Monday, September 28, 2009

Ok, it's official now

The world-renown Mayo Clinic sends out a newsletter monthly.  This month’s lead article is on meditation.  It begins:
Meditation offers an efficient relaxation program that's been practiced across the world in most cultures for thousands of years. Meditation has the potential to enhance your well-being, improve your focus and concentration, and improve your overall quality of life.
In research studies, meditation programs have been shown to enhance memory and learning, decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, help control blood pressure, improve back pain and fatigue, decrease anger, and improve overall well-being.

At the root of things
The concept behind meditation is to train your mind to decrease its restlessness and its tendency to generate many, often negative, thoughts. Just as aerobic exercise strengthens your heart, meditation is an exercise to strengthen your mind's focus. Training involves concentration, relaxation and task-specific exercises.

An untrained mind's attention tends to be superficial, often disengaged, and focused on the negative. Such attention increases stress and decreases efficiency and joy in life.

Training your mind allows you to deepen your attention, focus on the present moment and appreciate your situation, rather than worrying about the past or future.
It says to meditate as long as you like but at least 10 minutes.  Unless you are a Quaker, you may find sitting still and quietly for 10 minutes too difficult.  It is important to just do a minute or two or whatever floats your boat and not to discourage yourself.  Here are some words to help spend the 10 minutes in meditation.  A good book on the subject is available from is The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, now available in Kindle format ($7.99) or used, for 1 cent plus shipping.
It is a bit funny that sitting still and quietly was developed thousands of years ago and is practiced all over the world and yet until Jon Kabat-Zinn and others started doing it with cancer and pain patients, it wasn’t recognized as medically important by Americans.  Now everybody and his brother is using this simple process to stay in touch with one’s internal self, moods, thought and whole body.
Note: the same issue explains the value of yoga and tai chi for the body, mind and spirit!  Meditation, yoga and tai chi can all be done by anyone in any medical condition.  All are very old practices and all have value as busy Americans are beginning to realize.

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