Opinion Column

(Maisie Plew/Emerald)

Visualize two different lives. One where you are furrowing your brows and gritting your teeth over the onslaught of problems you face, or a more pleasant one. A life where you have less stress and you can more easily confront your problems.

Meditation may aid in achieving this second life. The act of concentration on one’s breathing, sounds, single ideas or other simplicities can calm the mind, heighten focus and increase one’s environmental awareness. Meditators focus on their senses. They focus on their body sensations and their state of mind. Meditation aims to rid the individual of mental clutter.

Several different types of meditation exist, but Mindfulness Meditation is among the most popular. It centers on being aware of your thoughts and body. Those who practice this type learn to savor the present.

However, if Mindfulness is not for you, there are several alternatives.

Visualization Meditations allows the user to visualize positive places or events. Those who are stressed or down could imagine anything from a simple image to their rosiest memories.

Spiritual Meditation focuses on one’s surrounding silence and what the individual finds deeper than themself. Users of Spiritual Meditation observe what is meaningful to them and they try to return to the present.

Transcendental Meditation is a form of mantra meditation, where meditators think effortless sounds with ease. Participants repeat the process two times daily from 15 to 20 minutes.  

Meditation was key in Buddhism, where the Buddha instructed his acolytes to breathe in deep awareness, which would then lead to self-enlightenment. Meditation pervaded in the East, which lead to Zen Meditation, a technique where the user sits while meditating and focuses on the present. Through increased travel between Eastern and Western countries, meditation was introduced to Western intellectuals in the 1800s, but the practice’s popularity reached its peak in American society only in the mid 20th century.

Unfortunately, it never became sufficiently mainstream in the US. To those who have never tried meditation, its concept may seem unconventional. People may question how focusing on one detail can alleviate life’s stressors. Others will state that meditation saps their time.

According to a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health study, around 8 percent of American adults meditated in 2012.  

Consistent meditation can reduce stress for those who suffer minor stressors to those who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or from chronic anxiety.

A 2013 study of 1295 participants by Dr. Orme Johnson revealed that Transcendental Meditation significantly decreased stress in the patients, especially those who suffered the most severe stress. Within two weeks, participants suffering from PTSD and chronic anxiety enjoyed significant stress reductions.

Meditation may also sharpen the mind.

A 60-participant study written in Psychological Science suggested that meditation improves focus. When participants were split into a control group and those who meditated five hours daily, the latter group performed notably better on tedious line flashing tests. The study proposed that tedious tasks would stifle concentration, which did occur. Yet, the meditators were far more proficient in detecting changes in the flashing lines. The experimenters concluded that the meditational group were able to better process visual stimuli.

With studies indicating the wholesome benefits of meditation, I opted to investigate it. I practiced mindfulness meditation, which aims to better one’s environmental awareness. Thus, I pursued Breath Awareness, where one focuses on the deepness and flow of their breathing. After finishing the process, I immediately realized how minor my problems were. Senses regained and joy restored, I felt my head was back on my shoulders.

Nearly riskless, meditation alone can reduce stress and heighten focus, but its benefits remain vastly unrecognized in the US.

Individuals will claim that meditation is not for them, but there exists so many meditation methods that this claim is meritless. Meditation need not squander a giant portion of your life. If 15 to 20 minutes of it can add color to the lives of the chronically anxious, then you have to only benefit from it.

Newcomers who want to get involved with meditation may visit Howtomeditate.org for or Headspace.com for more information.

 

A correction was issued on November 15th, 2018, to correct the description of the transcendental meditation technique.


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