Stress levels have undoubtedly soared during the last few months with the global pandemic, lockdown and worldwide economic woes. Stress is a killer in its own right, causing a range of health issues that can lead to long-term problems, so it’s a good idea to find ways to de-stress in these trying times.
If you are put off by the idea of meditation by the vision of saffron-robed, shaven-headed devotees chanting prayers in a cloud of incense, think again! You don’t have to join a religious movement, withdraw from the world or become a vegetarian to reap the benefits of meditation.
Not only does this type of ‘switching off’ do wonders for relaxing body and mind, but, by focusing the brain, it increases mental alertness and concentration, and improves memory and overall energy.
As a tool for fighting stress-related illnesses, meditation can prove invaluable by removing destructive nervous tension.
Simplicity is Key for meditation
Simplicity and straightforwardness are the keys to meditation, which makes it a technique that’s instantly and freely available to anyone. Most forms of meditation used in the west today are variations on basic Zen techniques as practised over centuries by Buddhist monks in China and Tibet.
If you go to a school or centre for meditation, you may be given a mantra, which is a short Sanskrit word or phrase chosen for its deeply relaxing effect on both your conscious and subconscious levels of thought.
A meditation phrase can help
However, to meditate successfully you can just as easily devise your own keyword or rhyming phrase to help you get into a calm, reflective state of mind. Concentrating on a word or phrase is just a device to block out all other thoughts and problems which may pop into your head.
A yoga teacher might suggest using the word ‘one’ – similar to the mantra ‘om’ – simply counting one to ten or concentrating your attention on one particular object. Remember, however, hypnotic repetitiveness, not variety, in the object of your word image, so don’t get carried away with anything long-winded.
Meditation for Beginners
When you first begin meditating, you will find that, even when you concentrate on your mantra, your mind will start to stray to other things. Just nudge these ‘intruders’ gently out of your conscious mind and return your focus firmly to your keyword.
Eventually, you will switch off and slip quite easily into a calm, withdrawn state, pushing aside such worries as to what to cook for supper or how much laundry you have to do.
Set aside the same 10 to 20-minute period each day for meditation. First thing in the morning, lunchtime or early evening is ideal, but just not before bedtime, because meditation recharges your store of energy and will prevent you from sleeping.