Meditation involves taking responsibility for our own mental states, and training ourselves to alter how we respond to experiences (especially difficult ones) so that we produce outcomes (both internally, in terms of mental states that we experience, and externally, in terms of the situations that we help create) that are more conducive to well being and happiness.
There is therefore a lot that meditation can help us to achieve in dealing with stress, although it is not the only tool we can use.
In meditation we cultivate the faculty of mindfulness, or awareness. Mindfulness helps us to become more deeply aware of the patterns that our mind and emotions give rise to – including the patterns of responses that we experience as stress.
We can become more aware, for example, of how we blow things out of proportion, so that we add to our woes.
We might become aware of how we indulge in anxious thoughts, so that a neutral thought about something we have to do leads to worrying about what will happen if we don’t do it, and how this leads in turn to us actively seeking out things to worry about.
Once we are aware of these internal activities, we clearly are in a better position to do something about them.
With awareness comes choice. Once we have become aware of a pattern of experience, we are able to choose to act otherwise. No awareness = no choice.
Meditation can also help us become more aware of how to make choices that lead to outcomes that are more supportive of well being and happiness.
By practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis, we learn to let go of the unhealthy emotional states that lead to the arising of physical tensions. Meditation includes a strong element of bodily relaxation. To begin to understand how this works you can listen to a body awareness and relaxation exercise.
You can learn how to directly affect your mental states, promoting calmness and contentment. Learning how your body and mind interact will help you to influence your mental states by changing your posture and breathing.
Specific meditations and how they help with stress
Our posture workshop will help you appreciate how to use your body as an effective support for positive mental states.
The mindfulness of breathing meditation will also help you to use your breath as a way of relaxing your body.
We also offer an excellent, and brief, guided meditation (also on RealAudio) involving the use of peripheral awareness to help you to directly stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting rapid relaxation.
Meditation will help you with anger management. The Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness) meditation can also help you to manage anger more effectively, and help you develop your self-esteem and self-confidence (something that quickly becomes eroded under stress).
Meditation can teach you tools to dispel anxiety, ill will, and self doubt. Meditation helps you to more quickly identify and work with mental states of anxiety, so that you can experience them less often, and instead experience their opposite and positive counterparts.