Imagine your doctor giving you a prescription for the perfect medicine. If your blood pressure is high it lowers it. It boosts your immune system to help you fight colds and other illnesses. It reduces your stress and promotes relaxation. It helps you utilize oxygen more efficiently which improves your brain functions including memory, and you can breathe easier too. It reduces pain. It reduces or eliminates many minor health issues you've been experiencing. It even helps you feel better about yourself. And amazingly, it has no negative side effects.
Even more amazing, it's low cost or free.
That medicine is meditation.
Meditation benefits play an invaluable role in your overall wellness, and it can be a tremendous aide to personal awakening. It is true mind-body medicine.
What's the best type for you? That depends...so keep on reading to learn more. Each type of meditation offers different benefits and the effects of meditation vary by type. My primary practice is Agni Yoga Meditation, described below. It is a safe, effective, easy to learn method.
Physical benefits of meditation include lower heart rate and normalized blood pressure, lower levels of hormones associated with stress, reduction of free radicals, lower cholesterol, improved lung functioning, improved digestion and younger biological age. Meditation helps numerous health conditions including insomnia, asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel, fibromyalgia and headaches. It helps with pain management, too.
Psychological meditation benefits include reduced anxiety, irritability and depression, increased memory and learning capabilities, improved mood and emotional stability. Meditation improves self esteem and self acceptance. Studies show that regular meditators have increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with creativity and moral reasoning, and that their brain waves are more coherent.
Meditation benefits reported by practitioners include: A greater sense of the interconnection of all life, greater acceptance, peace, a more positive, open outlook, feeling more youthful, higher self-esteem and much more.
The effects of meditation described by advanced practitioners: Freedom from the tyranny of the "monkey mind" that is like a 24/7 movie of thoughts, images, feelings and memories. A sense of Oneness emerging, a feeling of returning Home. This brings deep gratitude for all life and is a huge relief.
Concentration Methods focus our awareness on a specific object, an image (such as a religious figure), a sound, or even the breath itself. Concentration practice narrows our awareness down, zeroing it in closer and closer to the object. This can lead to a deep sense of relaxation as observer and what is observed merge into oneness, transcending the sense of a separate self. Concentration practice develops the ability to focus more deeply.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is the best known brand of concentration practice. It's been extensively researched. You learn a Sanskrit word or phrase (a mantra) that you repeat silently to yourself over and over to relax and move into a place of awareness beyond thinking.
An great, free resource for concentration meditation, similar to TM, is Deepak Chopra. He has teemed up with Oprah Winfrey to periodically offer 21 day guided concentration meditations at no charge. Click here for their meditation website.
There are many other forms of concentration practice.
Try one yourself: Simply sit quietly for a few minutes and focus your awareness on your breath without trying to change it in any way, just observing.
Or pick a sound, word or short phrase, such as "OM" or "Peace" and repeat it silently to yourself in a slow, deliberate manner. While you may feel some relaxation in a couple of minutes, it often takes 20-30 minutes for you to move into a deeply relaxed state beyond thought.
Just reading about it will do
very little but build up your knowledge base. Be sure you allow some
time to practice this or another type of meditation so you can
experience meditation benefits for yourself.
Mindfulness, or Insight or Buddhist meditation is watching the mind in all its aspects with your awareness. Instead of concentrating your focus, your focus of awareness expands to include everything inside (thoughts, sensations, emotions) and outside (perceptions through your senses). This develops sensitivity to the present moment, one of its meditation benefits.
Try it: Sit for a few minutes with your eyes open. Focus either on your breath or on a point on the floor. But instead of concentrating solely on that, gradually expand your awareness to the constantly changing flow of thoughts, feelings and sensations that enter your mind. As you find yourself distracted and caught up in a story or thought, just bring your focus back to the present moment and your initial object (breath or point on floor). Gradually, but often over a long period of time, your present moment awareness increases as well as a sense of presence or acceptance. Mindfulness is not restricted to formal practice of meditation, but can be brought to any activity by bringing observing or present moment awareness to whatever you do.
Active Meditation is the area that I have the most expertise. In this type of practice you actively engage your mind, taking it on a journey from one place in consciousness to another. Visualization (Imagery) is one form of active meditation that can powerfully engage your healing abilities or intuition.
Experience the power of visual imagery: With your eyes closed, imagine sitting at a dining table with a bowl of fruit in front of you. Take a moment to really see the fruit and pick out a ripe lemon. Hold it in front of you and see its bright yellow color and slightly oily skin. Place it on a cutting board and cut it into wedges. Now pick up a slice and take a big bite out of it. What happened? When I first tried this I was shocked at the power of our minds.
Active meditations can support our personal growth and our healing. They can be short...such as the lemon imagery or much longer...30 minutes or more.
Now let's look at an active
practice that is not well known but can be highly effective in
accelerating personal awakening and wellness.
Agni Yoga or Inner Light Meditation, is a different kind of practice, uniquely suited to the modern world we live in. It's body-oriented, practical and comprehensive. It contains mindfulness and body focus of Buddhist approaches, but goes a step further, incorporating a focus on energy.
Inner Light meditation can be
easily learned yet can be studied for years and still provide new
discoveries and challenges. I've been a student for over 35 years and
find my daily practice restorative and enlivening. I'll say much more in
the Agni Yoga section and provide a sample technique there so you can
try it yourself.
Agni Yoga is a step-by-step process of engaging your mind to focus "Inner Light Fire" through your body. It can clear out psychological and physical blockages or conditioning that impede awakening. You learn to enlighten awareness and tap into pure unlimited sources of light/energy within yourself. It's refreshing and mind expanding and has all the meditation benefits described above. You learn to consciously engage the deep wisdom of your body-mind, for healing, creative expression, problem solving and personal growth.
Agni Yoga can be combined with body-oriented work for powerful energy healing. Specific advanced healing techniques have been developed where both practitioner and client work with the tools to amplify the results. See the Energy Healing page for my description of an awakening as a result of one session. Clients report many benefits such as feeling and looking younger, having more energy, a sense of expanded awareness of the divine, a new openness, etc.
To learn about our retreat focusing on Agni Yoga, which is called Inner Light Healing Retreat, click here.
To learn about our deep emotional healing retreats go here.
For more information about the meditation benefits of Agni Yoga, you can reach me via the form below. I'm available in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts (serving the Pioneer Valley) and New York City. (For information on my one-on-one work in New York click here.) I can also provide referrals to teachers and healers in other areas of the country.