We were inspired to share with you a summary of last week’s email. It is devoted to one of the five most useful practices – meditation.
Meditation increases grey matter in a number of critical areas, and can reduce processes that are associated with brain aging (telomere shortening and cortical thinning).
Meditation is especially helpful for developing your capacity for dealing with stress without becoming depressed, and for helping to moderate high energy states (hypomania) so that they don’t get out of control. In fact, meditation is one of the two practices that is the most helpful for mood stabilization (the other one being a regular wake up time with bright light) and unlike medications it doesn’t have negative side effects.
This is his excellent summary of the core aspects of meditation practice –
The best meditation of all is . . . the one you will do. So find what you like and will stick with. There are tons of books, talks, even videos about meditating, plus great teachers all over the place. Here I’ll offer a summary.
Relax. Rest. Intend to meditate. Come into a sense of presence with yourself. Know whether you are meditating in relationship to something transcendental (such as in prayer) or not. (I’ll describe a “secular” meditation here.)
Find something to anchor attention, such as the sensations of breathing, a word or phrase (e.g., “peace”), or an image. Use an anchor that is stimulating enough to keep yourself present; feel free to do walking meditation or use an audio program to guide you. Meditating with others can also help you stay focused.
Start by giving attention fully to the anchor, letting go of everything else. Center in it, becoming absorbed in it, even for just a few breaths or few minutes.
Then, with an ongoing awareness of your anchor, let your attention widen to include your body . . . thoughts . . . feelings . . . wants . . . and overall mental atmosphere. You’re not trying to make your mind blank. Let things come and go, just don’t jump on board of them. Without stress or strain, gently open to relaxing and quieting, and to an increasingly stable presence as experiencing, being a body breathing in peace.
Meditate for as long as you like. Even one minute is good – and ten, twenty, or even forty-five minutes could be even better. I suggest you join me in being committed to meditating every day for at least one minute.
Toward the end of meditation, let the benefits sink into you.
If you tend toward dissociation or getting flooded with painful feelings when you relax into yourself, then you may need to build up more inner resources before meditating. Also, try to not be self-critical; this is not a performance test! Meditation is a skill and like any other, you’ll get better at it over time, and its benefits for you will grow.
Most of all, find the enjoyment in meditation. Follow that enjoyment home.