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Meditation

What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What Happens During Treatment?
What Is It Used For?
Side Effects/Cautions
Recommended Books
Recommended CDs


What Is It?
Practised for thousands of years in India and Asia, meditation is a way of calming the mind to reduce stress, promote mental and physical wellbeing, and for personal growth.

The original goal of meditation as practised in the East, was to achieve enlightenment - a higher state of consciousness which brings about deep spiritual awareness. As practised today in the West, however, meditation has no religious overtones (although it can be combined with spiritual practices) and is used primarily for its benefits to health.

Meditation became popular in the West during the 1960s, when the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced transcendental meditation to many western devotees. Other forms of meditation such as mindfulness meditation and breath meditation have also become popular, and numerous scientific studies have shown how meditation can relieve high blood pressure, chronic pain, and many other ailments. Meditation is an integral part of other natural therapies such as ayurveda, qigong, tai chi and yoga.

How Does It Work?
Meditation uses various techniques designed to suspend the constant stream of thoughts flowing through our minds. This induces a feeling of tranquility and deep physical relaxation which eases the tension and stress underlying many physical, mental and emotional problems.

Scientific studies have shown that meditation increases the intensity of alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with calm, relaxed, receptive states. Other studies have shown that it reduces the level of stress hormones in the body, synchronises brain waves between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, improves circulation, slows the heart rate and can relieve high blood pressure.

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What Happens During Treatment?
Meditation techniques can be learned from a trained teacher, or you can teach yourself with the help of books, videos or tapes. There are a variety of techniques, all with a few basic requirements for successful meditation:

- a quiet place where you will not be disturbed
- a comfortable sitting position - in a straight-backed chair or sitting cross-legged if you can manage it
- something to focus on - the breath, a word or phrase repeated rhythmically (mantra), or an object such as a candle flame or religious symbol
- a passive attitude - the ability to let go of bodily tension and the thoughts that enter your mind, and to refocus without effort when the mind wanders.

It is recommended that beginners start with a short period of meditation, say 5-10 minutes, and gradually work up to 20 minutes twice a day. For some people it can take many months, or even years of practice before the full benefits of meditation are experienced.

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What Is It Used For?
Meditation is used to relieve anxiety, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, asthma, stress, chronic muscle tension and chronic pain. Many people who have practised meditation for years report a general increase in wellbeing, fewer visits to the doctor, and improved memory and mental abilities.

Side Effects/Cautions
People suffering from psychosis, or other severe psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, should avoid meditation as it may trigger psychotic episodes or induce a disturbing loss of sense of self.

Not everyone is capable of reaching the deeply relaxed state of meditation, some may even feel more tense, confused and anxious than usual. Meditation may also bring up unsettling thoughts or disturbing memories from childhood. If you experience these problems you may benefit from seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist.

References

Find a Meditation Instructor

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Recommended Books

Prices are in US Dollars

 

Coming to Our Senses : Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness
Jon Kabat-Zinn

This follow-up to the widely praised national bestseller Wherever You Go, There You Are is yet another revolutionary offering from Jon Kabat-Zinn, showing readers how the power of mindfulness can bring radical change to their lives.
In the national bestseller Wherever You Go, There You Are , Jon Kabat-Zinn struck a chord in contemporary society that continues to reverberate to this day. It has been embraced by politicians, business leaders, and celebrities and endures as a classic with readers. In his groundbreaking new book, Dr. Kabat-Zinn teaches us how to harness the power of mindfulness to effect profound change in our personal lives and in the world.
As stress continues to exact a toll on everyday life, people are increasingly turning to ancient, meditative methods, which have been tested by science, to relieve the ill effects and become more focused, healthy, and proactive. Kabat-Zinn has been for decades at the forefront of this mind/body movement and the revolution in medicine and health care it has spawned, demystifying it and bringing it into the mainstream. In Coming to Our Senses, he shares how every human has the capacity to mobilize deep, innate resources for continual learning, growing, healing, and transformation through mindfulness.
Woven into eight parts, Coming to Our Senses uses anecdotes and stories from Kabat-Zinn's own life experiences and work in his clinic to illustrate healing possibilities. At its core, the book offers remarkable insight into how to use the five senses -- touch, hearing, sight, taste, and smell, plus awareness itself -- as a path to a healthier, saner, and more meaningful life.
This is the definitive book for our time on the connection between mindfulness, health, and our physical and spiritual well-being.

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Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course on How to Meditate (with two CDs included)
Sharon Salzberg

Join Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein -- two of America's most respected instructors -- for a step-by-step course in Insight Meditation. Learn at home, at your own pace, with this complete curriculum. The course includes:
• A 240-page Insight Meditation workbook: This workbook is designed as a complete self-guided curriculum. Organized into nine lessons, your workbook features more than 75 step-by-step mindfulness exercises, question-and-answer sections, glossaries, and photographs illustrating correct meditation postures.
• Two 70-minute compact discs: Six meditations teach you these cornerstone practices in the Insight tradition.
• Twelve Insight study cards: Reinforce your practice with these daily reminders of the fundamentals of meditation in a convenient, portable form.

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How to Meditate Using Chakras, Mantras, and Breath (with two CDs included)
Dennis K Chernin

This book can be used by both beginning students who want to learn about the theory and practice of meditation as well as by individuals who have had experience with meditation and breathing techniques and would like to refine or deepen their practice. People with specific physical illnesses or mental health concerns can also use this book if they are interested in using meditation and breathing techniques as part of their treatment plan. There is an overview of the goals of meditation. We explore the question of why we practice meditation, and look at what it means to attain expanded states of consciousness. Misconceptions about meditation are clarified, and there is a discussion of the differences between meditation and concentration, contemplation, and prayer. We explore emotional, psychological, and spiritual benefits of meditation as well as the similarities between meditation and psychotherapy.
We explore medical research on the benefits of meditation in such areas as decreasing levels of hormones related to the stress response, controlling high blood pressure, and helping depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The mechanism of the stress response is outlined, followed by a detailed description of how meditation and breathing techniques help us better control the autonomic nervous system and other brain functions. The five components of the mind that are presented are thoughts, the sensory-integration component, the sense of self, decision making, and memory. These aspects of the mind are all strengthened by the practice of meditation.
Audio CDs that systematically lead the practitioner through the various phases of the meditation described in this book are also available. They can be used in conjunction with and also separately without reference to the book. World famous drummer Muruga Booker accompanies Dr. Chernin in the tracks that prepare the student for meditation.

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 More Meditation Books
 How to Meditate Books

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Recommended CDs

 

Guided Meditations: For Developing Calmness, Awareness, and Love
Bodhipaksa

Ideal for beginners to meditation, this CD will guide you through the most fundamental Buddhist meditation practices, and is a straightforward guide to working with your mind in order to become calmer and happier.
The Mindfulness of Breathing practice will help you to develop more calmness and peace of mind; the Metta Bhavana will help you to develop a more positive attitude to yourself and others; and walking meditation is a powerful method of bringing awareness into your daily life.
This audio CD contains three guided meditations:
The mindfulness of breathing (27.12)
The Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness) (26.50)
Walking meditation (19:48)

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Yoga Nidra Meditation CD: Extreme Relaxation of Conscious Deep Sleep
Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

Yoga Nidra means "Yogic Sleep". It is a deep relaxation in which you leave the waking state, go past the dreaming state, and enter into the deep sleep state, while remaining fully awake and alert. This state of awareness is extremely beneficial, both for releasing stress, and for experiencing the joy of subtler spiritual explorations or experiences.
The voice will systematically guide you to explore your physical body, then move through 61 specific points within the body, and then practice ascending breath awareness along the body and spine. Your attention will be brought to the space between the eyebrows, then to the throat, and finally to the heart center, where you will go deep into stillness and silence, beyond the activities of the mind.
Following the custom of the ancient sages, the depth of Yoga Nidra comes from inner awareness of the levels of your own self, including your body, breath, and the subtler mind, rather than diverting attention through music or inner fantasies. This inner exploring through self-awareness is a more refined form of meditation that leads you deeper into the stillness and silence of your own being, while remaining fully awake and aware. The Yoga Nidra methods bring you to a place of awareness where you are able to completely let go of any words, thoughts, images, impressions, or pictures in the mind. You are guided to allow your mind to "empty, empty, empty" though you remain fully awake and clear of mind.
The practices on this CD will gently train your ability to direct your own attention, which is the primary skill in the art of meditation. You will find that you are gradually able to use these methods on your own, without the CD, and the benefits will be with you not only during your practice time, but also during the activities of daily life.
The Yoga Nidra CD has five tracks. The first track is an introduction (8:02 minutes), describing the state of Yoga Nidra and the practices on the CD. The next four tracks move through four sequential practices that are listened to together, so as to form a complete practice of 57:24 minutes (CD is 65:36 minutes in total). These four tracks can also be listened to individually, as complete practices unto themselves, which allows you to have the benefits of practice when less time is available.
After some time of practicing Yoga Nidra, you will naturally find it to be a most enjoyable and spiritually inspiring part of your life.

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Meditation for Beginners
Jack Kornfield

Start Meditating Today with This Beginner's Guide. Have you ever thought about trying meditation, but didn't know how to get started? On Meditation for Beginners, trusted teacher Jack Kornfield uses clear language and step-by-step demonstrations to show you how simple it is to start - and stick with - a daily meditation practice. In this complete beginner's course, Jack introduces you to the "Insight" tradition of meditation. Zen monks draw from this same tradition, yet anyone can use its principles to cultivate a profound inner calm, while awakening to the truth of life. Four complete meditation exercises teach you how to work with breathing, posture, attention, forgiveness - even difficult emotions - to create tranquility and clarity in your everyday life. Now you can begin meditating today - in just the time it takes to listen to Meditation for Beginners.

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