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Just be still and know: Meditation for the laymen

Posted on 06-23-2015 Posted in Mental Health - 0 Comments

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Meditation is the process of freeing the mind from cares. It requires concentration and a quiet environment. Some people meditate for hours; some for as little as 20 minutes. Most sit in the lotus position—that is, on the ground with hands folded in the lap and legs bent at the knees and crossed at the ankles. A mantra is a word or phrase quietly uttered over and over to produce a sense of rhythm, order and calm. Others forego the mantra in favor of single tone or ohm. This, too, is intended to focus the mind on as little as possible. Still others remain perfectly quiet.

Not just for Buddhists anymore

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Tibetan monks incorporated meditation into their existence and their striving for nirvana. Nirvana is not just a grunge band but a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, nor desire, nor sense of self. The subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.

In the sixties and seventies, meditation, particularly Zen Buddhist meditation, became quite fashionable. In 1974, Robert M. Pirsig wrote “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” It was a bestseller and has sold more than five million copies. It is the fictional account of father and son’s motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California. Initially rejected by more than 100 publishers, the book is now regarded as an iconic work and became required reading in many college philosophy classes.

In the book, the first-person narrator explores the concepts of being, existence and morality. The book is a long meditation on life and the best way to live it. The narrator waxes philosophically on the rise of technology and how it impacts the individual. Ultimately, the success of the book, critically and commercially, had to do with its fundamental tenets that a good life is a life spent in reflection and contemplation.

The growing influence of technology

A person seeking to utilize meditation in his or her own life need not aspire to such lofty ideals as achieving nothingness or embarking on a spiritual journey. Meditation is a simple method for disconnecting in this digital age. Consider for a moment the demands placed upon a typical human being in this society. Before the Internet, life, while hectic, was local. Students researched subjects using encyclopedias or microfiche. Business was mainly conducted over the phone or fax. Huge conglomerates existed, but commerce was conducted in-house because the global portals that we now take for granted were non-existent.

These days, distractions are hard-wired into our collective DNA. Try as one might to remain a single, unattached entity, the external world not only intrudes but demands. Think what life would be without a smartphone? Much of what humans do these days is done on a mobile device that, to go without, could render a person obsolete. The world at large and the world of technology have synergized. Distraction in the form of a chirp or a buzz or a notification is simply unavoidable.

FOMO

A recent sampling of the influence technology has on mental health reveals facebook and other social networking sites make people more social but also have given rise to FOMO or thefear of missing out. Technology has made it possible for people to have real time updates on a plethora of events, parties, concerts and happenings. But it is more than just being in the know.

Technology now shapes what is in and what is obsolete. When Apple or Samsung unveils the latest smart phone or tablet, the rollout is accompanied by a variation on the same theme: buy now or be left out. Technology has made the quantum shift from creating devices that facilitate business and commerce to designing new gadgets that simply connect us to each other and to our interests. Knowledge was king but trending has usurped its throne.

Powering down

Meditation lowers the heart rate, improves digestion, relieves stress and improves mental well being. But it also affords the individual the opportunity to connect to his own thoughts. So much of what is discussed today is, essentially, regurgitated news. Something begins as a tweet and is re-tweeted ad nauseam. A story or video goes viral and is accepted as fact. The foibles of a drunken celebrity or wannabe celebrity are splashed across the Internet. But when a person disconnects from all of that and is still, he or she has the ability to reclaim the sense of individuality that incessant connectivity eradicates. He or she is able to re-establish his or her sense of self.

Here are some tips on how to meditate:

  • Stick with it — select a specific time and be still for at least 20 minutes
  • Practice deep slow breathing
  • Stretch before you begin
  • Meditation isn’t some weird mystical practice; it’s about focus and concentration so meditate with a purpose
  • When you get frustrated — and you will — just relax and keep going. It gets better
  • Focus on your feet and move your concentrate your mind up your body

Meditation is one of the many alternative therapeutic approaches used to help combat mental illness and substance addiction. At Sovereign Health of Fort Myers, Florida we utilize meditation along with other effective therapeutic methods to help provide our patients with an effective and holistic recovery. To learn more about our programs for drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring disorders you can talk to a member of our team through our LiveChat or over the phone.

Written by Darren Fraser, Sovereign Health Group writer

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