Aging Well: Meditation can help seniors with health, life transitions
WAIMANALO, Hawaii - Meditation is becoming mainstream as more people discover its benefits. Training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts can be good for people of all ages, but it can specifically help seniors with Aging Well.
In a breezy Waimanalo home, meditation teacher Gene Ang gets ready to help a group of students quiet the mind. "When you practice meditation, it's a chance to not focus on the outer but the inner world," he describes.
The benefits are many, according to a Harvard University study. "People who've done meditation can change the brain," recaps Ang, a Yale University graduate with a doctorate in neurobiology.
Calming the body can also decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. "Meditation can help high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety," lists Ang.
It's worked for Diane Lavin, a student at Ang's retreat, who says daily meditation lowered her blood pressure and anxiety. "I didn't realize my anxiety and busy-ness brought me out of appreciating the sky, water, my children. Meditation was a transformative experience for me," she says of her decades-long habit.
Ang says a daily practice is best - even if just a few minutes. Most people protest that they don't know how to "not think" about anything, so Ang offers a simple beginner's lesson: "We're going to choose a point on our body to be a concentration device and we're going to bring our awareness back to that point any time your mind wanders. The point is right between our eyebrows. The eyes can be closed or open. You may notice thoughts. That's OK. Just bring your awareness to right in between your eyebrows."
Ang says about half his students are seniors, like Lavin, who is 68-years-old. She's semi-retired now and asking herself, "What's my purpose, why am I still here, how can I contribute to my family and community and be happy?" Lavin says she likes the answers she is able to access during meditation.
"A lot of people are trying to find meaning in the second half of life. Meditation allows you to calm the superficial thoughts so you can find the deeper aspect of yourself," Ang answers.
Ang says focusing on the present can help you define your future.
Gene Ang lives in California where he runs his spiritual practice called Presence Healing. He comes to Hawaii quarterly to offer retreats that include meditation. More on Ang at http://www.geneang.com/www.geneang.com/Presence_Healing.html.