We breathe every second of every day but how often do we really pay attention to our breath? The in-breath and the out-breath; the intake of energy and the expelling of energy. We gasp, we hold, at times, we hyperventilate; however, these are all times when our breath has our attention. In those moments, when we stop and pay attention, we can easily bring our breath back into the normal round of in and out.
I have always used the phrase "take a breath" when someone was having a moment of hysteria or becoming exceedingly stressed out. All these years later, I now realize that, at any moment, the correct answer is always TAKE A BREATH. Just relax, take a moment and breathe.
One of the ways people can incorporate a state of mindfulness into their lives is with meditation - a practice that has been used for centuries by wise men and women. A time to be still, quiet the mind and just breathe. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are found in all aspects of our busy lives.
Deep breathing, which is the backbone of any meditation practice, eases muscle fatigue and tension because of increased oxygen to the muscles. Meditation has been proven to lower high blood cholesterol due to its stress-reducing benefits and, with the decrease of stress, our immune system is subsequently strengthened. The physical benefits alone are realized almost immediately with unlimited energy.
Emotionally, people will first notice a sense of calm as they embark on a meditation practice. Where, in the past, they may have reacted with anger and confusion at yet another stressful situation, now, with a daily practice of stillness, they are able to see these situations with a clearer perspective. From this place of clarity, confidence emerges knowing that a positive resolution can be found, in the end, with a sense of effortless ease.
Meditation enhances the senses. Learning to integrate all the senses into one's daily life, through meditation, will bring a myriad of emotional benefits and fullness to life. Those who meditate start to "respond" to situations and people, instead of "reacting" from a place of stress.
Creative juices can flow more freely as focus and concentration are enhanced. The mental benefits of meditation, if practised regularly, are long-lasting and eventually become permanent. Meditation seeks to bring harmful and counter-productive thoughts and feelings to the surface of the consciousness, quell them and help one gain the necessary perspective to deal with the challenges. Meditation is the healthy replacement for drugs and alcohol, and is the ultimate anti-addiction medication.
Along with all the benefits to one's physical, mental and emotional well-being, meditation also brings with it a greater sense of self-awareness. Those who practise meditation notice a feeling of being more "connected" to the world around them. They find that they develop a heightened sense of purpose and with that comes a greater feeling of acceptance.
A multitude of desirable benefits come with regular meditation practice. For some, meditation allows them to discover aspects of their personality they had previously been unaware of. Issues that may have been causing distress for years seem to magically resolve themselves as they allow those unconscious thoughts and feelings to rise to the surface while in a quiet, still place.
Meditation is not a destination but a fascinating journey where those who practise become awakened to life. We are all continually changing and evolving and, with regular meditation practice, these changes simply flow as we evolve into the person we are becoming.
We never stop growing and, as we age, it is even more important to allow for these changes in our lives to be as stress-free as possible. Through meditation, people can discover and uncover an entire new world of interests or talents.
In my case, I discovered that I love to put thoughts down on paper. My work is now my passion. I have those quiet still moments during meditation to thank for bringing me to my present life; a life that is full of purpose imbued with a deeper understanding of who I am and how I can give back to others. Writing works for me. For others, it may be painting, singing, or simply creating a beautiful backyard oasis.
There are many meditation facilitators in the community. Local community centres may already have meditation classes listed in their schedules. Check them out. Local metaphysical bookstores will have listings of practitioners who offer a variety of different meditation practices. And, of course, check for meditation circles online by entering Meditation and the city in a search engine.
Life can be busy and hectic, but we have the ability to shield ourselves from all the noise and find that still, quiet place deep within. So, take a moment and discover meditation, and learn to breathe consciously.
Katrice Balmer works as a holistic healing practitioner and has been facilitating meditation circles for 20 years.
JUNE 2009 - SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
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