Meditation to Reduce Stress and Improve Digestion
What is the neurological rationale for meditation?
- the sympathetic nervous system is what regulates our stress response. When you have a presentation to give at work, or the car in front of you stops short, and you get shaky and your stomach clenches up, that is a sympathetic response or fight or flight response. It is necessary at times, but we in the modern world are too often stuck in this mode for most of the day, which inhibits many important body processes.
- the parasympathetic nervous system is what regulates our rest and repair functions. When you take a few deep breaths, stretch and feel that tingly feeling in your limbs, that is your parasympathetic response kicking into gear. This is an underused mode in our busy lives, and unfortunately so because it is what drives our detoxification processes, recovery from illness or injury, and sleep patterns.
Interestingly, the body only digests food efficiently while the parasympathetic nervous system is active. And even more interestingly, meditation, even for a very short period of time, like 30 seconds, is enough to shift us over into the parasympathetic state and get us ready to eat a meal. Ever wonder why it is traditional in some cultures to say grace or a blessing or give thanks for a meal? That moment of reflection is actually necessary to prepare the body to eat. Specifically it allows the stomach to relax and start secreting stomach acid which will break down our food.
What follows here is a detailed description of how to perform a very easy but powerful meditation sequence that activates the parasympathetic nervous system. It can be done any time of day. If you are interested in learning it, read on. If not, just know that simply taking deep breaths for about 15-30 seconds (count if you need to) before a meal or snack greatly improves the nutrition you will absorb from that food. Eating in a stressful state means you’re just wasting your money on all that expensive food you buy because it will simply pass right through you without being used well by the body. You’ll be hungry faster and just have to eat more food to nourish yourself!
THE ROY MASTERS MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
The original Roy Masters technique is a type of meditation that:
…inhibits the sympathetic nervous system. This is the fight-or-flight nervous system. Resting this system powerfully rests the adrenal and thyroid glands and assists the activity of the immune, digestive, and elimination systems of the body. Many other benefits flow from this one benefit to the nervous system. Breathing tends to automatically slow and deepen, bringing more oxygen to the body cells. As breathing changes, the body becomes better oxygenated. More oxygen in the body greatly assists the proper nutrition and metabolism in the body. This often brings healing all by itself and is the reason oxygen therapies are highly recommended for certain ailments. (Lawrence Wilson, M.D.)
My Own Experience:
I practice this meditation at least once a day, and it was much easier to learn the exercise from putting on headphones and listening to this mp3 which you can stream online. I didn’t expect to feel any physical sensations during the mediation, but now once it gets going I do notice a rushing tingling sensation that moves from my head to my feet. It feels very nice. Personally, I think of it much more from a physical, rather than spiritual perspective. Afterwards I feel “settled” and more awake, rather than zoned out or tired. See below for written instructions.
*Note: There is a lot of talk online about Roy Masters being a cult leader or other such nonsense. Practicing this meditation does not make you a follower of Roy Masters. It does not cause visions, hallucinations, or other psychic phenomena.
HOW TO DO THE OBSERVATION EXERCISE
(from Dr. Lawrence Wilson)
The Basic Procedure: Sit in a straight-backed chair, with your arms hanging loosely at your side. A variation is to lie down and place your hands at your sides. Close your eyes.
Become aware of your right hand. Just notice it. Do not concentrate on it or visualize it, exactly. Just be aware of it and notice it. Do not force anything to happen.
It is often easier to be aware of one finger at a time rather than the whole hand at once. Move your awareness from finger to finger, but do not move your awareness to the rest of your body. Keep your awareness on your hand. It should start to tingle a little bit.
At the same time, look through the middle of your forehead, as though you were sitting inside your head and looking out. It should feel like you are sitting inside a cave with nothing much to look at, so you just look straight ahead. Do not roll your eyes up in your head or do anything else. Just look out of your head through the middle of your forehead.
One must relax the muscles a lot. Also, the legs must be either bent at the knee as in a sitting position, or straight down, as when lying down or standing up walking, for example. Slowly this flow and a tingling of the right hand will increase. Eventually, both hands and both feet will tingle a little bit letting you know that you are doing it right.
-More detailed instructions can be found here.
You can practice this technique for up to an hour if it suits you, when you have a quiet space to be alone. But know that even 2-5 minutes affects the body in beneficial ways. It can be helpful to do this meditation during an acupuncture treatment, for example; it really helps improve blood flow.
Enjoy relaxing, and please contact me with any questions.