Mindful awareness practices to cultivate physical, mental and emotional well being
What Is Meditation?
Defining meditation in one sentence is difficult as it means different things to different people. There are many methods and styles of meditation, some of which are specific to a spiritual or cultural tradition or time period or based on a text or teacher or individual philosophy.
The Meditation Association of Australia defines meditation as "an umbrella term for a range of practices designed to cultivate a calm, concentrated and absorbed state of mind." Ian Gawler defines it simply as "a mental discipline involving attention regulation". and Jon Kabat-Zinn defines Mindfulness as "Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally."
Meditation is about:
Being mindful of the present moment - focusing on what we are doing here and now.
Observing - our senses, thoughts and feelings without judgement, to feel a sense of stillness, peace and clarity.
Becoming more self-aware – of our inner selves and the affects of our behaviour, so we can learn to make more responsible and conscious choices and decisions.
How it works:
Excessive thinking and prolonged states of stress are becoming more prevalent with adults, as well as kids, contributing to a range of mental and physical conditions as their minds and bodies continue in fight or flight mode instead of relaxing into a comfortable state of well being in between stressful events.
Amygdala – this is the area of our brains associated with processing emotions, in particular, fear and our body’s response to it. When we get stressed or fearful the amygdala sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which increases the flow of blood from the heart to the organs and muscles, preparing the body for fight or flight. In the absence of an actual physical threat to respond to and use this excess energy, the body can stay in this response mode for prolonged periods causing physical wear and tear and impaired mental performance. Practicing meditation can shrink the amygdala, makes it's connection weaker, and recognise and neutralise the fight or flight mode, enabling a more thoughtful response to stress via other parts of our brain. Meditation also invokes the relaxation response our bodies need for optimal health and healing.
Prefrontal cortex – this is the area of our brains associated with awareness, concentration and decision making. As the amygdala shrinks or switches off, this area of the brain becomes thicker and it’s connection to the rest of our brain stronger.
Hippocampus - this is the area of the brain associated with memory and learning. Practising or exposure to long periods of silence can actually develop new cells in this brain region.
" Meditation and mindfulness is about being aware of the present
moment. By focusing on the here and now, we are able to suspend our
thoughts, feelings, experiences and judgement, to bring about a sense of
peace, clarity and self-awareness."