Do you need a vacation? You can get away from it all – every day – with a few minutes of meditation.
Meditation is like a mini-vacation. Just a few minutes of quiet can do wonders for the body, mind, and soul. It tops the list of ways to optimize health, including assisting with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that just 10 to 15 minutes of meditation can lessen depression, promote positivity and happiness, reduce blood pressure, and clarify the mind. As these benefits aid general good health, particularly the heart, they also benefit the brain.
The goal is to diminish stress. Stress weakens the immune system making the body susceptible to disease, accelerates existing conditions, and even can lead to death.
But avoiding stress is seemingly impossible. We are encumbered with stimulation from media, technology, lifestyle, and our environment. There appears to be too much to do in too little time and way too much going on simultaneously. We get caught up in that endless, deadly cycle of stress promoting illness and illness worsening with stress.
Meditation alleviates some of the stress, not just during the minutes while practicing it, but throughout the whole day. When meditating every morning, it sets us on a daily, peaceful track.
There are dozens of types of meditation with roots founded in ancient religions such as Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Meditation was also later practiced by Christian monks including the Benedictines and Trappists, and developed further by Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila. Meditation as a prayer form increases patience, generosity, and forgiveness.
Personally, I’ve been bombarded with stress most of my life. It’s all taken a toll on my health. But I believe I’d be far worse if I didn’t practice daily meditation. I meditate first thing every morning, sitting up in bed. But I also meditate throughout the day at my desk or while walking.
I practice several styles of Christian mediation including Lectio Divina, contemplative reading, contemplative prayer, and the rosary, which I pray every day. My goal is to promote inner peace and get lost in Christ. However, some days I’m so exhausted I need to zone out completely and think of nothing. Then, I silently surrender myself to the Lord, still and quiet.
You may wish to practice one particular style and in the same position every day, or you may want to mix it up. The goal is to clear the mind, so if you prefer to sit in a comfortable chair, cross-legged on the floor, or on a park bench, the choice is yours.
Begin by slowly and deeply breathing in and out. If your mind wanders, gently come back to your meditation.
Following are a few of the Christian meditation styles:
- Contemplation of an Image – Focus on one image, such as the risen Christ or God’s creation such as a sparrow in the garden. You may look at a photo or work of art or hold the image in our mind.
- Contemplation of One Word – Continuously repeat one word such as Jesus or gratitude.
- Contemplation of One Thought – Concentrate on God’s glory or a blessing such as your children, a supportive friend, or your work.
- Lectio Divina – Latin for divine reading, Lectio Divina is the pondering of sacred text. Select a short biblical verse and read it several times until it is memorized. Visualize the scene and contemplate its significance.
- Contemplative Prayer – Silently repeat a short prayer over and over. Use known words such as, Jesus I trust in you, or ones that come from your heart. The ancient Jesus Prayer dates to the Desert Fathers at the dawn of Christianity and often is contemplated: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
- Contemplative Reading – Read a passage from Scripture, a devotional book, or religious teaching. Ponder its meaning and significance.
- Rosary – The repetition of prayers of the rosary, including the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, assist with the meditation upon the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of our faith. (For an easy way to prayer the rosary, you can follow along in my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.)
(Navigating Alzheimer’s recently won a gold medal in the 2017 Illumination Awards. It is available on Amazon and ACTA Publications.)