Meditation is the ultimate mind over matter therapy. It enables the arthritis sufferer to achieve a deeper level of consciousness and, in doing so, to bring about relief from pain and the everyday problems with which arthritis is associated.
The practice of stilling the mind by conscious effort has been practiced in Asia and the Far East for thousand of years. Meditation has become a popular means of coping with the stress, strains and anxieties of modern life. Since the 1960s, meditation has been subjected to much scientific investigation to try and discover exactly how it benefits people.
Research with EEG machines and other modern equipment has shown conclusively that regular meditation can bring about a profound improvement in the health of both mind and body.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can achieve increased energy levels, improved concentration, better physical health and relief from pain. It has also been shown that meditation can normalize hormonal activity, increase blood circulation, stimulate the immune system and release muscular tension.
The relaxation response
It is now known that stress of all kinds, including trying to cope with the physical problems of chronic pain, stiffness and immobility, has a severe effect on a wide variety of body functions. When someone is stressed, for whatever reason, the body’s arousal systems all go into permanent red alert and this result in large amounts of excess adrenaline, the stress hormone, flooding into every cell of the body. This causes a permanent sensation of anxiety and unease which in time you may not be conscious of. When this happens, the ability to relax is impaired, even during periods of sleep.
Meditation has the power to reduce stress levels gradually and safely, so that the body’s self healing mechanisms can once more come into operation. Meditation allows the brain waves to slow down from beta, the normal walking state, to alpha, which is the wave in which healing, creativity and positive thinking take place. In the alpha state, the mind slows down, becomes receptive, and senses rather than thinks.
A commitment to relax
There are no harmful side effects from mediation, and it can be practiced any time, anywhere. However, meditation is an art that has to be learned, and practiced daily in order to achieve proficiency. For most people, the art of being relaxed and alert at the same time does not come naturally. It takes persistent effort to learn the techniques.
Nowadays, there are many schools of meditation, and many different ways to meditate. Some people find it easier to do this in a class setting, with somebody guiding the meditation. Others prefer to be alone, and meditation can be learned quite easily at home. It is a good idea to buy a tape to start with, which will guide you through a meditation and stop you becoming bored or sleepy until you have mastered the art of relaxed concentration.
You may find that your mind wanders off into thinking about trivial things, such as what’s for dinner and compiling a shopping list. One way of keeping the mind is to focus on something, it could be the flame of a candle or a spiritual picture, and pull yourself back to this every time the mind strays. You do not need to keep your eyes shut.
Meditation has been found to be very effective for pain relief, and is increasingly being used in hospitals, pain clinics and hospices for these purposes. It requires some investment of time with its daily practice, but the dividends, you will probably find, are invaluable. The meditative effect from each session lasts only a few hours, which is why two dedicated sessions every day are recommended.