The stillness of mind brings with it an ability to cope with stress, shock and trauma.
Meditation is a most powerful way to relax the mind. Many cultures practice meditation as a way of life and claim it provides higher levels of consciousness and spiritual awareness. The stillness of the mind brings with it new perspective and a greater ability to cope with stress, shock and trauma.
The increased awareness experienced during meditation is medically supported by a definite pattern of electrical activity in the ‘thinking’ part of the brain called the cerebral cortex. The brainwaves associated with this electrical activity are called alpha waves. Similar waves are found in calm, dreamy states, such a sleep. It is thought that these brainwaves have a beneficial effect on the body’s natural control processes, slowing the heart and lowering the blood pressure.
Our bodies are complex in their ability to read, assess and respond to stimuli within a fraction of a second. A near miss crossing the road can send our adrenal gland soaring, heart pumping and palms sweating. We spend our days reacting physically, mentally, emotionally and intuitively to the stimulus around us. Meditation provides an opportunity for our bodies to return to a state of balance. Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims all centre their practice on meditation.
Anyone can practice meditation with or without religious or spiritual associations and the more you practise, the easier it becomes. You may prefer to learn in a group or from a book, video or audio recording. Or you may already have a system that works for you.
Meditation as a relaxation technique can help anxiety, frigidity, tiredness and menstrual, hormonal or digestive problems. It is powerful in its ability to reduce stress.
Meditation is useful in treating morning sickness, stress and anxiety, fatigue, heartburn, mood swings and back pain.
According to English Childbirth Educator Sheila Kitzinger, ninety percent of childbirth is determined by what is going on in the head. Having a clear and focussed mind provides you with a greater chance of managing a positive labour. If you view the pain as productive and with a purpose, your body and mind will be more dynamic in its response. The more familiar you are with meditation, the more effective it will be as a method of pain control during childbirth.
Many women say they enter a meditative state during labour. The breathing and level of concentration provide an internal strength, free from distraction.
Most women say that isolating each contraction as an individual meditation increases the intensity of focus. It becomes a more productive process as each moment is dealt with spontaneously; reducing the anxiety of the unknown that lies ahead.
Mantra or chanting is another form of meditation. You may choose a single-word or sound that when repeated, occupies the mind and creates a vibration. Many women choose affirmations that are meaningful or symbolic to the flow of birth, such as ‘I trust my body’s ability to give birth naturally’, or ‘I have trust in my strength’.
Sometimes a picture or visual image can help you to collect your thoughts. It may be a painting of sentimental value, a photograph, a colour, or a logo on your birthing partner’s shirt. Music, candles and burning essential oils may also induce calm.
Meditation is not advised in cases of severe depression or mental illness such as manic depression or schizophrenia.
If it is possible, meditate every day, preferably at the same time.
Meditate before eating, rather than with a full stomach.
It is important to be comfortable when meditating. The traditional posture is upright with a straight spine and feet connected to the ground. You may find it more comfortable laying down, first thing in the morning while still in bed, or even in the bath.