For many, the word meditation may conjure up preconceived images of people sitting in a circle. But these days, people of all ages and walks of life are learning the benefits of meditation – including health benefits, such as reducing stress, helping to lower blood pressure and addressing insomnia.
“While there are not many things in life that can be promised, I can say with 100 percent certainty that taking the time to sit quietly using the breath or even the words of a beloved or inspiring passage as a focusing tool, for a period of 15 minutes each day, provides a significant positive benefit to health and well-being at any age,” says Trisha Brady, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist who regularly leads meditation workshops.
A Personal Story
“My dad at 85, although firmly convinced that he was ‘too old’ to learn meditation noticed the positive benefits in my life and agreed to try it for 15 minutes each day for a week,” Dr. Brady says. “After a couple days of wrestling with the basic chatter of the mind, he reported back that he just wasn’t good at it.”
However, Dr. Brady says, mind “chatter” is an issue for everyone learning to meditate. “Offering my dad the practice of focusing on a beloved prayer from his spiritual tradition for the remainder of his week created a sense of purpose, an anchor and a place of familiarity in which to rest his mind. Synchronizing the words with the breath, he was able to sit longer, and gradually, as meditation became a regular part of his life, to just watch what has sometimes been called the ‘parade of thoughts’ passing by … and choose to bring his attention back to the words of the passage or prayer.”
Dr. Brady’s father noticed the benefits of meditation in his life and stuck with it.
Ways to Get Started
There are many ways to meditate, and those just beginning may want to find a qualified instructor or workshop.
Anne Hanley, Ph.D., offers three examples of simple and unexpected ways to meditate, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day:
- Breath awareness: “Pay attention to your natural inhale and exhale, simply follow them in and out and notice what happens in your body as you inhale and exhale. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath.”
- Nature: “Go outdoors and notice the sound of the birds, a favorite flower or plant, a stone or rock – stay with that image or sound – notice the texture, the color, the shape, the smells, the tone, the melody, the breeze you feel on your skin, etc.”
- Walking: “Turn off mental words and pay attention to your body as you walk outdoors. Notice the left, right movement of your legs and feet, the swinging of your arms, the soles of your feet as they touch the ground, roll onto the balls of your foot and then your heels.”
Also see the “Learn to Meditate” sidebar in the “Benefits of Meditation” article from AARP.org. If you and your doctor think meditation is right for you, find the practice you enjoy most, and then watch the benefits unfold.