Meditation is the practice of contemplation, in which the use of certain techniques is intended to bring to the practitioner spiritual enlightenment.
The Mayo Clinic, in its book, "Guide to Alternative Medicine" (2007), views meditation from a medical standpoint, and sees it as a viable practice to alleviate stress, reduce high blood pressure, and ease the symptoms of such health conditions as fibromyalgia and asthma. Whether or not you need to treat a medical condition, though, the book advises that "adding [meditation] to your daily schedule may be just the antidote you need to deal with a hectic routine."
Mindful or conscious breathing is the practice of focusing your mind on the motion of breath, of air, and of your body as it oxygenates. Conscious breathing focuses your mind on this one act, and as such puts you into the existing moment, relieving you of all other mental burdens.
Lie on the floor, knees bent and feet flat. Place a small pillow under your neck for support if desired. Place one hand just under your ribs and the other on your belly. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Release the breath slowly through your mouth. Continue the process for three to five minutes. Focus on the physical sensation of breathing and the motion it creates beneath your palms.
Perform this basic technique each morning to awaken your mind and body, and at the end of your day to release built up tensions and prepare your body for sleep.
Meditation on the Go
Deep breathing doesn't require special equipment, or even a quiet space. When you're practiced with this technique, use it throughout the day to reduce stress and better manage your mindset.
For example, if the long line at the supermarket causes you to worry about getting home on time or being late for work, take the opportunity instead to stand erect, with your hands on the cart handle, and practice deep breathing. To everyone else, you're simply standing in line. You, however, are taking control of the situation and warding off impending stress.
Your reaction to a possibly stressful situation may be altered by taking a few moments to practice this basic meditation technique. Rather than experience the physical effects of stress (e.g. tightened muscles, shallow breathing, and upset stomach), you are calm, relaxed, and prepared to handle the situation in a rational manner.
Expanding Your Meditations
Meditation includes several techniques, many of which may be combined to suit specific emotional, mental, and physical needs. Muscle relaxation, for example, works well with the deep breathing technique to induce sleep and alleviate muscle and joint pain.
Start your deep breathing meditation. After a few breaths, shift your focus to your feet, tensing the muscles in your feet and then relaxing them. Continue this focused tense/relax sequence as you visually move upward, tensing and relaxing your calves, your thighs, your buttocks, your back, and so on, until you reach your facial muscles. Follow this exercise with a few more deep breaths to complete the meditation.
Meditation as a Gateway
Meditation as part of your daily life may prove to be more than just a way to handle stress; it could prove to be a gateway to a heightened sense of who you are as a person and your place in this world. You may, to paraphrase the old saying, learn to hear yourself think.