What is Meditation?
Meditation is a discipline and routine that allows one to find a place of quiet awareness; a fantastic tool for stress reduction and healing which can also be used for spiritual development.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide; and the WHO predicts that stress will be the biggest killer in our society within the next decade.
However, there is some good news! Over the last four decades has emerged growing evidence that mindfulness or meditation is one of the most effective ways of managing negative emotions and promoting positive ones.
Using techniques such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), regional Cerebral Blood Flow (rCBF) and electroencephalogram machines (EEG), it has been possible to monitor exactly which changes take place in the brain during meditation, and the long-term changes to the brain’s structure.
Meditation is not daydreaming, or simply relaxing. It doesn’t have to be part of a religious practice, or be prescriptive with dogma. It doesn’t need to be complicated or involve physical poses and is not necessarily time consuming; some benefits can be experienced quickly. It is not about stopping thoughts either, but about accepting and acknowledging them before releasing; neither does it require over intellectualising. It does not require special equipment or places; both are a matter of choice.
Simply breathe and "be"
What is Mindfulness?
The origins of Mindfulness have their roots in Buddhist philosophies and were brought into western awareness by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk who wrote The Miracle of Mindfulness whilst in exile in France.
These principles were spread through the medical and psychological world by Jon Kabat-Zinn who, after studying Zen and Vipassana meditation, decided to put the principles into a more secular framework; eventually developing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at Massachusetts University Hospital.
At its core is the philosophy of living in the moment, from moment to moment, rather than worrying about the future and ruminating on the past. By developing breathing techniques and practicing simple visualisations practitioners learn to experience and enjoy the here and now.
Living with Pain & Illness
All too often people are diagnosed with a chronic condition and left to manage with too many pills and too little support.
However, as my own experience also shows, mindfulness and meditation have been proven again and again to aid recovery from stroke, cancer, MS, migraine, auto-immune conditions, IBS, skin problems and so much more.
Studies by Dr. David R. Hamilton, Dean Ornish, Dr. Sara Lazar, Dr. Herbert Benson and many others have concluded that regular meditation or mindfulness practice improves patients' ability to recover, experience less side-effects from treatment and also find it psychologically less debilitating to deal with illness than those who do not practice meditation or mindfulness. It is becoming well documented that positive thoughts have a huge impact on our body’s ability to heal itself and protect against disease leading to many GPs now referring patients for meditation and mindfulness training. It is an amazing, wonderful and powerful tool for life.
Mindfulness & Pain
Mindfulness not only distracts from the pain giving relief, but also over time will release endorphins to neutralise the pain whilst stimulating the neural pathways governing that part of the body to send less pain signals. Through regular practice the brain is literally re-wiring itself to feel less pain.