What Is Meditation Anyway, Really?
There are many variations, postures, disciplines, and types of meditation, so it's no wonder people wonder what type will benefit them the most.
Meditation has many different names in different traditions, like "watching the mind", "mindfulness" "quiet contemplation", "japa", "sadhana", "mahamudra", "soul searching", and for HMHB we call it "awareness training." We have refined the best of meditative practices from across the globe for over thirty years to deliver a daily practice that can benefit anyone to help calm the mind & body, develop focus, promote greater physical health, and ignite our most genuine and peaceful self from the inside out!
Really, what meditation is, at its essence in all traditions, both spiritual and scientific, is perpetual observation of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations with an ever-increasing calm body and quiet mind.
Meditation is not passive, it's quite active, with focus, awareness, attention being the actions. Whether you are focusing on breath, your body, your movement, intentions, or prayer, you are doing so from an active place of awareness.
Meditation is not limited to a spiritual practice, as many Western researchers in particular have proven. Activating our innate sense of awareness, quieting the mind, and calming the body are skills everyone can benefit from regardless of belief or experience.
Even just setting aside 10-15 a minutes a day of time where you have to sit alone quietly with yourself, will make a huge impact on your ability to calm your mind, your body, and even allow you to heal better. (See current RESEARCH on the surprising benefits of meditation at the bottom of this blog as well as how meditation is just one component of the self-healing puzzle.)
Our HMHB daily practice is suitable for beginners, and comprehensive enough for advanced practitioners. CLICK HERE to our free foundations program page, and click on the green box to start the guided audio daily practice. HMHB guides children and adults through:
1) awareness of body
2) breath practices to focus/calm/slow the mind and body
3) breathing to purify & balance the mind and body
4) a connection practice where you can actually feel peace entering your body and opening your heart (this is the part missing from most meditation practices)
5) a loving, kindness meditation for you to connect to yourself, your surroundings, & the world
6) a practice to silence the mind relatively quickly, where you can observe thoughts & enjoy a quiet mind (anytime, anywhere)
Want to learn why meditation isn't enough for comprehensive wellness skills? See our blog: BEYOND MINDFULNESS for more on how traditional models of mindfulness meditation don't go far enough.
ALSO, here's some great scientific research for you the benefits both mental and physical on meditation!
1) Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it's been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes. Research has shown that breathing exercises like those in pranayama can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. Slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down. Harvard researcher Herbert Benson coined the term "The Relaxation Response" in 1975 with a book of the same name. In it, Benson used scientific research to show that short periods of meditation, using breathing as a focus, could alter the body's stress response. In his new book, "Relaxation Revolution", Benson claims his research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. He says that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind. "It does away with the whole mind-body separation," Benson says. "Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes we're changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress."
2) In various university studies conducted over the past 15 years here's the amounts of time of meditation needed in order to:
- Feel warmly toward a stranger : 7 minutes
- To feel less stressed: 3 consecutive days, 25 minutes a day
- To improve attention: 4 days, 20 minutes a day
- To reduce cigarette cravings: 10 consecutive days, 30 minutes a day
- To feel closer to your partner: 8 weeks, 150 minutes a week
- To become the happiest person on earth: 10,000 + hours over a life time
3) In various studies on the potential benefits of meditation, many aspects of functioning such as sleep, memory, the immune system, to the health of bowels improved!
- Makes You Nicer: When Buddhist monks practiced compassion meditation while having brains scanned they showed increased neural activity related to empathy.
- Soothes Your Back Pain: Eight months of mindfulness training for nearly five months showed relief!
- Soothes Hot Flashes: Multiple studies have shown that mindfulness, yoga, and deep breathing have a chilling effect on hot flashes.
- Increases your ability to not get sick and to heal more quickly: a neurochemical called IGA increases dramatically with daily meditation, and this same neurochemical is like the body's natural flu shot to itself, boosting its immune system and promoting quicker healing.
- Makes For Better Sleep: After a six-week meditation workshop, insomniacs felt better rested and less depressed because they were better rested and less depressed.
- Smoothes the Ego: Meditation turns on the body's parasympathetic nervous system, the flip side of fight or flight. Heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension decrease.
- Helps With Cravings & Loosing Weight: Mindfulness stokes self-control, and distances you from your cravings, making weight loss that much easier.
- Helps IBS: In one study, eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction tempered tummy turbulence by a whopping 26.4 %.
- Helps Your Memory: Meditation, visualization, and yoga improved cognition according to a small study of older adults.
4) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be at least as effective as antidepressants at preventing relapse of PTSD. In a two-year trial by Willem Kuyken’s team, 44% of the MBCT cohort relapsed compared with 47% on pills. In one trial of 173 people, it was also found to reduce the severity of current depression, with an average 37% reduction in symptoms. It is being taught widely in the private sector with qualified MBCT teachers delivering courses in parish halls, workplaces and beyond.
Serenity How? August 2016. Oprah Magazine
HEAL documentary on Netflix