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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: MEDITATION

Meditation is a way of transcending the everyday level of consciouness by emptying the mind of conscious thoughts and concerns. It involves training your awareness so that your mental processes come under conscious control. There are many forms of meditation but their goal is always to enhance physical and mental well-being.

Meditation has been practised for at least 3,000 years. Most of the forms we know today are of Eastern origin and associated with spiritual practice, but for most people in the West meditation is seen as a simple self-help technique for which no religious beliefs are necessary. The practical advantages of meditation are that it can be performed in any comfortable place where you will be undisturbed for 20 minutes or so, and that any sitting or lying position that suits the individual may be adopted.

There are two stages in the meditative process: the first is physical relaxation and the second is focusing and emptying the mind. Concentrating on your breathing is an ideal way of doing this, as it makes you focus on something calming which also blocks out other thoughts and quietens the mind. Some people find it more helpful to repeat a single word or mantra, or focus on a single object such as a flower or a candle. Whatever the method used, breathing should be unforced and slow, with the stomach gently rising and falling and the shoulders staying still. When you are relaxed, close your eyes and continue to concentrate on each in and out breath, excluding all other thoughts, until you gradually become more and more relaxed, eventually reaching a trancelike state. At this point the mind is calm yet alert; the brain is producing an even pattern of alpha and theta brainwaves which is the ‘relaxation response’. You have reached a state of the utmost balance and harmony and let go of all tensions.

Research has shown that regular meditation, for about 20 minutes once or twice a day, lowers blood pressure and relieves depression and anxiety. Other benefits include improved concentration, creativity and memory and increased energy levels. Meditation has also helped people overcome addictions to drugs such as tranquillizers and alcohol.

Meditation is discussed more fully elsewhere here .

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