A friend of mine just turned 80, and was pleased to have passed his last physical exam with flying colors. He shared some of his lifestyle secrets. Besides getting plenty of enjoyable exercise, he enjoys “a fine, mellow, exquisite, small cigar to CELEBRATE LIFE…. at night, under the stars, on my deck…” but said that Above ALL: Thanks to my meditations I have NO stress, NO anxieties, No tension, No fears. How come? I simply drop it all, every night in deep meditation. It works like magic! “
So what is this magic? Meditation has several health benefits and positively affects our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Relaxing the mind actually relaxes the body, the blood vessels, the cells, and thus can lower blood pressure and stress hormones resulting in a sense of calm and the ability to focus, and more clearly manage life’s challenges with balance. Meditation is very healing, because when we quiet our mind, each cell in our body relaxes.
Spiritually, meditation is used as a time to simply be at peace with one’s definition of God, or empty one’s mind in order to connect to a higher power. It seems that when one desires this connection to be continuous, every moment could be a meditation, and life would flow in a way that would decrease our fears, worries, and tension. We would take life less seriously and enjoy it more.
Ideally you would stay mindful and relaxed as much as possible during the day. But most people live a very rushed, busy life, and are plagued with the human condition of “monkey mind” where our thoughts jump from place to place often disconnecting and leaving our mind overwhelmed and the body tired. And face it, many people find a quiet mind kind of boring.
Hence the need for setting aside a regular time for practicing meditation and training our minds to focus on one thing; the breath, a candle, a prayer, a mantra, or as in Zen, absolutely nothing.
There are many definitions of meditation and many forms of practice. There are several great books on meditation. One of my favorites is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his teaching because the goal is not to have to sit at a certain time of the day, but to be mindful and pay attention to your breath, and to what your are doing and thinking throughout the day. When you wash dishes, you pay attention to washing dishes. When you eat, you pay attention to eating. Your everyday activities become the focus of your meditation.
The concept of mindfulness as meditation is quite magical, and with practice life becomes a joyful and blessed experience even in the midst of the most stressful situations. As my friend so clearly exemplifies, health comes from living a life of moderation in all things, celebrating life, and dropping our worries and fears by practicing the magic of meditation.