Meditation: A Powerful Tool for Radiant Health
We may have robust physical health, but it may not necessarily bring joy if we are not at peace, happy, or have suffered the loss of a loved one; many factors undermine our health. It is important to understand what these factors are and how they affect our health to convince ourselves to find practical solutions.
One powerful tool for improving our health is the practice of meditation. A study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging by a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers found an 8-week meditation program appeared to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
How Does Meditation Help?
Meditation offers that life-saving restorative pause to an overworked mind and a restless heart. How does it work? Let us explore what the process of meditation entails and how it improves our health.
Science magazine published a study in 2010 by Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert about the unhappiness of a wandering mind. The psychologists found a large fraction of our thoughts are not aligned with our actions because we tend to be somewhere else in our minds. Thought is energy; when our thoughts are not in harmony with our actions, we create stress and confusion.
It is not surprising that we may lack the resolve, clarity, awareness, and intuitive certainty to make the right choices for good health.
When we meditate, we practice:
These qualities are vital to our wellbeing, yet increasingly fractured in the busyness of day-to-day life.
Concentration is the ability to focus all our energy — body, mind, and spirit — on one object. It is tough to focus our mind, but science now proves an inherent correlation between the mind, breath, and energy. So, the breath is a wonderful object to focus on because it goes with us wherever we go.
A Story of Focus: The Elephant and the Mahout
The mahout, a local villager, would take his elephant out for a daily walk. As the elephant passed by the wayside stalls, he created chaos by lifting items from the shops and throwing them around, enraging stall owners.
The mahout was at a loss, for the elephant was becoming a nuisance.
One day, he got an idea; he found a stick, and before taking the elephant out for a walk, he gave the elephant the stick to hold in his trunk. Now, when the elephant walked past the stalls, he could not cause trouble with his trunk because he had a stick in it.
The breath is like that stick our mind needs to bring our thoughts into focus.
When we bring our attention to our breath, we find the breath slows down, and when the breath slows down, our thoughts slow down. This positive feedback loop eventually relaxes us so deeply that the breath and heart rate begin to slow down, bringing deep peace, calmness, clarity, and inner strength.
How well we are begins from within! Meditation helps us focus our energy on the breath; it pushes us to develop inner balance and harmony, which is truly radiant health.
Try this Elevator Meditation for Beginners class by certified mindfulness teacher Kate Savage.