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Meditation for Health

by Lita de Alberdi(more info)

listed in meditation, originally published in issue 32 - September 1998

What is meditation?

Put simply, meditation is a way of slowing down. By sitting for maybe twenty or thirty minutes at a time, focusing on your chosen process, you can move into a space where you may eventually become blissfully unaware of time passing.

Meditation can be refreshing and nourishing as well as creating a sense of peace and inner harmony. There is nothing new about meditation, it is a technique that has been followed for thousands of years.

Meditation is a practice that can bring tremendous benefits at all levels: it can help your physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health.

No need for the Lotus position

No need for the Lotus position

Physical benefits

Meditation can slow down the processes of your body. Think of the great yogis who can slow down their heartbeat to practically nothing.

Although you don't need to go to these lengths, when you move into a state of meditation your heart rate does decrease and your body relaxes. Your brain waves alter as well, they move from the normal waking wave patterns to slower, deeper waves which reflect the deep state of relaxation the mind can move into. Meditation can also strengthen the immune system thus increasing your body's ability to fight disease.

Emotional benefits

Meditation brings calmness and serenity if practised regularly. Detachment from the ups and downs of life is another corollary of regular meditation practice. One man I know said that after a few weeks of meditation he was coming to know himself quite differently, he saw himself with 'new eyes' and he didn't altogether like what he saw. When you practise meditation regularly the blinkers start to come off and you are enabled to see yourself from a new angle. By doing this you become able to make changes to who you are at a psychological and an emotional level. It is as if you are moving to a broader view through meditation.

Psychological benefits

Meditation brings tremendous psychological benefits, including an increased ability to concentrate and to hold a focus. Because of this, meditators are often very efficient and their job performance improves.

Spiritual benefits

As we approach the end of the century we are seeing a huge increase in interest in all things esoteric. The 'New Age' movement is gathering tremendous momentum as thousands of people buy books, tapes and videos which urge us to take responsibility for ourselves and our health. Many, many authors are urging us to take up meditation as a way into this. Meditation is definitely a spiritual path as well. It was meditation that led Buddha to become enlightened as he sat beneath the Bodhi tree. Prayer is a form of meditation too.

Getting started

As a meditation teacher for many years, I am frequently approached by people who have really tried to meditate but they run into all sorts of difficulties in actually doing it. Of course, as with taking up any new practice, there is the motivation problem. For the first few days or weeks we are very keen, we rush to exercise or meditate or whatever we are trying to do, but somehow the motivation drops away, the enthusiasm fades and we move on to the next fad.

One of the most difficult aspects of learning to meditate is perseverance. You do not just sit down and meditate at the first attempt, unless you are extremely lucky. Many of the books on meditation instruct you to sit down and to 'empty your mind'. This is not something that comes easily to Westerners, as we are trained to use our minds and cultivate an active and incisive mode of thinking. This is in direct contrast to the Eastern way of being, a mode where clearing the mind is a great deal easier for them to follow.

Thus, if you are interested in taking up meditation it is helpful to start by trying the methods that have been developed by Westerners, rather than the Eastern techniques. By using guided visualisations and processes you can keep the mind busy, the mind is following the journey or process described and eventually this will liberate the consciousness. When you have become used to sitting still and concentrating, then you can try the more advanced techniques.

One of the greatest mistakes we make is to think that the mind is the consciousness; the mind is the tool of consciousness but consciousness does not arise from the mind. When you meditate the truth of this becomes clear. For me this was a great breakthrough, my training as a scientist told me that the brain was everything and that my awareness arose from my mind, now I know this is not the case and I know this from direct experience. When I have taught other people to meditate and asserted this, they always look skeptical, but after a few weeks of meditation they soon change their view!

If you decide that meditation is something you would like to try, I suggest you begin with a simple visualisation technique for the first couple of weeks and then move on to tapes, if you feel drawn to them. The meditation described here is a good place to start.

First of all, make sure that you won't be interrupted during your meditation, so take the phone off the hook or put the answering machine on. Ask other people in the household not to disturb you for about half an hour. For some people this can present a problem, if so, then just take ten, or even five, minutes to start with. As you become more skilled you will find that you can literally meditate anywhere, but at the beginning it can be easy to get distracted.

Secondly, find a comfortable place to sit. You don't need to sit cross-legged, just concentrate on keeping the back upright, the knees just very slightly lower than the body and the feet firmly on the floor (see illustration). During the meditation resist the urge to scratch, to fidget, to adjust your posture, as these can all be distractions.

• Now take about five minutes to relax your body. Work through the body from the feet up to the head and imagine that you can just let go of the muscles. Make sure that the stomach, the shoulders and the jaw are relaxed as these are places where we hold a lot of tension.

• When you have done this then just bring your attention to your breathing, don't try to change it, just notice the breath moving in and out of your body. Observe as much as you can about your breathing, such as how it feels as the breath moves in and out of the nostrils and where you take the breath to in your body. Stay with this for another five minutes or so.

• Now imagine that you are outside in the sunshine, try to really get a sense of the light of the sun (warm, but not hot) shining down on you. You might like to imagine that you are lying on a quiet beach soaking up the sun. Imagine that you can breathe in the light of the sun, taking it into your body. Let the light fill up every cell of your body as if you are drinking in light. When you feel glowing and full of light, let that light move anywhere in your body where you feel that you are in need of healing. If you feel well physically or when you have done this, then let the light expand out, as if you are radiating light into the energy fields around your body so that you are imagining yourself glowing with light and health. Stay with this part of the meditation for about ten minutes, really using your imagination to help you.

• Now just bring your attention to your breath and on each in breath say to yourself, "breathing in, I am breathing in health", and on each out breath say to yourself, "breathing out, I am completely relaxed". As you do this, try to really feel the truth of what you are asserting. Do this for about twenty repetitions.

• Let it all go and start to bring yourself back to the room, slowly and gently coming back.

This meditation is a great way to start to experience the benefits of meditation at a physical and emotional level. Visualising light is a very powerful tool in self-healing. Just let your imagination be your friend as you begin meditation, you may not actually see light, but just feel it, that is fine. Try doing this process two or three times a week for a month and notice the difference in how you feel before and after.

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About Lita de Alberdi

Lita de Alberdi is the founder of the School of the Living Light. For further information, contact her there for a free newsletter or details of her courses, tapes and books. Tel: 01353 741760 Fax: 01353 741782 or write to The School of the Living Light, 47 Aldreth Road, Haddenham, Cambs. CB6 3PW.

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