Sri Lanka is often referred as the Emerald Isle of Asia. It is a tiny island nation south of India formerly known as Ceylon. For the next month my newsletters, blogs and FB posts will be photos and stories of my Sri Lanka adventure.
The best thing about Sri Lanka is there is so much to do in a little country (it is about the size of England). There are few places that have as many Unesco World Heritage Sites (8) packed into such a small area. It is famous for its ancient Buddhist ruins, including the 5th-century citadel Sigiriya (see photo below) and the sacred city of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
I plan to meditate in the temples including the 2000 year old cave temples of Dambulla. I look forward to experiencing a deep level of meditation as I rest on the shoulders of the thousands of monks and pilgrims who have meditated here before me.
In addition Sri Lanka is a rugged land of rainforests with thousands of wild elephants, often gathering at watering holes guaranteeing you a chance to see them. As we go on safari through the national parks we hope to encounter a leopard. We will be sure to see water buffaloes, all manner of birds and lots of monkeys. I am hoping to have the opportunity to ride an elephant bareback when we visit one of the elephant sanctuaries. These sanctuaries provide care and protection to many of the orphaned, unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. If possible they are released back into the wild.
When traveling I like to get to know the people and how they live. We will be doing a 3 day trek through Horton Plains National Park covered by wild grasslands and interspersed with patches of thick forest, rocky outcrops, waterfalls and misty lakes.
Each night our guide will take us to stay with a local family in their home. We will enjoy dining with them on local food and spend the evening with the family getting to know more about their life and culture. Finally we get to the endless beaches on the Indian Ocean to relax, swim and snorkel. What a great way to end our adventure.
Did I mention tea plantations and flavorful food? All of this awaits us. Even though I am gluten free and very careful about chemicals in my diet I feel confident there will be plenty for me to enjoy, I use my diet as a means to maintain vibrant health so I can travel and enjoy life fully. I never want my diet to limit me from traveling. I’ll do my best and if I eat something “off my diet” my body will be able to handle it.
I will probably take a cooking class as we are spending a few nights at an organic farm. I will have recipes to share when I return. I am grateful to have this opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka. I love adventure.
In line with my trip to Sri Lanka and the ancient Buddhist temples I plan to meditate at, today’s blog post contains the benefits of meditation. I also have written up a simple meditation I learned from Deepak Chopra many years ago. It is a good one to create strength and healing in your body.
Benefits of Meditation for Strength and Healing
A meditation practice helps you tune in to the present moment, find the peace within and get in touch with the love in your heart. I have been meditating for almost 10 years. It is one of my key tools for reducing stress and connects me to my inner being.
Meditation is a process of developing an unconditional friendship with yourself”
Meditation is a tool to restore our inherent state of balance and well-being. It is one of the best tools we have to balance our emotions, deal with physical or psychological distress and promote the peace of the present moment. Meditation can remove stress and replace it with a sense of inner peace. In the silence of meditation we get our bursts of inspiration, our tender feelings of compassion and empathy, and our sense of love.
Research has established that regular meditation practice produces tangible benefits for the body mind and spirit including:
Meditation Reduces Stress
Mediation enables us to release stress. In meditation, we go from fight or flight to rest and digest. We feel an inner state of calm. A 2011 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal found that full-time workers who spent a few hours each week (15 minutes a day) practicing meditation reported a significant decrease in job stress, anxiety, and depressed mood.
Meditation Improves Memory and Concentration
Scientists used to believe that beyond a certain age, the brain couldn’t change or grow. It is now known the brain has a quality known as plasticity, enabling it to grow new neurons and transform throughout our lives. Meditation is a powerful tool for awakening new neural connections and even transforming regions of the brain. A recent study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that after only eight weeks of meditation, participants experienced beneficial growth in the brain areas associated with memory, learning, empathy, self-awareness, and stress regulation.
Meditation helps us to stay focused even with all the distractions in our world. A study at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Center showed that teenagers and adults with ADHD who practiced various forms of meditation for just eight weeks improved their ability to concentrate on tasks, even when attempts were made to distract them.
Meditation Improves Creativity
When we quiet our mind we connect to what is known as the field of infinite possibilities or pure potentiality, and we open to new insights, intuition, and ideas. Meditating helps you “get into the flow”. Instead of being burdened by the past or worried about the future you are in the eternal “NOW”. The mind is in an open, receptive state and is able to receive flashes of insight and fresh perspectives.
Meditation Improves Happiness
Meditation triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Each of these naturally occurring brain chemicals have been linked to different aspects of happiness.
- Dopamine is linked to reward and focus
- Serotonin calms us down
- Oxytocin is the pleasure hormone. It gives us a feeling of security and contentment
Meditation Can Reduce Pain
Meditation can help people suffering from chronic pain. A study conducted by Wake Forest University School of Medicine (published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience) found that participants who attended four 20-minute training sessions over the course of four days experienced a sharp reduction in their sensitivity to pain. In fact, the reduction in pain ratings was significantly greater than those found in similar studies involving placebo pills, morphine, and other painkilling drugs.
Additional Benefits of Meditation
- Decreased blood pressure and hypertension
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Reduced production of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline
- More efficient oxygen use by the body
- Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
- Improved immune function
- Decreased anxiety, depression, and insomnia
Mantra Meditation To Activate Balance, Strength and Healing in the Body
This mantra meditation from Deepak Chopra helps connect you to your body. It activates balance, strength and healing in the body. Your body is your friend and trusted ally. This mantra activates love and compassion within your body. When we connect to the love we have inside of us our whole life can harmonize. Love attracts everything possible, heals our wounds and calms our worries. Love is our true nature.
- Set a timer for 5-20 minutes.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Take a few gentle deep breaths, breathe slowly and deeply, feel your breath flow in and out.
- With each breath allow yourself to become more relaxed.
- Gently introduce the mantra Om Ram Ramaya.
- The repetition of this mantra Om Ram Ramaya during meditation helps you gain lightness and energy for your body. Repeat the mantra Om Ram Ramaya silently to yourself.
- With each repetition feel your body, mind and spirit open a little more. Whenever you find yourself distracted by thoughts, noises or physical sensations simply return your attention to silently repeating the mantra Om Ram Ramaya.
- You will gently move from your thoughts back to the mantra, from sounds back to your mantra and from physical sensations back to your mantra. Your meditation will be this gentle drifting back and forth.
- Continue on Om Ram Ramaya Om Ram Ramaya Om Ram Ramaya
- When the time is up, gently release the mantra and bring your attention back into your body. Breathe slowly. Sit quietly for a few breaths in the stillness and silence of the meditation and when you feel ready open your eyes.
As you go through your day remain open to your body as a friend and trusted ally. Namaste
Notes on meditation:
If you notice you have other thoughts while you are thinking the mantra, that’s fine. Let your attention easily favor the mantra over the thoughts.
You don’t need to search for the peace within, following the meditation practice will automatically bring you to that experience of the self. In time, that state of awareness becomes stronger, more persistent in and out of meditation.
Honor yourself for your meditation practice, whether it is 5 minutes or 20 minutes. Let go of any judgment. Even if you don’t feel you could quiet your thoughts, the simple act of returning to the mantra connects you to yourself. Meditation takes us just as we are, with our confusion and our sanity. This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is a simple, direct relationship with our being. It is call maitri, loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.
As you see the health benefits of meditation are many but sometimes we have a hard time incorporating a daily meditation practice into our lives. Here are a few tips to help you create a regular meditation practice.
- Meditate at the same time every day
- Meditate in the same place. Sit in a comfortable place with a backrest if necessary, don’t slouch. If you have to, lie down, that is fine too.
- Listen to the same music each time you meditate. This is optional but I find it very helpful. Your brain will associate the music with the meditative state allowing you to drop into meditation more easily. There are many meditation tracks on youtube Here is one I like. Click for Meditation Music
- It is good to meditate when you wake up in the morning. This is a beneficial time. First our busy schedules give us excuses to postpone the practice, second it is the best time to achieve optimal brainwave states.
- Celebrate yourself for meditating. Tell yourself good job. Feel pleasure for doing it. Celebrating gives a boost to your motivation. You create new neural pathways of pleasure for getting things done.
- If possible sit in the bright sun while meditating. The sun on your closed eyelids produces melatonin and helps balance your circadian rhythms. You will sleep better.
Meditation gives me a sense of peace, a feeling all is truly well. Even if I only get a few minutes of this peace in each 15-minute session it is worth it. The inner joy I experience flows into my life more and more with each meditation.