Whereas PMR and DMR concentrate on muscle relaxation, meditation concentrates on relaxing the mind. The technique is straightforward. The mind is focused for 20 minutes on a word or sound, known as a focal device. This is repeated over and over again in the mind. As the technique is performed, thoughts will pass in and out of the mind. When the mind wanders it can be brought back to the focal device. With practice the mind will wander less often as the repetition of the word engages the left side of the brain in a meaningless task. This side of the brain deals more with logical and analytical thinking and normally dominates our consciousness (Figure 22). When the word is repeated over and over again the left brain is occupied in the monotonous task of attending to the repetitious information. As this happens, the activity of the right side of the brain takes over.
This side of the brain is involved with intuition, imagination and creativity. Suppressing the analytic activity of the left brain and allowing intuitive dominance of the right brain results in a reduction in stress response activation and an increase in tranquillity; a feeling of serenity.
During meditation, the body’s oxygen requirement drops, the heart and breathing slow, blood pressure decreases. In fact, a general state of relaxation is achieved. Recordings of brain wave activity show more alpha rhythms which are characteristic of a state of relaxation.
Procedure for meditation
Allow 20 minutes.
• Find a quiet, warm place where you will not be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable upright position, place a biodot on your hand and note the colour. Make a note of the time. Breathing should be slow, gentle and abdominal. Close your eyes then repeat aloud the word “om” or “one”. Do this several times then repeat the word more quietly and then quieter still until you are not moving your lips but merely thinking the word over and over in your mind. Do not concentrate on keeping the word in the forefront of your mind – it should not be like counting sheep. You will find that your mind begins to wander. Thoughts will come into your mind; “I’ve got to buy some postage stamps on the way home”, “I must blog the car in for a service”.
• Let thoughts wander into your mind and then let them leave by thinking the sound over and over again. (The sound of the word is purely a means of helping you clear your mind.) Continue in this manner for 20 minutes, then stop and sit quietly for a minute or so. Gradually and slowly open your eyes. Note the colour of the biodot.
You are looking for a change in the colour of your biodot towards the blue range, to show that you have achieved a state of calm and relaxation and reduced your level of stress. Do not become concerned if your biodot does not change colour after meditating. It may be that you require further practice. Also, look for the signs of relaxation such as warm hands and feet, and salivation.
• End your relaxation by gently stretching your arms and legs and taking two or three slow deep breaths.
Do not use an alarm to tell you when the 20 minutes is up -open your eyes slowly and look at a clock when you feel that 20 minutes has passed. With practice you will find it easy to judge
20 minutes. The time will seem to pass very quickly. Sometimes you will find it hard to believe you have sat and relaxed for 20 minutes. After practising meditation regularly, twice a day for about two to three months, you may experience periods of deep mental relaxation. If, however, this does not happen, do not become concerned. It is the process of relaxing that is important. Continue with the procedure.
Try to meditate regularly each morning and evening at a time when your home or office is reasonably quiet. Take precautions so you will not be disturbed. While you are learning the technique, you may find it helpful to use earplugs (available from chemists). Unplug the telephone and ensure the room temperature is comfortable. Avoid eating for about two hours beforehand. Late evening meditation may affect your sleep since meditation usually increases alertness.
We recommend you practise PMR, DMR and meditation in the sitting position without supporting the head. If you are lying down, with head supported in a relaxed state, it is easy to fall asleep. The aim of practising a relaxation technique is to achieve a state of physical and mental calmness different from sleep.
Relaxation techniques must be learnt and you should not expect instant success. With the aid of biodots you will be able to monitor your progress and the effects of the technique. Eventually, you should be able to take a short meditation or muscular relaxation any time and anywhere.