Sunday, April 15, 2007

Meditation, Your Prescription for Health

The daggers of yesterday are perpetually stabbing us in our ribs. Tomorrow's phantom ghosts stare at us. Our lives are torn between the polarity of the past and the future. Teilhard de Chardin, a theologian once said,

"We are not humans having a spiritual experience. Instead, we are spirits having a human experience."

The human experience is however not easy. The journey has its stressful moments. These moments are obstacles we have to scale in order to prepare for the next experience. The obstacles are stressful events that strengthen the soul for what lies ahead. Gail Brook Burket described it in this way:

"I do not ask to walk smooth paths

Nor bear an easy load.

I pray for strength and fortitude

To climb the rock strewn road.

Give me the courage and I can scale

The hardiest peaks alone,

And transform every stumbling block

Into a stepping stone."

When we are stressed, our muscles and joints are under tension. That is why stress can cause headaches, neck pains, backache and joint aches. Most of the time medications don't work on these symptoms. Our mind is affected too. We can't think clearly and all sorts of harmful thoughts go through our minds. Most of the thoughts have no basis but imagined. We can use meditation to calm our minds, control our breathing, restructure our toxic thoughts and relax our muscles and joints.

One simple but effective form of meditation is the deep breathing technique with progressive muscle relaxation. To perform this technique,

  • You may sit or lay down. Your eyes may be open or closed. Imagine your lungs are deep in your belly.
  • Take a deep breath slowly deep into your stomach and exhale slowly.
  • As you do this your mind may be wondering over all sorts of thoughts. If they are positive thoughts, don't cling to them. If they are negative don't reject them. Slowly come back to your breath.
  • Relax your muscles while breathing. Concentrate on your neck muscles and relax them while breathing. With the next breath concentrate on the right shoulder muscles, then the left shoulder muscles, then the right elbow, the left elbow, the right wrist, the left wrist, the abdominal wall muscles, the right hip joint, the left hip joint , the right knee, the left knee, the right ankle, the left ankle the right toe and the left toe.
  • You should continue to breathe slowly In and out. Imagine the muscle stretching between the nape of your neck and your tail bone. Relax the muscle.
  • By now all your muscles should be relaxed as you continue your deep breathing.
  • Imagine you are on an island in Bahamas and you're lying on a float on the sea in front of your hotel and the sea waves are gently buoying you up and down.

I like to do this before I get out of bed in the morning because as soon as I am out of bed my day has started and I have to get ready for work. If you are a beginner, you can meditate for 10 minutes to begin with and increase the time when as you become more adept. You will master this technique over a period of time. When you do, you would take a shorter time to get to the deep relaxation state. You should practice this 2x daily and you won't regret it.


life time learner said...

Hello Dr. Essel. Thank you for this review of progressive relaxation and meditation. Somtimes while driving I find my shoulders tense and my hands tightly gripped to the steering wheel. I have to remind myself to relax all these muscles or I will have a headache by the time I get to work. It's not easy to do meditation in the I'll save that for later. :-)

Manny Essel, MD said...

Thanks for your comment. I will suggest you don't practise relaxation in the car as sometimes you may feel sleepy.

However,driving can give you stress, especially when you are upset by someone cutting you off or when you're rushing to an appointment and there is an accident with the trafic at a standstill. On these occasions you should take deep breaths and live for the moment. Beacause you're not moving, you can also relax your neck and back muscles if you're feeling tension in those areas.

Above all you should know that all life is meditation. Every sound you hear, every pin that pricks you will have its effect on you. It's for you to decide what you have to do with these sometimes annoying distractions. Just observing their presence and letting them slip bye is enough to relieve you of any stressful situation the stimuli may be bringing to your attention. Thus to have peace, you should pay attention to all the stimuli that hit you from every angle and decide whether they are worth the crying or the worrying that the stimuli may produce.