“It did to my mind what going to the gym did to my body – it made it both stronger and more flexible,” said Dr. Hedy Kober, a neuroscientist who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation, during an interview with the Mayo Clinic. Many people are skeptical of meditation and practices that are supposed to make you “one” with your body. However, after a colleague suggested I try meditation to help with my joint pain, I began to do some research and am now fascinated with the process.
The art of meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as a way for one to connect with and more deeply understand the meaning of life. Recently, scientists and doctors from all over the world have found that meditation not only connects you to life and your surroundings, but also aids in a plethora of diseases and mental health such as: stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, headaches, cognitive functions, pain management and more.
Because you’re focusing your attention on eliminating the jumbled thoughts that are in your head, meditation brings about a sense of calm, peace and balance. This is especially important for those with health issues, because just the thought of “Did I take my medicine today?” or “Is it too soon to take more pain medication?” or the sheer will of getting out of bed each morning can cause the body crushing amounts of stress and other physical difficulties.
This month I begin my journey into meditation with New York Times best-selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices Sharon Salzberg. Each year, Salzberg does a guided 28-day meditation challenge she shares with her readers and students. The first week introduces what meditation is and three core skills needed in meditation: concentration, mindfulness and loving-kindness. The second week involves movement, your body and body-based meditation techniques. Week three offers participants help with some obstacles commonly found when practicing meditation and how to conquer these obstacles while moving on with the session. Week four wraps everything up with a loving-kindness meditation and explores the different uses of this meditation when met with challenging times or physical pain.
Stay tuned next month for my meditation update and my foray into other meditation practices, like mantra meditation, tai chi and yoga.