Have you noticed there’s a relentlessly manic undercurrent in all our lives which forces us to try to do everything as quickly as possible these days? Perhaps you’re noticing that time seems to be moving incredibly fast and that you very often don’t know where the day has gone? Well, you may find you’re not the only person experiencing this because a lot of other people from teenagers to seniors are all saying the same thing!
There’s no doubt that we in the West live in a very speedy culture. Not only do we have fast food, day-trips to other countries for business meetings and extraordinary trends such as speed-dating, but there are also pressures like the ever increasing demands of impossible deadlines which involve longer working hours. Within this frantic pace, the media bombards us daily with an endless stream of information and images, and technology adds to the pressure by providing instant accessibility from all sides with emails, internet and mobile phones, etc.
All this causes an enormous amount of stress – a factor which is humming in the background of most people’s lives on a daily basis these days. Medical research has found that over 90% of all illness and disease is caused by it.
A great deal of research is being carried out at the moment which focuses on the connection between the brain, the nervous system, the immune system and stress. This particular field of study is called Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) which is now at the cutting edge of current scientific investigation. In a nutshell, this science confirms that the way we think affects the body by sending messages through the nerves, hormones and immune system and therefore impacting upon our health and well-being.
Studies conducted into the effects of meditation have produced literally thousands of scientific papers on the benefits it can bring to general health and well being. Experiments have hown that setting aside a short period for meditation each day can have favourable effects on stress-related problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, poor immune system function, depression and general anxiety and that it has proved effective in lowering cholesterol and reducing chronic pain. Additionally, recent research has shown that parts of the brain grow thicker with meditation. This leads to hopes that daily meditation practice can prevent the loss of brain tissue which usually comes with ageing.
Meditation is a perfectly natural practice. You’ve almost certainly experienced the peace that comes from contemplating a beautiful view or sunset, stroking your cat, or feeling the warm sun on your body as you listen to waves lapping on the shore. That’s a form of meditation. That’s what happens when you sink into a relaxed and pleasurable focus on something. The chatter of the mind begins to stop and we ease into a more tranquil space within ourselves. It’s a wonderful antidote to the roller-coaster effect of stress in our lives.
We’ve actually been meditating since we were first born. Have you ever offered a finger to a small baby to hold? Have you noticed how, when it grasps the finger in its tiny fist, it seems to be wrapped in the wonder of this new experience? You can see from the look on its face that nothing else matters at that moment. That’s meditation! Meditation is all about giving one-pointed focus to something and letting all other extraneous thoughts go.
As we grow up, our ability to do this changes. Toddlers might get absorbed in things like a large leaf that’s blown down from a tree or sailing a toy boat in the bath. As adults we may find we’re brought to a halt by the sight of the exquisite colours of autumn foliage, or stopped in our tracks by the sight of a squirrel crossing our path. Even though these are only momentary pauses, they are meditations nonetheless. We even do it in completely mundane ways: e.g. making a cup of tea. Yes! I kid you not! Think about that process for a moment. You know exactly how long to mash the teabag and how much milk to add. You’ve honed this action to perfection over the years and when you’re making a cuppa, unless you’re engaged in conversation at the time, you give it your complete focus for a few seconds. Teabag meditation! Looking at the sunset – sunset meditation! Watching a squirrel – Squirrel meditation!
The point I’m making is that meditation isn’t just a man-made technique developed by ancient sages living in caves. It’s a natural process. But although we’re all born with an in-built ability to experience these meditative moments and can often enjoy them for long periods at a time as children, we tend to lose the knack of it as we grow up. In the same way that a body with stiff joints and muscles needs to exercise to help regain flexibility, so our minds also need exercise to help us get back to that childhood aptitude for blissful one-pointed focus.
Meditation isn’t difficult to do – especially when you’ve got someone on hand to guide you through the practise. That’s why I decided to record my new CD of healing and meditation techniques from my book “Finding the River”. So many of my clients and students who have had meditation lessons from me have said that it really helps to be led through the techniques.
So, if you’ve been wishing you could find a way to press the ‘pause’ button and give yourself a little oasis of tranquillity from the madness all around you, why not let me guide you into switching off and floating downstream with some of the most popular meditations and healing techniques from my book, “Finding the River”.
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