Meditation Helps Many Beat Stress, Lower Blood Pressure

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The man sitting in the straight-back chair -- hands on his knees, eyes closed, breathing evenly -- is not sleeping.

Patrick Creager is in the midst of taking 10 to 20 minutes out of his day to clear his mind and find the silence within.

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Tools for meditation
• A quiet location with few distractions
• A comfortable posture
• A focus of attention
• An open attitude
Breathe consciously
• Breathe in and out deeply to get a good feel of the breath.
• Counting breaths from one to 10, then starting over again gives the brain something to do.

Meditation is a practice he added to his lifestyle 30 years ago.

"A lot of people don't realize that meditation does not have to be connected to a particular religious belief," Creager said.

His wife became interested in meditation in the 1970s and thought it would help him.

"Kicking and screaming," Creager went along with her.

But he came out the other side of the experience a calmer man.

While the way organized Transcendental Meditation was organized did not suit him, he found he liked the benefits of meditating on his own.

Now retired, Creager was an administrator for Child Protective Services -- a 28-year-long career full of daily stress. The only change he made to his lifestyle was meditation. After six weeks of once or twice daily meditation, Creager discovered his blood pressure was back to normal levels.

"When you come out of the calming state, you feel refreshed, sometimes surprisingly," he said. "Even if your day was physically taxing or worrisome, you feel up to the challenges of life."

Scientific studies show that meditation soothes the nervous system. The brain moves into an Alpha wave state. Once that happens, metabolism slows, stress hormone production reduces and the heart rate is lowered.

Research collaboration between the Tibetan Buddhist Dali Lama and neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin in 2005 showed mental training through meditation can change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain.

Intention matters.

Meditation is a personal experience -- although it can be done in a group -- and there is no "right" way to find what some call oneness with spirit and others call oneness with God.

For instance, kinetic people might come to their state of inner quiet by walking though the woods.

Meditative states may be reached by just sitting in a hot tub and gazing at the stars.

Meditation is what happens in prayer when the person praying has asked for what they need and is listening for an answer from that higher power, according to Betty Merritt.

When Merritt quit corporate America in 1986 and wondered where she might open a healing center, she meditated on the question.

"I saw a field with purple and yellow pansies in my mind," Merritt said.

She traveled until she found her vision -- a field of Johnny jump-up flowers (they look like miniature pansies) where the Merritt Center is located in Star Valley.

Those who respond best to auditory stimuli might start to relax into a meditation by hearing the ever-deepening "Ohm" sound a Tibetan bowl makes when someone draws their finger or a dowel around its rim.

"Sound has a tremendous effect on how you feel," Lynn Nelson said. She even has a room at her business Bookstore and More where she meditates.

"Everything, including your body has a vibration and when you incorporate a sound that is at the same level or higher, you feel better."

Meditation through sound is one of the reasons Buddhists chant a mantra.

Guided visualization, that is, listening to someone else in person or on a DVD or CD, is yet another form of meditation.

Still others might begin their meditation by focusing on a candle's flame until they find clarity of mind and spirit.

Short, shallow breaths make it impossible to relax, so deep breaths are important to successful meditation.

Zune teaches a form of yoga meditation that is not physical called Kriya.

"We (the Mountain Institute) do a simple meditation for stress management, then if people want to know more there are other classes," she said.

She agreed with Creager, Nelson and Merritt that there are many forms of meditation and many benefits, from relationships with others to increased mental faculties.

What Zune said her daily meditation each morning gives her peace of mind and helps her feel centered.

The feeling of being grounded and centered lasts. Indeed, it supports the day.

"Then, in my profession as a real estate broker, I am better able to negotiate with clients," she said.

To contact the Merritt Center about healing workshops, call Betty at (800) 414-9880.

To contact Zune about meditation classes and workshops, call (928) 472-7654.

To contact The Bookstore and More about upcoming workshops, call (928) 468-1027.

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