The Meditative State
Mary Ruth Velicki MS, DPT
Meditative practices are a valuable tool to calm the body-mind. Different types of meditation have been practiced since ancient times as a component of religious or spiritual traditions. In the 1960s, meditation involving “mindfulness” emerged in the West as a stress-reducing practice rather than a spiritual practice, and today meditation is part of our popular culture and everyday conversations. The health benefits of meditation have been widely reported in the literature, and many Western-medicine practitioners now recommend the practice.
Just as individual people use different activities to have fun and relieve stress, so do people use different forms of meditation to help calm the body-mind and to turn down the volume of their spinning minds. Some people focus on one thing, like the flame of a candle or a repeated phrase, and let thoughts pass through their mind without paying attention to them. Others find that activities which calm both the body and the mind are helpful, such as hatha yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, and progressive-relaxation meditation. For me, these three methods were the best way to reset my nervous system into a calmer state, and I still use them almost every day. When I focus on my breathing and the sensations of the body and consciously move them to a relaxed state, my mind often slips out of stress-causing mental loops, while my body simultaneously gets the sensation that it is safe.
Meditation can refer to an activity or practice that aims to calm the body-mind; it can also refer to a state of being or a mindset that one moves into. For me, a meditative mindset is a place where I feel open, peaceful, and joyful. In this state of my body-mind, I’m fully in the moment, and my analytical mind is either quiet or intently focused on an activity that is very enjoyable. In this mindset, insight and inspiration often float into my awareness. I often move into this mindset when I am walking, sitting at the beach, or sculpting. My friends have described being in this state when they are running, petting their dogs, and painting. A meditative practice is finding the ways you move into this state of being and then doing those body-mind calming activities more often.
When we adopt this calm state of the body-mind, either through specific practices or pleasurable activities, we have an opportunity to experience a state of wholeness in which the body, mind, and spirit are connected and in communication. With practice, this meditative state can grow from being an activity we do to escape our regular lives to a mindset we assume throughout our regular lives.