The benefits of meditation are no longer being questioned. When it was suggested to me 20+ years ago, I was not interested, because I thought it was all probably going to be too hard – to sit in a lotus position and clear my head of any thoughts that wanted to pass through. Coming from a medical background where everything we do has to be scrutinised for clinical reasoning it took someone to point out the clinical or physiological reasons why I should meditate, to get me hooked.
80-90% of doctor’s visits are caused by stress. Many people think of stress as the sort of stuff that happens at work or when we’re juggling too many balls on the home front. We need stress to get us out of bed each morning – if we don’t have adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our bodies we have trouble to get going. We need stress when we have to move quickly to get out of danger, but it is essential that we are then able to return to normal when the danger has passed. Unfortunately in the western world of the 21st century, we continue to do and think things that cause a low level of stress to continue. We often think to have a balanced life we need to have sport or exercise. Some, however, take that to extreme and become obsessive about it. That’s when the stress created in our work or other parts of our lives just gets continued and we never get the break our nervous system craves.
How Does the Body Respond?
So what happens when we are stressed? Our bodies get into a state of readiness to run away or stay to fight – the’ flight or fight response.’ This causes our blood vessels to constrict, our hearts to pump faster, our breathing to speed up and our muscles to tense up. While that’s going on, our bodily systems that aren’t needed at that time, shut down. We don’t need our digestive system to be functioning, our sexual and reproductive systems operating or our immune system to be supported, while we run to avoid danger. So guess what happens when we are continuously on red alert? Those systems not being nourished start to breakdown.
East Meets West
Thousands of years ago the Asian Indian community discovered that meditation can bring about the ‘relaxation response,’ which has the opposite effect to the stress response. Research has been done proving that even 5-10 minutes of meditation daily can lower our baseline of stress and help our bodies to function at an optimal level. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly, breathing into the bottom your lungs and feeling no judgement for the thoughts that don’t want to stop appearing. The Buddhists call these thoughts ‘jumping monkeys.’ Acknowledging the thought, then bringing your attention back to your breath, is a way of loving yourself. Whenever we judge anything, especially ourselves, our hearts close down and it takes a sense of love to open it back up again.
I’m sorry to tell you that sitting in front of TV watching your favourite game, doesn’t cut it. Have you ever noticed how churned up you can get if the score is close or someone in the team does something silly? Yoga or something similar can also produce a relaxation response. I don’t teach yoga but I do hold meditation groups. If you think you would like to try:
Contact me for a no obligation conversation to see if you think it would be a great idea for you or a loved one to come along.
Ring 03 456 2246 or 021 281 6438