health for your Taking a meditation vacation Om There’s no place like
By Matthew Robb
PUSHED AND PULLED from every direction, millions of Americans identify stress as
a major health concern. While Type A personalities bulldoze through stress with defiant pride, experts agree: Ignore the warning
sirens long enough and stress overload can
rampage through body, mind and spirit like
an F5 tornado.
Research clearly links chronic stress to a
host of conditions: anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger, hypertension, infertility, diabetes,
accelerated aging, heart disease and more.
Severe or chronic stress also can pack on
unwanted belly fat, make it hard to bounce
back from illness and shift a healthy sex drive
Meditation, by contrast, acts as a mini-vacation, rebalancing an inner world turned
upside down. Once you gain proficiency in
this 3,500-year-old practice, you can enter a
calming state at will. In minutes, racing
thoughts coast to a welcome rest, knotted
muscles unclench and you start to feel
In recent years, university researchers
and brain imaging scientists have demonstrated that meditation enhances the ability to
focus and maintain attention, quickly recall
and process information, generate creative
ideas and best solutions, and prioritize and
manage goals. In 2011, Wake Forest Baptist
Medical Center reported that meditation
reduces chronic pain better than morphine or
other pain-relieving drugs.
If anything about meditation is difficult,
it’s escorting newcomers past all those Age
of Aquarius, pass-the-granola stereotypes,
(Hay House, 2012).
“Meditation is not about changing
your religion, adopting an extreme diet
or sitting funny. It’s very mainstream
and easy to do,” she says. “Learning it
does take practice, but nothing could
be easier or more natural.”
Because our multitasking, rapid-fire
world rarely requires our brains to focus
intently for long periods of time, she notes,
practitioners of meditation achieve and main-
tain a restful state “by focusing on something
heard, something seen or something felt.”
Matthew Robb, an avid practitioner of meditation, writes about health issues for magazines and newspapers around the nation. He
lives in suburban Washington, D.C.
Five fundamentals for
DON’T GET HUNG up on finding the
ultimate time and place to meditate. “I
meditate in all sorts of places—church,
doctors’ offices, sometimes even sitting
in my car in a parking lot,” says meditation instructor Sarah McLean, a Costco
member since 2005.
Meditation doesn’t have hard rules,
but do consider McLean’s guidelines:
1. Accept distractions as normal.
“Simply refocus your attention back to a
mantra, candle or feeling of your
breath,” she says.
2. Be kind to yourself. If your mind
wanders, don’t judge harshly. Accept
3. Start with a beginner’s mind. Be
open to whatever happens next.
4. Don’t give up. If you set 10 minutes as your goal, commit to it.
5. Don’t try too hard. “Meditation is
as gentle and natural as sleep, creativity
and inspiration,” she says. “None of
these things can be forced.”—MR
Your Life in 8 Weeks with
Meditation is available
in most Costco