assumptions, namely, that during meditation the person focuses all
their attention on one activity--breathing or a candle or a sound--
which diverts energy away from holding down repressed thoughts and
feelings. Thus, the unconscious thoughts and emotions can, in theory,
escape or slip out, leading to new insights and awareness.
Meditation is commonly associated with religion, both eastern
religions and Christianity, as we saw in method #1, Benson's method
of relaxing. Many people meditate seeking greater religious faith or
communion with God. Meditation is an ancient art. About 500 B.C.
Buddha said that (1) life is suffering, (2) suffering is caused by
desires, and (3) reduce your suffering by giving up desires. Thus, Zen
meditation became an accepting way of life in the East, not a way, like
self-help, to actively solve and remove immediate personal problems
but a passive-acceptance way.
To provide relaxation and, consequently, better health. (Be
skeptical, see cautions below.)
To achieve the state of "restful awakeness" in which the body
slows down (breathing rate, heart rate, and EEG waves have
been demonstrated to be reduced) and the mind supposedly
becomes more capable (not proven) and one becomes more
confident of self-control.
There are many more benefits claimed for meditation but they are
Solutions to pressing personal problems.
The recall of early repressed experiences.
By recognizing the constancy of change, you become better
prepared for and more accepting of change.
By sensing your oneness with others, with God, and with the
universe, you may gain the joy and comfort of being a natural
part of all that is and ever will be.
There are dangerous claims by some radical writers that serious
physical diseases can be cured (like cancer). There are mystical
claims, for instance that your soul can leave your body and
travel great distances to communicate with others.
STEP ONE: Read more about meditation
Meditation is done daily, perhaps for life. To even get a feel for
meditation you need to read about it and practice it for a few months.
So it is a major undertaking; you need good advice from more than
one teacher. Several references are given below; I recommend Kabat-
Zinn (1990 and 1994), Singh (1996), or Goleman (1991). A word of
caution: some writers promise magical, mystical powers. This poses a
problem: you need to be motivated and to have hopes that meditating