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Stop, disconnect and reflect. Meditation is a way of using your thoughts to bring about a state of calm, enlightenment or spirituality. It’s an essential part of many psychological practices as well as hundreds of religious and secular ways of life across the world. Meditation is a key element of many alternative therapies, often combined with prayer, music, exercise, self-massage and fasting.

How does it work?

Meditation is not just for monks. There are many types of meditation that range from the structured mental exercises of western psychology to the broad-minded exploration characteristic of Buddhism. Some of the main types of meditation you might come across if you are practicing yoga, Chinese medicine or a number of holistic, alternative therapies include:

Meditation through breathing – where you concentrate on the air filling your lungs and the rhythm of your breathing. Empty mind meditation – where you try to clear your mind of all thoughts and allow it to become calm. Meditation and movement – where you focus on a physical activity (for example running or walking), paying careful attention to the way your body feels. Meditation of self-awareness – where you confront the thoughts and feelings that are passing through your mind, paying attention to them and your current emotional situation. Structured journey of exploration – this is a widely-used relaxation technique, where you are guided through an imaginative journey. For example, you might imagine your ideal landscape or spot, visualising all of the smallest details and placing yourself within it. Mantra or chanting meditation – where you repeat a phrase or mantra both to induce a state of calm and also to help to reinforce your understanding and acceptance of its meaning.

Many forms of meditation can be learnt alone, or as part of another activity such as yoga. If you attend a meditation class, the class leader, master or guru will often teach you more about the theory behind meditation and to guide you through more advanced forms.

A meditation class will normally last 1-2 hours to give you time to shake off the stresses of the outside world and really involve yourself in the mental exploration.

Is it for me?

Meditation is not only good for dealing with stress, depression, phobias, anxiety attacks, poor concentration and addictive habits, but it’s also incredibly flexible. There are portable meditation techniques that you can practice at any time to help you to carry over all the positive things you learn in meditation classes to your everyday life. So, whether you’re a busy executive type or you’re living the simple life in a commune, meditation can help you to feel well-balanced, fulfilled and ready for anything.

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