Meditation improves health
Meditation has been highly regarded for thousands of years. In large part, because of its many health benefits. Especially relevant is relaxation of body and mind. Relaxation is the ideal state for healing body and mind. Meditation is the art of consciously shifting our mind – body into a state of relaxation. Therefore, meditation improves health. And many experts consider it essential for healthy living.
Health is the art of balance
Poor health, sickness, and disease are states of imbalance. Furthermore, this applies to mental and physical disease. Imbalance creates stress on the body and mind. This stress creates dis-ease. There are four major categories of stress or imbalance.
- Healthy or acceptable range. In this range the fluctuations are normal. They occur naturally as we go through our daily routine. Our breath, heart rate, and blood pressure will fluctuate depending on our activity. For example, whether we are sleeping, awake, sitting, or walking.
- Minor imbalance or stress. Imbalances in this category are typical of life as a human being. Emotional upsets and disappointments create stress. Unpleasant experiences with other people or events cause stress. Excessive thinking and over working stresses us out. Over stimulation is stressful. All of these are reflected in our general health. They produce changes that fall into the unhealthy range. Even healthy things like exercise cause stress. Most minor imbalances are temporary. Therefore, we generally recover quickly. We regain healthy status without too much wear and tear.
- Moderate imbalance or stress. Most noteworthy, this category is unhealthy whether temporary or not. When we get too far out of our healthy range, we damage ourselves. This category would include things like over exposure to toxins or drugs. Basically poisoning. Another is moderate emotional trauma. Events such as death or divorce. Also physical trauma such as broken bones or lacerations. And moderate illness or infection. While we recover from these imbalances, it takes longer. Additionally, there is the possibility of some permanent damage.
- Major imbalance or stress. This category includes those things that cause severe damage or death. Extreme exposure to poisons, major physical trauma, major mental trauma, and chronic illness.
Prolonged imbalance even if minor will probably result in ill-health. And eventually cause disease. Consequently, most serious disease does not start out serious. It accumulates over time. Meditation improves health by returning the body to balance. A healthy body bounces back. But prolonged imbalance breaks down our ability to recover. Eventually unbalanced health becomes serious disease.
Picking a healing method
Modern medicine with drugs and surgery attempts to restore balance. As a result, balance allows the body to heal. Natural medicine seeks to do the same using alternative methods. A wonderful alternative is meditation. There is a time and place for everything. It is both naive and dangerous to ignore either. If you have your arm torn off in an accident, meditation is not the best treatment plan. After surgery however, meditation improves health by speeding up the healing process. Additionally, meditation improves health by helping with the pain.
Not seeking appropriate medical attention when necessary is dangerous. Equally relevant, running to the doctor for everything will likely result in additional problems. Drugs and surgery are not always the answer. And rarely the best first choice. No amount of medical treatments will cure life style. Nearly all disease is preventable. Drugs and surgery have their place. However, they are not without risk. Side effects are common. Sometimes lasting for life. Occasionally the side effects are severe. In extreme cases, the treatment plan intended to cure you actually kills you. Picking a healing method in and of itself can be a balancing act.
Prevention is the best plan. Better to not get sick in the first place. Meditation improves health by helping the body to maintain balance. To keep things in the healthy or acceptable range. Sometimes things get out of balance. Meditation improves health by returning the body to balance. Returning to balance should be done as soon as possible. Thereby allowing the healing process to take place before the issue becomes serious.
Stress can do a lot of damage. Oppositely, a relaxed state does a lot of good. Relaxation restores balance allowing the body to maintain and heal itself.
- Relaxation is the ideal state for prevention. Actually the ideal state period. No issues. Just a happy, healthy, long life.
- Relaxation is the ideal state for maintenance. In this state the body best performs rejuvenation.
- Relaxation is the ideal state for healing. The body will heal faster and better when relaxed.
Stress inhibits or prevents normal body functions required for good health. Stress is imbalance. Health is the art of balance. Relaxation creates balance. Meditation is the art of consciously relaxing the body and mind.
The stress response
Stress is the major contributor to ill-health and disease. And stress is directly in our control. The stress response is also known as the fight or flight syndrome. It is the body’s response to life threatening events. Signs of stress response include;
- elevated breath and heart rates
- increased blood pressure
- increased muscle tension
The body in an effort to deal with the threat shuts down all non-essential functions. Non essential in an emergency. The body does this so it can divert all possible energy to essential areas. Essential in an emergency. If there is a threat to our life, we need to either battle the threat (fight) or run away (flight). Both require strong, fast, gross motor movements. Energy is diverted. But at what expense?
Our body in an emergency will shut down some functions. To name a few;
- the immune system
- maintenance and repair functions
- fine motor skills
Blood vessels constrict reducing blood flow to some areas. More blood will flow to vital areas for survival. Hence, in the brain blood is restricted to the conscious. The thinking part of our brain. Consequently more blood will then flow to the subconscious. The reactionary part of our brain. In an emergency there is not time to do a lot of thinking. We need to react. This is the purpose of martial arts training. To train the body to react. In a real life threatening emergency a few seconds usually determines survival or extinction.
Returning to balance
So, we survived. Hence, the body will naturally shut down the stress response. Next, the body will bring systems back on-line. Especially relevant, the stress response by design is intended for survival emergencies. Meaning rare and short-term use. Balance is then restored. But what if it wasn’t?
Some systems are shut down as non-essential in an emergency. But these systems are essential to life. How long can we go without a properly functioning immune system? What about our digestive and healing functions? How long can we sustain elevated breath and heart rates? Also increased blood pressure, anxiety, and muscle tension? Obviously it would not take long before causing problems!
Today’s life styles can keep us in stress response for extended periods of time.
- Over working
- Getting overwhelmed with children
- Information overload
- Over stimulation of any kind
- Substance abuse
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Hectic schedules
And the list goes on and on. Our body doesn’t differentiate between immediate life threatening situations and other types of stress. This is because of how our perception works. The signal from our brain is basically the same regardless of the threat. A signal is sent telling the body there is a threat. Something is wrong. There is danger. Consequently the body initiates the stress response.
First of all, excessive stress is a killer. Furthermore, any prolonged stress becomes a real life threatening situation. Finally, even minor to moderate levels of stress are dangerous. If they go on too long. Hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, cancer, and almost every other disease is due to stress. Staying in the fight or flight response for extended periods of time results in disease. Many people spend so much time in stress response they don’t even recognize it. Or if they do, maybe they think it is normal. Yet, this always on, never off life style is killing us.
The bottom line
We are either in stress or relaxation. Managing stress dramatically improves both physical and mental health. Meditation is an extremely effective tool for managing stress. Meditation shuts down the stress response and triggers the relaxation response. Therefore, we can consciously relax the mind-body. As a result, meditation improves health by helping us maintain balance. Because, health is the art of balance. In addition, balance is the art of relaxation. And finally, relaxation is the art of meditation.