Eastern traditions refer to the mind as a monkey, always active and moving from idea to idea, similar to a monkey in the trees. Meditation is a tool that helps still the mind. Research shows that when the mind slows down, the body relaxes as well which decreases stress. Lowering stress helps to decrease blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pain and many other physical symptoms that affect many Americans today.
There are many different approaches to meditation. Some people like to sit in silence while focusing on a candle. Other may prefer to sit with their eyes closed, focusing on the incoming and outgoing breath. Some like to chant a phrase that has special meaning to them, perhaps a positive affirmation or one with spiritual meaning. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate – whatever quiets the mind and helps you tune in with a resting state of consciousness.
Visualization is another form of meditation which helps decrease stress. Visualization grew in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when biofeedback researchers started using visual imagery with biofeedback devices to get measurable results. Today visualization is used in many relaxation therapies. It has been used with patients battling chronic illness, such as cancer patients imagining a stronger more robust immune system to fight cancer cells. Training the mind to relax and remain focused can be challenging at first, and take time to cultivate (which is why is it called a meditation “practice”!). However it is an invaluable tool in today’s hectic world, where we are continually bombarded with stimulation from morning to night. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of your day to recharge the batteries – from the inside out.