|Let your mind become like a mirror, reflecting everything.|
There has been a lot of hype lately about meditation as the mindfulness movement sweeps the nation. One of the reasons that everyone is so excited about it is because meditation has been shown to reduce a lot of the stress and anxiety related symptoms that haunt people in today’s increasingly fast-paced world.
Sometimes meditation is confused with the idea of just sitting still and relaxing--which is also good for stress--but is not always what is meant by meditation. Instead, meditation is about training the mind to not drift back into the past to ruminate about things that aren’t happening anymore, nor to race ahead into the future with a lot of “what if” thinking about things that “could” happen, but no one really knows if they will. In fact, meditation requires no thinking at all.
The steady practice of keeping the mind as present--and as in-the-moment as possible--is no easy task, and it's a lot more than simply sitting still. The practice can actually be quite a lot of hard work requiring a constant sense of attention to reflect in one’s mind only that which is present right now. Meditation can eventually be overlaid onto everyday activities and not just sitting practices, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
The main thing to remember is that meditation involves mental exercises that train the mind to stay present or “mindful”. There are a wide variety of techniques designed specifically with this in mind, such as counting the breath, or focusing on a word or question. Sometimes it can be something as simple as directing one’s attention to the feel or sound of the heart beating.
The reason meditation is good for symptoms of anxiety and chronic stress is because its aim is to prevent the mind from ruminating about the past (which can lead to symptoms of depression), and from worrying about the future (which can lead to symptoms of anxiety).
Sitting still and quiet, in a relaxed posture, is very good for the body and reduces symptoms of stress such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, tight and tense muscles, etc. However, it’s what we do with the mind while sitting still that determines the quality of our meditation and has a direct influence on our level of stress and symptoms of anxiety.
Thanks to Balint Foldesi for the photo "Meditation"