Think about Meditating for a Few Minutes Every Day
Meditation practices are personal, and can be elusive to define. Though there are many types of meditation (focused breathing, yoga, or fixing the mind on a particular thought-to name just a few), all train the mind to stay in the present moment, and develop an awareness of one’s negative, patterned behaviors. Individuals often try multiple types of meditation before finding the practice that best suits them.
What Can Daily Meditation Do for You?
Even though meditation requires regular practice to realize the benefits, the physical and mental health effects of daily meditation are many. Meditation reduces the stress response by lowering cortisol levels, and decreasing the associated release of inflammatory chemicals. It can also improve sleep, help control anxiety, and provide a heightened sense of well-being and emotional self-control.
MRI brain imaging studies have found that regular meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with our sense of self, creativity, well being…and your immune system.
Meditation Increases Activity in the Prefrontal Cortex…and Helps Regulate your Immune System
There’s some medical evidence to suggest that the following beneficial immune changes may happen with daily mediation:
- Decreases in inflammatory markers like CRP
- Increases in Cell Mediated Immunity
- Increases in Telomerase activity-this protein prevents telomere length reduction, a phenomenon that has been associated with cancer and premature aging.
Meditation and Psoriasis
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, compared the skin healing rates of people with Psoriasis undergoing UV light therapy. Half the people were taught to meditate daily, including while undergoing light treatment, and the other half just received the light treatment. The people who meditated while in the light box experienced skin clearing 4x faster than those who did not meditate while in the light box.
Meditative Cooking Practices…and Korean Temple Food?
Gathering ingredients and preparing them into nurturing dishes is a meditative practice for many, beautifully exemplified by the practice of making Korean Temple Food. This vegetarian cuisine is designed to still the mind while providing nutrition to the body. It is prepared with respect for nature, and creates minimal waste. Korean temple food is meant to be eaten sparingly, so that the body’s energy is available to the mind, and not diverted toward excessive digestion. For more information, please read “Wookwan’s Korean Temple Food,” a beautiful and delicious guide to this process.
Braised Tofu with Daikon
14 ounces of organic firm tofu cut into 1 inch squares
2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon of tamari sauce
1 tablespoon of barley malt syrup, or organic cane sugar
One recipe of mushroom-seaweed stock, strained, and cooked Daikon reserved. (Recipe to follow)
Heat the grapeseed oil in a small sauce-pan. Sauté the tofu about three minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Combine the mushroom-seaweed stock, tamari sauce, barley malt syrup, and ginger. Pour into the pan, along with the reserved daikon. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced in volume. Serve hot with steamed rice or noodles.
Mushroom-seaweed stock adapted from “Wookwan’s Korean Temple Food”
4 cups of filtered drinking water
Five dried organic shiitake mushrooms
One and a half cups of peeled, diced white Daikon radish
Five small pieces of Kombu, approximately totaling a 10 cm square
Combine the water, mushrooms, and daikon in a medium sauce-pan, and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, then add the Kombu. Simmer for another 10 minutes, and then strain. You should have a scant 2 cups of liquid. Reserve the cooked daikon for the above recipe.
Medical mentions: Tips for a simple meditation practice
- Sit comfortably in a solid, comfy seat.
- Soften your gaze, drop your chin slightly and let your gaze fall gently downward
- Be kind to your wandering mind – it’s normal. Instead of feeling frustrated, instead practice observing thoughts without reacting to them. When you notice your mind wandering, gently return your attention to your breath Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
- Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware but not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness puts some space between ourselves and our reactions.