LDS World."