Spiritual fitness holds different meanings for different people. To achieve a state of well being that includes the significance of life, values, beliefs, ethics, experiences and awareness beyond oneself, connection with a higher power and reflection on life are important to any people. Yet the constructs of how these qualities incorporate in one’s life, are completely unique for the individual.
When results of spiritual transformation show up, though left up to personal interpretation, general consensus indicates that the endeavored search is worth the uncovered freedom.
One of the areas people seek relief around is managing stress. There are those who self medicate, which I personally don’t recommend for any length of time. Some use treatments and therapy, or reading various self-help books. These may be positive and effective, but for how long? There are those, myself included, that need more: a deeper level of profound personal examination and confrontation, which can be both frightening and embarrassing. That’s most likely why the aforementioned practices were necessary steps to allow me to be willing to explore meditation.
The pressures of everyday living can definitely overwhelm and even choke the energy out of you. However, to live and play in a society that exudes a myriad of activities and responsibilities connected to existence, stress is an inevitable factor. We need to be able to put the chatter of outside thoughts aside and rest in the peace of our inner being. To connect to a higher power works of many people, it certainly does for me, of which I choose to call God.
Meditation offers us the opportunity to pause and be still for a while. The experience of concentrating, (perhaps on a particular subject, perhaps not), for a period of time can be quite calming and soothing to the mind, body and soul. “It did to my mind what going to the gym did to my body – it made it both stronger and more flexible,” says Dr. Hedy Koby, a neuroscientist who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation, which she practiced for ten years at her lab at Yale University. She admitted during a Ted Talk that she started meditating to deal with a break up, but found that it helped her handle stress and unpleasant situations throughout her life.
Many who practice meditation have experienced enhanced creativity levels, energy flow, and more successful results with endeavored projects.
Research studies reveal that that meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. One may ask how it does all that. Well, for one thing it changes our brain. Activities involving meditation and in- depth prayer substantially reinforce neural functioning within certain regions of the brain that initiate decreasing anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive and intellectual performance.
How do I practice Meditation?
There are simple steps to practice that will help to enrich the neural functioning of the brain. They can help to ignite a higher level immune system, enhance your relationships with family, friends and even strangers. Also, you will notice a more effective and efficient work experience.
*At this point I must underscore as a wellness practitioner, that these techniques do not in any way replace the necessary use of current medical practice. Integrated into your daily lifestyle of activities, however, the practice of these methods will render you a powerful transformational outcome.
It is usually recommended to first begin meditation with a simple goal. For example when waking up in the morning, before getting out of bed you can yawn a few times; yes yawning actually physiologically relaxes you in under a minute’s time. For more stressful times like being caught in a traffic jam or in the middle of a contentious meeting, take 5 deep breaths; inhale slowly, then a brief pause, next exhale with your lips slightly parted. This also helps to calm the part of your brain associated with fight or flight: the Amygdala and stimulates the prefrontal cortex a region of the brain which is committed to the process of supporting individuals to maintain clear, focused attention with tasks at hand. Another region activated is the anterior cinglate which delivers the ability to lower anxiety and irritability, and enhances social awareness.
Folks who are just beginning meditation can find it challenging to stay focused on your breath for a period of time. Annoying thoughts invade the mind and can cause major distraction, which initially can be very difficult to turn off. So you can simply shift your attention to watching those thoughts. This actually helps to reduce the emotional reactivity level that stimulates feelings of anxiety and depression. Listening to calming music, (baroque), is very helping as well when meditating.
A suggested centering meditation to practice:
- First find something to concentrate on: a desire regarding a person, health condition, work situation, financial dreams. You may even think of a favorite passage, phrase, or quote.
- Find a comfortable chair, couch or even on the floor with crossed legs if that works for you. Next, close your eyes and begin taking slow deep breaths: inhale, slight pause; exhale, slightly parted lips. Continue this process for several breaths, may begins to feel your heart beat slow down some and a sense of relaxation come over you.
- Then begin to think about your targeted focus or phrase. Simply watch your thoughts at this point. You are both audience and performer with this process. Remember be easy and gentle with yourself, if your thoughts begin to stray, lovingly bring them back to your focus.
- As you continue your deep breathing and mindful focus, notice what type of feelings may come up. Are you sad, happy, angry, or clearer about an issue?
- Should your mind wander, gently bring it back to your area of focus. Remember to be patient and kind with yourself and allow your thoughts to go where they go. If you feel a twitch or itch and need to scratch, watch it with you mind initially and see if it goes away, if not, then by all means scratch it.
- If the focal point of your concentration becomes fuzzy or starts to drift, simply watch it. It is not necessary to try and make something happen, pay attention to your feelings and at some point bring your awareness back to your target of contemplation.
- Maintain this state of being for 15 minutes, continuing to deepen your breath. When you are complete, slowly open your eyes and remain seated for a couple of minutes to allow your mental emotional state to adjust to your mindful awakening.
The beauty of meditation is that it combines spirit and brain activity in ways that support personal and physiological growth. Increased feelings of freedom, sharpened memory and cognition are some of the reported experiences from developing the habit of meditating. The ability to manage stress is a valuable by product of this practice and inevitably leads to a healthier and happier you!
Trust the process.