Living our best life requires an investment in our health. It requires a lifelong commitment to practices that keep the mind and body nourished and restored for the increasing demands of this world.
The essence of meditation is singular – to cultivate mindful awareness. It is true that anyone who meditates regularly receives profound benefits on all of these levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
New research also shows that mindfulness meditation restores the brain. A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self and stress regulation.
Mindfulness practice allows you to be more intentionally aware of the present moment, which gives you space to pause before reacting automatically to others. Instead of becoming distressed about rejection or criticism, you are able to step back to understand your own automatic reactions. Awareness gives you more choice in how to respond, instead of becoming swept up in escalating negative emotions.
Meditation is not easy, and if it was, it would not be able to deliver to you the peace and well-being that it does once you get the hang of it. Like all worthy endeavors, it takes practice, patience and even some hard work in order to benefit from its invaluable insights.
One core belief of Buddhism teaches that both happiness and sadness is the responsibility of each individual, which also means that we all have the complete control to change our lives. Meditation is one the the oldest practices in history and has been used for centuries to heal the human spirit, calm the mind and even cure and aid physical paid and emotional suffering.
* Next Week – Getting started with mindfulness and letting go of your depression*
Yoga and good health
As we continue this important topic of yoga and good health, lets raise our awareness more to the subtle nature of prana, the subtle life force inside us.
Whilst we are used to breath in and out through the nose or mouth, the flow of prana is more subtle and deeper. Pranayama, which as said before, is the technique of channeling the prana to be more beneficial to us, and should be taught by a qualified teacher or instructor. The Art of Living programs e.g. the Happiness Course, the Sri Sri Yoga course teach the different pranayamas.
The benefits of pranayama to good health is that it clears the very subtle blocks in our system that may negatively affect our health condition. The benefits can be experienced in among others, the treatment of stress related conditions; relieving the symptoms of respiratory disorders; enriching blood and our organs with oxygen; positively affecting our thoughts and steadying the mind; significantly improving the sleeping patterns; etcetera. Learning pranayama is a big step towards self-healing.
With all the knowledge that we are exposed to, sometimes it is not easy to internalize this knowledge and “live it”. Consequently we are forever decrying deteriorating health or moral fibre, and lack of societal harmony. Yoga addresses the individual at a very personal, wholistic and practical level.
It brings one to a realization that we are responsible for our own health, and not our boss at work, not the medical system nor somebody else. It is the most natural way to healing, among other things. This realization leads one to the fact that even your happiness relies only on you, and to not give other people permission to control or determine your happiness.
These benefits however only come from regular (as in daily) practice of pranayama. It therefore requires commitment and self-discipline because it is a lifestyle or a way of life. Otherwise the knowledge you have about how good your life can be remains a concept, and not a reality. Unless you “live” the knowledge, it is futile and really has no use.
Closely coupled with pranayama towards good health is asana (physical stretches or postures) the third limb of yoga, and finally the different levels of meditation. When we practice the asanas, we also use deep breathing to steady the posture as you hold it.
More next week ……
The wisdom of mindfulness and Depression
When looking at depression we must look to our minds first: our mind is the creator of happiness and the creator of sadness.
There are many aspects of the mind but two stand out. The first is the ordinary mind: this aspect of the mind that thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, that flares up in anger, that creates and indulges in waves of negative emotions and thoughts, that has to go on and on asserting, validating and confirming its ‘existence’ by fragmenting, conceptualizing and solidifying experiences. This aspect of mind continually projects outwards.
And then there is the nature of mind: this aspect of the mind is hidden deep within our own mind. Enveloped and obscured by the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. It is free of grasping, asserting, validating and confirming. It is the part of mind that is at peace. When we look inwards we will see that the mind can free you from your negative emotions and thoughts. Looking inwards will create a complete shift in our attitude towards our life and the world we live in.
We are so addicted to looking outside ourselves that we have lost access to our inner being. This aspect of ourselves that has the potential to recognize peace and find freedom from our chaos. Mindfulness practice will slowly teach you to settle down, learn how to work with your mind and guide you towards peace. You will be able to change your mind from a depressed state to a calm state.
Daily mindfulness practice is an uncovering process – a way of meeting ourselves personally. Mindfulness allows you to discover that potential is one of the fundamental characteristics within us and we can gain a deeper sense of understanding ourselves and creating peace of mind. Your mind becomes the most powerful tool you have!
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