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The Importance of Meditation

The Importance of Meditation

Maybe you've heard that meditation is good for you and that we should all practice meditation daily. What is meditation, though, and why is it good for you? According to Linda Portnoy, MA, who leads meditation groups at our Center, "Meditation is the act of resting in our body and mind without an agenda. It is the practice of abiding with the 'being self' and setting aside the 'doing self' for a little while." Linda began practicing meditation during a difficult time in her life. She found the practice helped her deal better with stress and improved her sleep and an overall sense of wellbeing. It helped so much that she decided to become a meditation teacher and received her certification in Primordial Sound Meditation from the Chopra Center for Wellness in 2008.

During meditation, people connect to that part of themselves that lies outside their job or the roles they play in the world. Meditation techniques help people to keep their minds focused on the present moment. When Linda leads a group, she teaches them skills to gently interrupt the spiral of thoughts and helps them return to the present. She practices meditation in a state of restful awareness, which increases a sense of calm and wellbeing to both mind and body.

In our active waking state, our minds are busy going from one idea, thought, memory or imagined future scenario to another. This is called "associative thinking" or "active thinking awareness." It can be especially powerful during times of stress, such as when a person is diagnosed with cancer, when it's natural and understandable that people's minds leap to possible future outcomes. "Our minds can create deep worn paths of thinking," says Linda, "even though these things have not yet happened and maybe never will. Meditation helps us feel more in control of our thoughts by bringing ourselves into the present, and allowing us to focus on simply being." Meditation helps the mind go to a state of "witnessing awareness."

During meditation Linda has people sit quietly and relax their body. She asks them to notice their breath and connect to it. In other techniques, they might focus on a sound "mantra" or visualization. There are many ways to meditate, and Linda finds that "the best meditation technique is the one you like because it will be the one you will practice."

Regular and consistent meditation practice helps people release stress and anxiety from both the mind and body. The reduction of stress improves physical, emotional and mental health. Meditation gives people time to rest in gratitude and compassion for themselves. By taking the time to meditate, people are committing to the wellbeing of mind, body and spirit.

Meditation is something everyone can do as it does not require any particular posture, specific length of time, or set of beliefs. "Regardless of the type or style of meditation you choose, regular meditation will bring extraordinary benefits to your daily life," says Linda. "The regular practice of meditation or other contemplative practices, such as gratitude journaling, prayer or inspirational reading, allows you respite from stress and time to renew the spirit."

There are many meditation resources. You can find some on the Internet, and there are meditation apps with timers, online classes, self-help books with detailed instructions, and guided meditation classes. Cancer Lifeline has classes in meditation taught by a variety of teachers. You can also join the monthly guided meditation group at our Center, led by Linda. It's a "drop-in" group, so just come by and give meditation a try. We typically meet at the Proton Center the third or fourth Friday of each month at 3:00 PM. Please email info@seattleprotons.org if you’d like to join us or for more information.