We Know: How Meditation Works
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be defined in three common ways:
It seems more like it's a religious or spiritual thing...
It depends. Many people are exposed to meditation for the first time through a form of religious or spiritual practice. Certainly all major religions make use of some form of meditation as a way for their adherents to connect to the deity or higher power they worship, or in the case of Buddhism, to still the mind in order free it from attachment to the static and interference of more worldly concerns.
Many people have even been first exposed to meditation and have experienced better health, better concentration, etc., through the practice of Hatha Yoga, a physically-oriented form of yoga practice, which is a spiritual practice in its own right, but one not always viewed that way.
How does meditation work then for a person physically and mentally?
Many scientists and medical practitioners have long been aware that simply sitting quietly and focusing on one's breathing while allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, when done on a regular basis for a few minutes a day, can create more tranquility and calmness in a person's life. This has all kinds of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart rate, alleviating depression and anxiety, and promoting a more positive mental outlook on life.
Scientific research into meditation has established that during meditation a person's heart rate decreases, overall metabolism slows down, and brain waves change, moving the person into what is known as an alpha wave state. In addition, stress hormones are lowered, aiding the immune system, blood flow and allowing the muscles to relax.
What's a good, simple way to practice meditation?
On a very basic level, the effects and benefits of meditation can be achieved by:
Many faiths and spiritual traditions also offer their own guidelines on meditation which one should check out and follow if so inclined.
Are there dangers to meditation practice?
Some people who have mental or emotional problems may also try to substitute meditation practice for needed treatment, or modify it in ways that may not be in their best interest, which could end up creating problems for them.