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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Meditation, Benefits of Going Within

MeditationBenefits of Going Within
submitted by Chava Quist

Meditative techniques have always been an integral part of Chinese medicine, culture and preventative health practices. The practice of Qi Gong (pronounced ‘Chee Gung’ and loosely translated as the ‘cultivation of life energy’) is a gentle moving meditation that goes back over 4,000 years. Qi Gong practice incorporates slow movements, without muscular strain, and breath work, to become aware of and strengthen Qi energy flowing within the body. The oldest known Qi Gong sets were called Dao Yin and mimicked the movements of animals and the elemental forces of nature, reflecting their Daoist roots.

Many branches of Qi Gong practice have been established throughout the generations, focusing on preventative health practices, martial arts, and calisthenic exercises. Whatever the school of thought, the objective has been the same:  soft movements aimed at supplementing the Qi energy of the body by gathering from  the endless energy of the cosmos as well as learning to control the energy within one’s own body. There are countless chronicles of Qi Gong masters learning to harness energy flow to such an extent as to be able to heat their skin, throw someone down without a touch, or live beyond normal years.

Whether these stories are fact, fantasy, or a mixture of both, Qi Gong and other meditative techniques are undoubtedly good for our health. We’ve all read of the surprising benefits of meditation, i.e., better sleep, mental clarity, regulation of stress hormones, just to name a few. Recent studies find that regular meditation practice can help the body to repair chromosomal telomeres, the destruction of which is a key component in aging and illness.

But, it is often unclear where to begin or how to stay focused when something so simple becomes challenging. Follow these tips to keep going strong:

Beginners Mind:  Recognize that we all have different styles of learning, and that concept applies to meditation as well. Visual learners may choose to practice meditation in nature or simply in a special place in the home while keeping the eyes open. Auditory learners may do well with guided meditation productions or group classes in which participants follow the cues of a leader. For those of us who are more kinesthetic in nature may have more trouble sitting still for extended periods walking or other moving meditative practices like Tai Chi or Qi Gong may be the best option.

Monkey Mind: After the body has settled into position, the next challenge is always quieting the mind. Realize that meditation is a long term practice, and some days will be more difficult than others. When intrusive thoughts continue to well up, do a body scan, checking for any areas of tenseness. Breathe into these areas and focus on relaxing those muscles or improving posture or positioning. As these thoughts arise, observe them and let them go, saying internally “Thank you for your input,” or “Thank you, I’ll focus on that later.” Styles of meditation that include chanting a mantra often give the practitioner a point of engagement from which to break out of the internal landscape.

A Little Too Relaxed: Many have a problem of becoming too physically relaxed during sitting meditation and fall asleep. Respect that your body may need more rest and try to get more sleep. It’s important to be alert during sessions of meditation to achieve the most benefit, so find five minutes during the day when you feel most alert and your energy is high.

Experiment with mindful moments throughout your day to discover your best form of meditation. You could make your meal, your commute, or washing the dishes a moving meditation. Whatever works best for you, make it your own.