Meditation comes in a variety of forms and from a variety of sources and, while it is often used for relaxation, this is merely one of its many benefits. The essential difference between meditation and other forms of relaxation exercise, such as visualization, breathing exercises and specific relaxations exercises, is that meditation requires that you remain alert while relaxing. Learning meditation is essentially learning how to control your mind and training your mind to become focused so that the cause of any anxiety or stress can be “tuned out".
While meditation has its roots in religious belief systems, the practice of meditation does not require any special skills or beliefs. Anyone can learn to meditate, and anyone can benefit from learning how to meditate. Assuming that you are already familiar with, and have practiced, visualization, breathing and relaxation exercises, your objective is simply to take the practices you have learned and combine them with a mental focus in order to create the “quieting of your mind".
One common use of meditation is seen in the case of people with sleeping problems, which often stem from worry or anxiety. People who cannot release these worries can suffer from insomnia, shortened sleep time or sleep cycle irregularities. The effect of meditation on insomnia and other sleep disorders has been well documented in studies such as one by Donald E. Miskiman of the University of Alberta, Canada. He found that meditation could stabilize the sleep-dream cycle. He performed a study on insomnia sufferers who spent an average of more than 70 minutes of “awake" time before falling asleep. They studied meditation and, 30 days later, the majority were able to fall asleep in just 15 minutes.
Your body will learn from the meditation behavior that you develop. When you sit quietly or lie down in a dark, cool room with your eyes closed, your brain interprets these actions as preparation for sleep and begins to shut down. Hormones, such as melatonin, that induce sleep, are released into your body and carried through your blood stream. Your pulse slows and your blood pressure falls and you naturally begin to relax and prepare for rest.
Many regular meditation practitioners say that, not only does their sleep get deeper and become more rejuvenating, but that they also reap the benefits of feeling more alert, energized and at peace. They also say that, as time goes by, they feel more alert and relaxed throughout the day.
In order to reap the greatest benefit, your goal should be to practice meditation for about 15 to 20 minutes during the day, in addition to any meditation that you do to induce sleep.
There are many different meditation techniques. Some of the techniques are quite simple and can be mastered with just a little practice. Others require training by an experienced instructor.
One important point to note is that meditation can affect your psychological state and, as a result, you may experience some emotional discomfort initially. If at any time you do feel uncomfortable then you should simply stop the exercise and resume it at a later time. If, with further practice, you continue to experience discomfort, then you should consider seeking the advice of a qualified practitioner.
The best environment for the practice of meditation is somewhere quiet with a minimum of distraction and where you can lie down or sit comfortably in order to progressively relax your body's muscles. Ideally, you should create a space in your home that is used solely for meditating. No matter what area you choose, you should have cushions, blankets or pillows so that you can insure your physical comfort. The space should be at a comfortable temperature and enjoy a low level of lighting. As you progress in your skills, you'll be able to meditate anywhere, no matter what is going on, but you should chose a quiet location as you begin to learn the art of meditation.
Donald Saunders is the author of a number of health-related publications discussing the problems of sleep and giving detailed advice on using such things as daily meditation to help to cure insomnia . For more information about meditation and health please visit Help-Me-To-Sleep.com