Meditation is a centuries-old practice that can significantly enhance one’s physical and emotional wellness, imparting an improved ability to cope with stress, frustration, anger, insomnia and chronic pain. Research has shown that regular meditation practice can increase brain capacity in areas related to learning and memory, and decrease the volume of areas that are related to anxiety and stress.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Meditation can seem like a mysterious and intimidating practice, but it doesn’t have to be. Guided meditation, also known as guided imagery, helps you concentrate and focus by giving you detailed instructions—essentially a script you can follow—for what to think about so you aren’t just sitting quietly and trying not to think about your worries and concerns.
A Mental Bubble Bath
Some guided imagery seeks to engage the five senses by vividly describing sights, sounds, aromas, and physical sensations, thus involving all aspects of your imagination. One guided imagery I like to lead with clients is imagining a day at the beach—the soft sand shaping itself to the contours of your body as you lie on your towel, the echoing cries of seagulls, the salty tang of the sea air, the cool water lapping at your feet, the warmth of the sun on your skin.
By engaging all your senses, the practice trains your abilities to concentrate and focus your mind. After 20 minutes of detailed imagining, you’ve created a mental refuge—an intensely detailed memory that you can return to in stressful times for momentary relief, almost like a mental bubble bath.
Meditation Resources on the Web
The Internet is a terrific resource for people seeking to learn more about how to practice meditation, including numerous free audio downloads of meditation practices.* Here are some good sources:
• Kaiser Permanente has links to audiocasts for physical and mental well-being on everything from allergies, insomnia and chronic pain to addressing anger, self-confidence and grief.
• Fragrant Heart offers meditations for relaxation and stress relief, weight loss support, social anxiety and healing.
• Tara Brach, a leading psychologist and practicing Buddhist, offers a number of free meditations on such topics as embracing life, being present in the moment and accepting life on life’s terms.
• Things to make you say “Om” offers an extensive list of links to free meditation resources.
• Dr. Emmett Miller, another leading psychologist and meditation specialist, offers free meditations on such topics as changing habits, addictions and behaviors.
• Belleruth Naparstek’s Health Journeys, from a pioneer in the guided meditation field, has a free 15-minute guided imagery download.
You can also find many free or inexpensive guided imagery meditation downloads on iTunes, such as:
For More Information:
How Meditation May Change the Brain (New York Times)
Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress (Mayo Clinic)
The Benefits of Meditation (MIT News)
Reduce Anxiety and Depression with Guided Imagery (Huffington Post)
* Beth Israel Medical Center is not responsible for, does not endorse, and cannot assure the accuracy of information on these outside web sites.