Regular meditation can produce “beneficial effects on well-being”, a recent study has found.
This is according to Dr Britta Hazel, lead researcher on the joint Harvard University and Justus Liebig University study, published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science journal.
Our familiarity with the word meditation comes from the increasing popularity of Eastern practices, although more broadly the word means “to reflect on” or to contemplate.
In this wider definition meditation can take place anywhere.
An uncle of mine found he could meditate on the London Underground in the rush-hour, explaining he would mentally remove himself from what was going on around him. However, he would always be able to sense when he had arrived at his stop – a fact that impressed me as a youngster.
Even more impressive to me was the impact it had on his day. He explained how it gave him a sense of calmness and the ability to not only cope but enjoy all he had to do, despite his high-pressured career in the sciences.
I can’t recall what type of meditation my uncle used. However, the HuffPostUK article helpfully features a series of slides portraying five popular approaches: transcendental meditation; guided meditation; yoga; Vipassana meditation; and breathing.
I have to confess that apart from breathing – which I tend to do without meditating! – I’ve not tried these practices.
Yet I deeply identify with the need to get quiet, calm, relaxed, and focused to find a sense of peace which endures beyond the moment. I have certainly found this enhances health by calming the body as well as the mind.
As a friend of mine said, about a time when a fresh, more spiritual way of thinking about herself brought immediate and permanent relief to a long-term menstrual problem: “Everything just went quiet in my body.”
I meditate daily in this way, weaving in as much silence as I can before leaving home for my morning commute.
But this silence is not a vacuum. It is filled with ideas bringing me a fresh perspective on my experience, gently adjusting my expectations for the day and reducing the stress levels that often seem to be such a part daily life.
In this high-paced, techno-rich age meditation might seem, on the surface, something of an anomaly.
Dig a little deeper, though, and it meets a timeless need for a quiet connection to a peace that comes from beyond ourselves.
Have you treated yourself to a daily dose of that today?
This blog was first published in the Huffington Post UK.