Meditation, in its simplest form, is sitting.
And that is exactly what Cara Geary, the abbess of the Zen Island Fellowship in Galveston, is doing on a Monday evening.
An associate professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch and one of the directors of the perinatal hospice, Geary often teaches courses on meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction to her fellow faculty members and students.
In high stress environments such as hospitals and medical universities, meditation and mindfulness can help with reducing stress and with learning to cope with death.
More and more, science is backing up what many have found in practice, that meditating, the act of sitting still and concentrating on something like breathing in and out, has real physical and mental benefits.
“For me it has been the best thing I have ever brought into my own life,” Geary said.
There have been studies on the effects of meditation since the 1970s, Geary said. Benefits can include decreased blood pressure, reduced numbers of asthma attacks and improved glucose control in diabetic patients.
For Bonnie Cooper, a member of the Diamond Way Buddhist Center Clear Lake in Webster, nearly 17 years of meditation have helped her find ways to deal with strong emotions like anger and have helped her focus.
Another member, Amber Zainfeld, said she had only been meditating a few months but she too could feel a difference.
“I’m much more peaceful,” she said.
And meditating is something that can be done anytime, Cooper said. She compared it to brushing your teeth.
“You don’t need to be in a certain mood,” she said.
For those interested in meditating, the best thing to do is to start looking around, she said.
“Different people are attracted to different things,” Cooper said.
Different groups and centers have different ways and practices. Some, such as the Diamond Way Buddhist Center, will offer guided meditation, while others will be in silence. Some groups may emphasize a certain spiritual aspect, while others may avoid it all together.
But an important thing to keep in mind, Geary said, is that meditation is not simply one more item on a to-do list.
“Meditation can be a part of any activity,” she said. “It’s not that you do a little here or there. It is a way of being in the moment.”
Some Benefits Of Meditating
Mental health benefits:
• Decreased depression
• Decreased anxiety
• Decreased negative mood states
• Decreased stress and increased ability to cope with stressful situations
Physical health benefits:
• Decreased blood pressure
• Decreased asthma attacks
• Decreased atherosclerosis
• Decreased symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
• Improved pain management in chronic pain patients
• Improved balance in patients with multiple sclerosis
• Improved sleep
• Improved glucose control in diabetic patients
• Improved immune response to flu vaccination
• Increased survival with cancer
SOURCE: Cara Geary, Zen Island Fellowship
Places To Meditate
WHAT: Zen Island Fellowship
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Building, 502 Church St., Galveston
WHAT: Diamond Way Buddhist Center Clear Lake
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays
WHERE: 417 E. NASA Parkway, Webster
WHAT: Empty Field Zendo
WHEN: Beginner instruction is on the last Sunday of each month from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: 1911 state Highway 3, League City
WHAT: Yoga Lola Studios
WHERE: 1701 state Highway 3, League City
WHAT: Linh Son Buddhist Temple
WHERE: 1402 FM 646 N., Dickinson