Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

A life on meditation

Meditation can bring a variety of health benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety and depression, writes Mai Samih

Al-Ahram Weekly

Meditation has sometimes been mocked and depicted as a state in which a person is asleep cross-legged, only waking to shout at anyone disturbing him. However, this is an incorrect view. According to experts, people who meditate on a regular basis enjoy a longer life span, better health, and enhanced intelligence as meditation allows the brain to produce chemicals that produce better health and well-being. Meditation can help restore emotional and mental balance and rid an individual of anxiety, depression, anger and phobias. 

Mariam Emara, a certified Arhatic Yogi, pranic healer and meditation instructor, explains how her meditation workshop has simplified meditation. “I used to work in finance and found that it was a very aggressive career. This gave me a motive to explore energy science, pranic healing and meditation. Now I also organise workshops to teach meditation and pranic healing, a type of energy therapy using the Chakra energy system.”

This energy system, Emara explains, uses the energy flowing through the body to promote healing, something that was useful for her personally. “I was diagnosed with high blood pressure because of stress and found that meditation was the gateway to the healing process. Meditating for 40 days brought a very good change on both the psychological and physical levels, and I found my blood pressure also went down as a result of meditation.”

This discovery made Emara want to pass on her skills to others and to promote a “meditation culture” in Egypt. “This is something we do not have in Egypt. I now do a workshop for those who want to be certified in meditation and to learn different types of it, including meditation for stress relief, for concentration and for focus for students. The idea is to link meditation to our daily lives.”

However, Egypt has not always been fertile ground for a meditation culture. Emara complains that many people do not believe in meditation, mostly, she feels, because of the negative way it is presented in the media. “For a long time, people's notion of meditation has been about sitting quietly and doing nothing, unlike their American or Chinese counterparts who practise meditation and make a difference in their lives.”

The idea of meditation, she explains, is to fully utilise the brain when we need to do so. Nowadays, we are using our brains all the time, and as a result at the end of the day we may be liable to lack focus, be not able to produce, or in some cases even be liable to nervous collapse. When a person meditates, he gives his brain some time to breath and when this happens it can regenerate the cells, making them work more efficiently. “When I give the brain a break, I can use it more effectively, allowing me to be better connected to my inner self,” Emara explains. “Meditation can help heal because it is the brain that ultimately controls the body,” she adds.

Emara gives workshops, allowing her to transfer her personal experience and avoid lecturing. She also has a follow-up system that allows meditators to preserve and enhance their meditation habits. "I have designed a community called the Egypt Meditation Lounge, which is the first Egyptian community for meditation. It is a sort of life-time support system for those who have joined the workshops. They become members of the Lounge, which helps them to keep in the habit of meditation.”

“We gather once a month to practise different types of meditation and to get feedback from people after they practise meditation. It is a form of group therapy. We also meet online once every two weeks,” Emara comments.

She also organises free meditation workshops in public places to help people become familiar with meditation. She has started a corporate programme to help those in work be more productive and happier in their personal and professional lives. In this, she was inspired by the US talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, who has also organised meditation for the employees in her company.

“I let people live the experience of meditation and know the benefits of it,” she says. “The idea is to help them understand how and when to meditate and to know the precautions that need to be taken. I teach five types of meditation: the basic type, how to de-stress through meditation; Chakra cleansing meditation; and twin-heart meditation, which looks at ways of merging the energy of the heart and of the mind.

The latter form of meditation can also help people become more decisive, for example about a relationship or a decision. It is especially popular in the US and China and can help people get along better or even save their marriages, she says.

Meditation in the workplace can help people separate their work problems from their personal relationships. It can be useful for students to help them concentrate on their studies more, and for people suffering from insomnia it can help them sleep better. By using techniques of positive affirmation, it can help in weight loss. According to Emara, meditation in the morning can boost energy levels, almost as if you have been to a gym. It can help develop ideas, such that solutions to problems can emerge from a clear mind. Emara is planning to go to the US later this year to investigate meditation as a pathway to wealth.

For the time being, her workshops begin with a few minutes of explanation during which she explains the technique to those present and then starts with exercises that move every single muscle of the body from the neck to the feet. This is followed by 20 minutes of guided meditation, during which the lights are dimmed and people close their eyes. This process is called “rooting,” a way of imagining lines or roots that link you to the earth so that you do not lose your link to it.

Rania, a pharmacist who has been a member of the workshops for some time, said that “meditation gives you an insight into yourself; it helps you to listen and find out what your body wants. If you want to relax, it teaches you how to relax; if you want to focus, it teaches you how to focus. If you want to understand yourself better, it enables you to do so. You acquire knowledge that you did not have before. In addition, your memory gets better and you are not subject to stress like you used to be. I believe that it can be complementary to the Islamic religion, as it helps concentration during prayers.”

Nermeen, also a student, agrees. “Meditation switches the psychological mood of a person, so that if you are in a state of worry and fear it releases you from it and gives you a feeling of inner purity. It takes a few times to really understand the process before you are carried away by it. I have been really affected by twin-heart meditation, as it leaves a person with a feeling of internal peace. I believe that no one can judge something unless they have tried it, so I think that those who have not tried meditation and are against it should try it and feel its effects before commenting,” she said.

Nadia, another participant, commented that "I first tried it out of curiosity and found that it is an attempt to separate yourself from everything around you. It makes you feel like you are rising up and that you have changed. I have become quieter and do not get angry anymore. My favourite type is twin-heart meditation and relaxation meditation.” 

"At first, I did not buy meditation at all, but I'm always eager to try new things so I thought that it would be a good idea to see what happened,” commented Tamer, another participant. “I am a very realistic person, and as I work in the field of HR I have sometimes had problems dealing with people. Meditation has helped me not to bear grudges and to let go. I have found that it has helped a lot,” he concluded.


Tips for meditation

Certified meditation therapist Mariam Emara gives some tips to help with meditation.

•Before meditation, make sure you have breathed deeply plenty of times. Feel the air and its movement. You should not think of anything else.

•Make meditation a lifestyle choice, as if you try it once or twice you'll be relaxed, but if you stop bad aspects of life may return.

•Always have a specific place you meditate in, like a corner of your living room or your bedroom. It does not have to be a garden or a big room, just a quiet place. It could be a good idea to use a candle or a stone to help “anchor” the meditation. Looking at this object while meditating can help you to focus.

•Meditation can be helped by the presence of living things, which makes parks such good places for meditation. Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park is ideal, and it allows free entry from 7 am to 9 am every day.

•For beginners, it is a good idea to meditate from five to 10 minutes per day as it can take effort to get it right. Then increase until you have reached 20 minutes, which is the ideal time. Some say that the ideal time to meditate is the same number as your age, so if you are 35 years old you should meditate for 35 minutes. However, the most important thing is to have a schedule so that you do not lose the habit of meditation.

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