I first went to India in the late 1980s to study meditation – a ten-day silent retreat, where I was up at 4.00am, meditated for 14 hours a day, ate simple vegetarian food in the morning and nothing after midday. Ten tough days later, inner peace radiated through my eyes and skin. I looked ten years younger, felt such an abundance of joy and delight, my mind was calm and my emotions balanced.
Yogis have been giving this simple piece of advice for thousands of years: take a deep breath and relax. As you do, watch the tensions melt from your muscles and all your niggling worries vanish.
So why is meditation such a powerful tool in balancing our mind and emotions, and rejuvenating our body? The reasons lie in the science behind the power of the mind: Harvard Medical School researchers discovered that ‘disease-fighting genes’ were far more active in people who practiced relaxation methods than those who didn’t. They even went as far as to explore the theory that people could ‘turn on’ these disease-fighting genes. They coined it ‘the relaxation effect’, highlighting that genes responded to things like behaviour, mood and environment; and regular relaxation increased the benefits.
This is an extremely powerful notion: the idea that, through disciplines such as yoga, meditation and focused breathing, we can effectively harness the power of the mind to protect and heal; fight pain and inflammation; eliminate diseased cells and target problems like infertility, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis without traditional medicine. It’s something that followers of Indian ayurveda and Tibetan medicine have known for centuries, so it’s incredibly uplifting that the population at large is being awakened to it too.
I deeply encourage you to explore the concept if you haven’t already, or develop it even further if you have. Nurture your inner health and beauty and it will soon radiate outwards for all to see.
Find everyday ways to meditate: sit under a tree and be enveloped by mother nature; take a moment to listen to the birds outside your window; have a bath with your favourite evocative scent (from lavender or rose petals fresh from the garden to oats or coconut oil from the kitchen) and let your mind drift to a blissful calm. Meditation is the opposite of concentration, and its benefits are free to anyone at any time: once you discover them, you’ll never let them go.