Do you have occasions when you are beset with stress, work overload or everyday frustrations? We all do. It is at such times when we reach out for things that bring order, peace and calmness into our lives. Some of us do the wrong things like indulging in alcohol, smoking or overeating, but there are many healthier ways of getting your life back in balance including exercise, spirituality and meditation.

I want to share with you the power I have found in meditation. I discovered meditation as a great healing tool some two years ago when my doctor found I had slightly elevated blood pressure and put me on medication. My pharmacist advised me to try yoga and meditation to manage my blood pressure. Since that time, I try to include a few minutes of meditation in my morning routine, which includes exercise, long relaxing baths and bible and motivational books reading during breakfast. I call this my “me time” and unless I have early morning meetings, I will strictly adhere to this routine.

I have found that meditation really works wonders in calming you down and helping you set your day’s agenda and stick to it. Just a few minutes a day in meditation helps you ease stress, and gives you the power to stick to your goals. My days are more productive and less stressful when I meditate in the morning.

Meditation is a state of deep physical relaxation combined with acute mental alertness – it’s like taking a nap, but you don’t fall asleep, you fall awake. There are many ways to achieve this including meditative silence, prayer, listening to calming music, or purely focusing on something that will hold your attention. Observing your breath, which naturally tends to become slower and deeper as you relax, is a key part of meditation.

I have no one way of meditating – sometimes I will lie on a warm scented bath and just relax while breathing in deeply and trying to get in touch with every part of my body, other times I will sit quietly and do the exercise I have given below, other times I will just put on relaxing music, while at other times I will just get into deep prayer. In all these I seek to get in touch with my soul, achieve inner peace, relax and focus.

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in Eastern cultures, but it’s only in the last century that the rest of the world noticed it. Researchers and doctors in many parts of the world today endorse meditation’s proven health benefits, which are many, and include:

Decreases respiratory and heart rates, and elevated blood pressure.

Relieves muscle tension when combined with progressive relaxation.

Causes stress hormones in the blood to drop.

Boosts immunity.

Is more restful than a nap – it causes oxygen consumption (a measure of how hard the body is working) to drop more than it does when you sleep.

I always thought I was a relaxed person because I am quite active and exercise is part of my lifestyle, until I tasted that sweet sensation of head-to-toe peace during meditation. You discover how great it feels not to be tense in your neck and shoulders when you meditate. You learn to tap into the exercise of taking a few slow, calming breaths when faced with challenging situations, including work tensions and even physical pain.

Besides relaxation, in meditation you cultivate the art of paying attention. After meditation you feel a little more present with yourself all day. That presence, or mindfulness, can improve the quality of almost everything you do. It helps you stop living in the past or the future but to savour the present moment – the only place you can find pleasure and fulfillment now.

Aside from the beneficial effects on your health and body, meditation also leads to improvement in the way you work. My work requires order to meet strict deadlines and concentration to turn out excellent work. Meditation helps me achieve my work-related goals. Meditation also helps remove fear from your life, which can impair your decision-making skills, through controlled breathing techniques. But mark you, meditation is not the kind of thing you do once and forget. To reap the benefits you have to practice it regularly.

As with anything that’s truly worth doing, you need to be motivated. You have to make time for meditation and not wait until you can find time. You can meditate in any place as long as it’s quiet and without disruptions. While walking in the streets, taking a shower, or before falling asleep, take a few conscious breaths and savour the sensory pleasure of the moment. In it’s many forms, meditation is a pleasurable indulgence, and above all, it’s about yourself. So, go ahead and give it a try.

MEDITATION EXERCISE

De-stress instantly with this simple exercise, which I find easy to do most mornings. You can’t begin to imagine how good it makes me feel, until you try it for yourself:

1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.

2. Breath through your nose. Become aware of each inhalation and exhalation, but don’t force deep breaths. As you breath out, silently say a positive word like “love.” Breathe easily and naturally, and continue for 10 to 20 minutes.

3. When your thoughts inevitably wonder, direct your attention back to breathing and repeating the word “love.”