Does meditation really work?

We delve deeper to see why you should take time out

Does meditation really work?

Jenny Hewett comes over all calm and collected and delves deeper into exploring a higher state of concentration.

For thousands of years, people all over the world have been finding a peaceful, quiet space to cast aside external stresses and re-focus on themselves and their thoughts. Meditation, as it is known, is still today considered an extremely effective method for de-cluttering the mind and improving mental clarity, productivity, stress levels, happiness and even physical health. Considering Dubai’s high incidence of heart disease and the high stress levels of many residents, it’s little wonder there is an ever-growing number of group meditations on offer. Illuminations Wellbeing Centre in JLT is just one of the peaceful sanctuaries in the city to offer such a service.

A recent study by the Harvard Medical School suggested that meditation can increase the brain’s capacity to retain information, while researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin discovered that people with coronary disease who started meditating were a whopping 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than a test group who attended a health education class instead. That’s more than enough cause to get me signed up.

The JLT wellbeing centre offers 21 types of group meditation classes, as well as private coaching, and today I’m attending a guided group meditation for beginners. Dubai-based Swedish clinical hypnotherapist Marica Sandhome Atta is leading my session, which I’m sharing with four other very normal-looking individuals. (Suffice to say my stereotypes are shattered in an instant). It seems I’m not alone in my curiosity.

‘Recent proven scientific studies show that meditation improves connections in the brain, improves the immune system and even makes you look younger, by relieving all that stored up stress and tension you may not even be unaware of,’ says Marica. But what exactly is it? ‘The goal is to be focused and attentive to one focal point, and bringing your mind back to the present whenever it wanders. It’s a powerful practice involving focused concentration by connecting with one’s inner self to experience the peace and clarity within us,’ she says.

After introducing ourselves to the class, Maria explains that today’s topic will focus on unconditional love and she asks us to close our eyes, before leading us in a breathing technique. ‘When you are consciously controlling your breath, you can consciously control your thoughts and emotions and remain in charge of your life,’ she says. ‘Conscious breathing allows you to enter into the depths of your mind, which lead you to a higher state of consciousness.’

With my eyes closed I breathe in and out in measured counts, and change my sitting position when I need to remain comfy. Miraculously I find that my thoughts are settled only on Marica’s voice and I have the ability to push everything else out of my mind. I’m relaxed, to the point that I could almost be asleep. Before I know it, Marica is asking us to slowly open our eyes and the meditation is over. Astonishingly, almost an hour has passed by, yet it feels like I lost time – it literally flew by. Is this normal? ‘Everyone has a unique experience, for some they might initially feel restless, but as they continue they are able to enter into a place of deep stillness and mental awareness, and yet feel like their body is sleeping,’ says Marica.

Once it’s over, the energy in the room feels ultra relaxed and I’m in a heightened state of warm and fuzzy. I find it hard to tear myself away from the floor, and am hesitant to face my drive home. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on what has taken place or if I actually was asleep, so I make the pledge to try it again.

After all, Marica says all the cool kids are doing it. ‘Many leading corporate and education institutions are now exploring how meditation can help their leaders and employees thrive,’ she says. ‘Google offers meditation and yoga classes to their employees and Harvard University Center of Wellness Promotes Mindfulness meditation classes, also.’ They just might be onto something.
Time Out readers who mention the code: ILLUM30TIMEOUT will receive one free meditation session. Illuminations Well-being Centre, 409 Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, JLT (04 448 7043).

Where you can meditate in Dubai

Lifeworks Counselling
This Al Wasl venue offers adult classes and courses to help people develop their own meditation practice.
996 Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim 1 (04 394 2464).

Sahajayoga Meditation
Offers free meditation sessions, as well as meditation for children. (056 605 5737).

Cosmic Healing Center
Head here for all types of meditation, including those which target forgiveness, self-confidence and healing.
402, Montana Building, Options Furniture Building, After General Post Office Karama, Karama (04 357 6676).

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