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
We’re still on the mental benefits of meditation, this time looking at will power. Will power is that ability to do something that you know is good for you, which you may not necessarily enjoy doing but you do it out of necessity, out of need.
Examples here would range from regular exercises, eating the right type of food which may not necessarily be yummy, burning the midnight oil to study, ability to quit smoking or alcohol, etc. The biggest test is how to stay on course, maintaining the necessary momentum, knowing there’s a greater gain in the end.
Fortunately, will power can be strengthened, with determination and regular practice of meditation. Meditation gives you the ability to control your thoughts and attention, thereby guiding your actions to dwell on what you deem as priority.
We have countless examples of people who are not able to stop themselves from eating yummy food that causes them to be sick; of people who are not able to bring themselves to exercise though their doctors have recommended it for their well-being; of students or even just adults who’s confidence level is crushed and do not wish to continue with their studies or with life; of people who are battling addictions or facing life threatening health or societal conditions.
As you read this article, do share with your loved ones that there’s a remedy in meditation….. It’s best to do guided meditations with a trained practitioner for best results. Art of Living Botswana amongst others, offers such guided meditation.
The beauty about meditation, just like breathing exercises and yoga stretches is that it’s all scientific. Whilst I have preferred not to get into technical or scientific evidence and data, a lot of research has been done on these practices which have given authentic results.
If at all you’re unsure, or you do fall under any of the categories listed above, you can read more on the subject because it’s very vast. But ultimately, like I always say, the proof is in the eating. Aim to experience all these benefits in any of the Art of Living monthly programs.
In our national agenda to raise an energetic, creative, purposeful, youth, let’s expose them to meditation. It will give them inner strength and will power to overcome any negative forces that distract them from their prosperity.
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 ……