Do you meditate? Ever thought about it? Why or why not? Lifestyle & Health Columnist Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC tells us why we should be like the Ancient Greeks and meditate.
Meditate for health benefits
The practice of meditating is praised often for its many health benefits! While common to many cultures, it’s not a practice often talked about in the modern day Greek community. There are probably plenty of Greeks that do practice various forms of meditation as part of their daily routine. Yet many seem to be somewhat resistant and or dismissive towards it.
Why don’t you meditate?
One reason is that people believe that the sole purpose of meditating daily is to become a skilled meditator. This is not the goal. What many don’t realize is that meditating daily encompasses an additional purpose: helping you instill a healthy habit into your daily routine. This ultimately allows you to more easily implement other healthy habits.
In other words, the goal of meditating daily is NOT for you to become a levitating Greek yogi. The goal is to experience the benefits associated from the habit of meditating.
Once you instill the habit, that means that you have consistently committed to some type of health empowering technique and this commitment and consistency will help you do the same for your other health-related goals.
If I meditate, how will it help me?
Meditations helps us by strengthening our will power, also known as self-control. More and more research shows that willpower is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. By committing to a healthy practice daily, regardless of how resistant you are towards it, you’re strengthening this muscle. This allows you to more effectively accomplish your other health-related goals.
Meditate! It’s good for you!
Read on to learn all the health benefits of meditation.
- Helps fight off disease. Meditating has been found to highly influence epigenetics; the turning of the on and off button of our genes affected by our environment. The exact mechanisms are still unclear, but it seems to keep potential disease causing genetic buttons “off” and healing adaptive gene buttons “on”.
- Helps strengthen your immune system by boosting antibodies and relieving stress.
- Slows down the aging process. Studies have found that people who meditate daily for several years have longer telomers — the protective caps on the end of chromosomes. Short telomeres are believed to be markers of accelerated aging.
- Optimizes digestion by allowing your body to create more energy, eliminate waste easier and helps make your metabolism more efficient.
- Regulates hormones by keeping stress hormones low and feel good hormones high: allowing the body to more efficiently utilize other hormones.
How the Ancients Meditated
Ancient Greeks did meditate AND highly valued meditation for the purpose of self-discovery and for “another way of seeing ” life. The ancients are not specifically known for this, but they dd value the practice. They also had a word describing the deepest state of meditation: henosis which literally means “one pointed awareness,” known today as single minded focus. In addition, they valued the practice of contemplation: “the act of experiencing or observing and then comprehending through consciousness.”
Additional examples of techniques used:
- Negative visualization. They would rehearse the challenges of the upcoming day by visualizing the worst case scenarios that can happen. They would then continue to visualize how they would respond to these worst case scenarios by using one of the 4 cardinal virtues: courage, equanimity, self-control and wisdom.
- Hierocles circle. Grossly simplified, the idea here was to expand the same feelings of love warmth and caring associated with immediate family members and friends (inner circle), with the rest of the world of fellow citizens and mankind (outer circle). By visualizing these circles and “pulling” them together, the goal was to eventually treat ALL people as if they were a loved one.
- Guided Mantra. They would repeat a positive short phrase, over and over again using single minded focus.
- Mindfulness. They implemented the act of sitting quietly and observing their thoughts without judgment.
Starting Your Own Meditative Practice
Regardless of the type of technique you choose to meditate — whether it’s ancient Greek contemplation or one of the many other techniques out there — your initial daily goal is to silence your mind.
Keep in mind that whenever you start implementing a new habit, resistant thoughts will pop up! You may notice some thoughts while attempting to sit quietly:
- I look stupid
- This is pointless
- I’m wasting my time
Resistant thoughts are common. Just observe them, non-judgmentally, and return to silencing your mind. If you struggle with silencing, either anchor your thoughts to your breathing and/or a positive phrase (mantra). Finally, remember to start your new habit off with an amount of time that is ridiculously easy to achieve. Even if that means committing to just one minute a day. As a result, you’ll not only continue to reinforce your new behavior daily, but you will also start to experience the amazing benefits that meditation has to offer.
Give it a try!
Take a couple of minutes today to meditate. Try it for a week. Reflect on any changes. Add a few more minutes to your daily practice. Watch how your world continues to change. Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know how it goes.
“Well-being is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.” ~ Citium Zeno
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Other articles by Roula Marinos Papamihail
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.