Why Meditation is the Keystone PracticeDec 10, 2022
Continuing the Ayurveda series, for the next couple of weeks I’m going to share with you ayurvedic practices that will help you reduce the stress of modern life, and especially the holiday season upon us. These likely won’t be completely new to you, you may already be a practitioner, but it never hurts to take a closer look and ensure that you incorporate them into your daily routine (see more on Pranayama a.k.a. Breathwork HERE!).
Meditation is one of the foundational practices of Ayurveda. Most of us live very active lives and navigate the demands of a busy, stimulating world. Even when we're in a quiet setting, our minds are filled with activity, busy with thoughts about the past, plans for the future, and a stream of interpretations, judgments, and stories about the events of our lives.
Meditation is a journey from activity to silence. It is a technique that allows you to settle into quieter and quieter levels of awareness until you experience the pure silence within.
In the process of going within, you start to purify the body, releasing stress, fatigue, toxins, and everything that prevents you from experiencing your essential nature. You reconnect to who you really are—pure love, pure joy, and pure potential—and then bring this person back into your everyday life.
The benefits of meditation
People are initially drawn to meditation for many different reasons. Although one’s goal in meditation depends on the meditator, it is also true that anyone who meditates regularly receives profound benefits on all of these levels — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
There are thousands of scientific studies documenting the benefits of meditation for your body/mind health.
The physical benefits of meditation include:
- The stimulation of the body’s self-repair mechanisms and self-regulation
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Decreased inflammation
- Increased levels of the enzyme telomerase to help slow the aging process
- Better sleep
- Improved immune function
- Down-regulation (turning off) of genes that contribute to diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune illnesses, and some types of cancer
- Up-regulation (turning on) of genes that are responsible for good health
- Increased production of rejuvenating hormones such as DHEA and growth hormones
- Reverses some of the brain changes that are associated with aging
The mental and emotional benefits of meditation include:
- Decreased stress and anxiety and increased feelings of relaxation and peace
- Expanded experience of healing emotions such as love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and gratitude
- Decreased experience of painful emotions that constrict awareness, including anger, hostility, guilt, fear, anxiety, shame, and depression
- The ability to respond consciously rather than reacting in a conditioned, melodramatic way
- Increased focus, memory, and ability to learn
- Decreased addictive behaviour
How meditation works to reduce and manage stress
Stress is the perception of physical, emotional, or psychological threat. That means that stress therefore isn’t caused by an external situation but rather it is created by the way in which we perceive or interpret that situation and react.
When we perceive a threat, our body activates its fight-flight-freeze stress response.
And in this day and age, we are often under stress, so that our body-mind’s response becomes continuous. And prolonged or chronic stress leads to increased inflammation and a much higher risk of developing many health problems.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, stress blocks the body’s vital channels. Deep rest is how the body naturally heals itself by throwing off the stress, fatigue, and toxins that prevent a healthy flow of energy/information.
The good news is that we don’t have to live in a state of chronic stress. There are many practices that can neutralize and alleviate stress, including the daily practice of meditation. During meditation, the body experiences a deep state of restful awareness and reverses the fight-flight-freeze response.
In addition to these profound benefits, the experience of pure awareness we experience in meditation also helps us to experience greater intuition, creativity, and joy.
Meditation: the keystone practice
The benefits of meditation are both immediate and long-term. You can begin to experience benefits the first time you sit down to meditate and in the first few days of daily practice. And the benefits will become even greater with regular practice.
And beyond these extraordinary health benefits, meditation offers a path to discovering who you really are. In meditation, you go beyond the limited identity your mind creates and experience your true self, which is pure, unbounded consciousness.
Plus regular meditators will tell you that the more you practice, the more you want to do so every day, and the more it will support all the other healthy practices you’re trying to develop!
Your Home Practice this week!
- Set up a physical space for meditation, away from distractions (indoors is best)
- Take a look at your schedule, and decide when “sitting in silence” for 5 to 10 minutes will work for you, such as:
- upon rising
- late afternoon, before dinner
- before bed
- Let everyone know you are not available at this time!
- Practice your own meditation or listen to an App or a recording
- Begin with just a few breaths, a few minutes, and lengthen each time by a few more minutes–there, you‘re meditating!
- Aim for as many days as work for you–without judgment!
- Remember, a regular practice will increase the benefits
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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