The benefits of meditation and how to get started

"There is no wrong or right way to meditate. Nor is one technique better than another."
(Courtesy: Getty Images)

There is a very strong Jewish argument to embracing meditation, paraphrasing 1 Kings 19: 11-12: “God was not in the fire, wind, earthquake… but was in the still small voice.”

How to reach that “still small voice” takes practice and commitment. Meditation expert Doron Libshtein began meditating in 1998 when, of all people, his mother-in-law taught him how. Since then, he has practiced daily and has conducted programs with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. He is also has an online program called Wellbe.

According to Libshtein, many illnesses are due to the impact of stress, and meditating can relieve that and have a positive effect on both physical and emotional health. It can help increase concentration, creativity, energy levels and production of serotonin, which improves mood and behavior. It can also improve communication, emotional stability and the immune system; lower high blood pressure; decrease anxiety and tension-related pain; promote relaxation; and allow you to gain clarity and focus. And those are just a taste of the benefits that meditation can offer.

“When we face challenges such as illness, loss, divorce or even problems with our children, we become stressed,” Libshtein told us. “This stress can cause us to have shallow breathing, lethargy, physical pain, feelings of sadness and even depression. Meditation is a great tool to help deal with stress, thus improving our overall health.”

I’ve never meditated. How do I begin?

“The most important part is to try out different meditation methods and choose the one that feels the best for you. Each person will find a different format that works best for their practice. Some people prefer total quiet, while others may prefer to meditate with music or outdoors with sounds of nature. Some practitioners prefer to meditate with a mantra such as ‘OM,’ ‘Om Shanti Om,’ ‘I am at peace’ or with a mantra of their own that they create. Many others prefer simply to focus on their breath – inhaling for four counts and exhaling for eight counts.”

Where and when should I meditate?

“I suggest starting by setting aside 15 to 20 minutes per day. If you prefer, you can split your time into a 10-minute session in the morning and 10-minute session at night. The timing isn’t as important as just doing it regularly. It’s best to do your meditation practice in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning. You can sit in a chair or lie down, whichever feels most comfortable. When you are ready, increase your time to 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. For those new to meditation, it can often be easier if someone else guides them on their meditation journey.”

How do I know if I’m doing it correctly?

“There is no wrong or right way to meditate. Nor is one technique better than another. It is a very personal practice that differs from one practitioner to the next. The main thing is to take the time to clear the mind as much as possible and just relax with as little outside stimulation as possible. You know when you are doing it right because you will feel calm and renewed upon finishing.”

Can meditation help me at work?

“Yes, and here’s a personal example: When I worked at Microsoft for 14 years, I was extremely stressed. Without meditation, I would have probably developed serious heart issues. While I loved my job, I worked such long hours that I was missing the work/life balance. When I decided to take up meditation, it really transformed my life. I started to breathe again and began to feel that balance that I needed. Even taking a few minutes out of each day to breathe deeply and meditate helped calm me down and refocused my mind in a way that allowed me to work more efficiently and tackle work issues with more clarity.”

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