Meditation and Mindfulness
Sacred Space of Silence
You’ve heard about mindfulness but you’re not entirely sure what it is. You’re curious about how meditation works, how much time it takes, or whether you’ll be any good at it because you don’t think you can stop your thoughts or be still and quiet for any measurable amount of time. You don’t consider yourself to be religious, so you think it’s probably not applicable to you. And who wants to sit cross-legged in a pretzel chanting OM for hours anyway?
The good news is there is more than one way to meditate; and stopping your thoughts is not one of them! And, you don't have to be religious to engage in mindfulness and meditation practices, in order to experience the wellbeing benefits each provide. (See some of the benefits listed below).
There are so many gateways to usher us to that still-point of relaxation and serenity. The sacred sound of silence could be beckoning us through the beat of the drum, through free-flowing movement of Tai Chi, yoga or dance; or while we sing or chant, hike or cycle. Maybe the sound of silence beckons us while we journal, or meander out in nature. Some hear the call while completely absorbed in a creative pursuit while, for others, silence motions us through the repetition of a mantra (sacred word or phrase). For many, sacred silence simply bids us inward when we’re seated on our prayer mat in mindful, and deliberate, quiet contemplation.
The activity that creates single-pointed concentration and takes us out of our head and into our heart space, is not as important as is the commitment to regularly heed the call to go within. When we do we touch the stillness of the sacred space of silence and give our mind a breather.
Finding Strength in Stillness
Busting some of the myths about meditation:
It is not inertia or sleepiness – To prevent nodding off stare at a wall or a candle flame, ventilate the room, avoid doing your meditation lying down, avoid meditating on a full stomach.
It is not straining to rid our mind of thoughts – rather it invites mindful awareness.
It is not only for gurus and yogis – anyone can meditate if they stick with it -- even for a few moments at a time.
It is not about signs and wonders! It’s about experiencing relaxation and stillness.
Other Ways to Experience Meditative Moments
Somatic practices involving the body: Tai Chi, yoga, Qi Gong, dance, walking meditation (mindful or power-walking), running
Mindfulness practices (present moment awareness including eating, walking, following the breath etc.)
Repetition of Mantras with or without prayer beads
Chanting and Kirtan
Contemplation or Reflection on sacred texts
Creative Arts and Journaling
Loving Kindness (Meta) Meditation
The Benefits of Meditation
Sustained meditation practices lead to a decrease in blood pressure, muscle tension, and electrical brain frequencies (alpha rhythms), lowers cholesterol and the reduction of pain.
It creates a more regular heart beat; releases stress; boosts the immune system and improves breathing.
Deep, regulated breathing during meditation increases oxygen supply to the body, brain, and nervous system.
It improves physical and mental health and creates a sense of internal calm, tranquility and relaxation.
Meditation enhances intuition, clarity & focus, and awareness.
It also builds emotional resilience and causes decreased reactivity to stressful situations.
Meditation has the added benefit of helping us to cultivate compassion, empathy, love, and kindness.