Reactivating Our Instincts Through Meditation

Our previous blog post, Do humans have instincts?”, discussed the theory of human instincts.  It was mentioned that we can reactivate our human instincts, which currently lay dormant, so that we can access them to deal with daily stressors.  In order to reactivate our instincts we must get in touch with our “wild side” and connect with our surroundings.  This can be done through meditation.

Meditation

Reactivating Our Instincts Through Meditation

In order to reactivate our instincts, we must free our minds and heighten our awareness.  This can be done through meditation.  Meditation is a practice that induces relaxation through focus and reflection.  It has been known to promote many physical and mental health benefits.  The practice of meditation affects the body in the opposite way that stress does.  It allows the body to release stress that has accumulated, while simultaneously preventing stress from entering the body.  Meditation has been scientifically proven, with the use of fMRI scans, to reduce the Beta waves in the brain, which gives the brain an opportunity to relax and reboot.  This restores the body to a tranquil state, which helps the body repair itself, as well as helping to prevent new damage caused by the physical effects of stress.

Benefits of Meditation

There are many benefits brought about by the practice of meditation.  Physical benefits of meditation are a result of an increase in energy in every cell of the body.  This increase in energy changes the physiology of the body.

Some physical benefits of meditation:

  • Heart rate and breathing slow down
  • Body uses oxygen more efficiently
  • Adrenal glands produce less cortisol (stress hormone)
  • You sweat less
  • Your mind ages at a slower rate
  • Blood pressure normalizes; lowers high blood pressure
  • Decreased tension-related pain
  • Increase in serotonin levels to improve mood and behavior
  • Improved function of immune system
  • Increase in energy levels

Mental benefits of meditation are a result of brainwaves entering an Alpha state that promotes healing, rather than a Beta state that causes stress.  This allows one to clear their mind and bring about the following benefits.

Some mental benefits of meditation:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Improved emotional stability
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased feelings of overall happiness
  • Ability to focus more easily
  • Improved memory
  • Expanded consciousness
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Gained perspective

It has also been found that people who meditate regularly find it easier to give up addictive, life-damaging habits like smoking, drugs, and alcohol.

Meditation allows one to experience the higher states of consciousness where one is able to live in the moment and let go of the past.  With this mindset, disturbances that may occur in daily life become insignificant.  Meditation teaches us to “let go” in a sense that we cannot control everything.  This is partially due to the gain in perspective that meditation provides us.  Through meditation we are able to focus and reflect, often gaining an appreciation for life.  This allows us to see things differently, from a new perspective, and makes our “problems” appear smaller than we originally thought.

How to Meditate

Many people shy away from meditation because they find it intimidating.  How do you meditate?  Am I doing this right?  I cannot concentrate.  I can’t sit still.  I keep getting distracted.  I feel like I am wasting my time.  These are just a few of the many statements beginners may think while trying to pursue meditation.  I am not going to lie, meditation does require practice and patience, but don’t be discouraged.  Once you tackle that first obstacle of learning how to practice and sustain meditation, it becomes easier.

Here are some simple steps to help you get started:

  1. Find somewhere relatively quiet to practice.
  2. Sit up straight so that your spine is erect (you may sit in a chair, on the ground, etc.) and relax all other part of your body. Close your eyes.
  3. Starting at your toes, move your attention up your body, consciously releasing all tension. Work from your toes to the soles of your feet to your ankles… and continue until you reach the top of your head.
  4. Once you are relaxed and all tension is released, turn your attention to your breathing. Do not try to control your breathing, just be aware of how your body moves when you inhale and exhale.  If your mind starts to wander pull your attention back to your breathing and count to 10.  Use your breathing as an anchor to keep your attention from drifting away.
  5. When first starting out, try to maintain a meditative state for around 5 minutes. As you grow more confident, gradually increase your time.  Try to work towards the goal of meditating for 15 minutes per day.

Once you begin meditating it is important to sustain the practice.  Try to make time everyday to sit and meditate, even if it is just for a few minutes.  Throughout the day, try to be aware of your body and your breath.  We want to establish a connection with the two.  If there are times when you forget to meditate, it is never too late to start again.

 

Mindfulness

Lotus flowers are often associated with practices like yoga and meditation. The lotus flower is the symbol for the lotus pose in yoga, where one crosses their legs and sits quietly on the floor. The lotus pose is also often used as a base for meditation.

Being Mindful

The practice of meditation strengthens our abilities of concentration and mindfulness.  It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the difference between the two.  Concentration is our ability to focus our attention on one thing.  For example, students must concentrate when studying for exams in order to do well.  Mindfulness is the ability to focus one’s awareness on the present moment.  While being mindful, one accepts the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are experienced without passing judgment.  Mindfulness is about acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they come.  An example of mindfulness would be paying close attention to your actions and perceptions as you participate in everyday activities, like drinking a glass of water.  What does the glass feel like in your hands?  Is there any condensation dripping down the sides?  What does it feel like when pressed to your lips?  Feel the water move from your lips, where it entered your body, to the back of your mouth and down your throat.  Is the water cold?  Being mindful is being aware moment-by-moment.

Although different, mindfulness and concentration work together.  Without concentration, mindfulness is difficult to sustain and without mindfulness, concentration is not productive.  Therefore it is important to recognize and develop a balance between the two, which can be done through meditation.  This helps us to find inner peace and stability that may be helpful in overcoming stress.  Through meditation and mindfulness we learn how to understand our own minds.  This understanding can help us overcome negative thoughts and support the cultivation of positive thoughts.

It is through this concept of being mindful that we are able to connect with our indigenous selves.  We are able to become attune to the happenings of the present moment, acknowledging them and accepting them as they occur without passing judgment.  We become attune with our bodies, allowing us to recognize things that we might not have noticed otherwise.  This may include primal sensations, remnants of our instincts.  The more we practice meditation, strengthening our abilities to concentrate and be mindful, the closer we can get to becoming attune with our bodies and instincts. 

 

 

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