The way to less stress: Meditation

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

For Ralph Jennings, meditation is more than just a time to quiet his mind. It’s a step toward better health, right up there with eating right.

“It is something you can do and realize some benefit from with little practice,” Jennings said.

He was first introduced to the idea while working for the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s and 80s — a stressful job to say the least, he said.

Email newsletter signup

“I was helped by a physician to recognize I needed to employ techniques to manage my stress,” Jennings said. “When I engaged in a stress management program, I found it did me some good.”

Now a Natchez resident, he still practices meditation three times a week. And it has concrete benefits, he said.

“I found my stress level was really going down,” he said. “I’m a science-oriented person in my thinking, and I decided I would try to track what kinds of things that might have added to my recovery.

“I couldn’t find other things I could correlate to feeling better. I had to recognize that meditation itself had helped my recovery. My mental state improved, my tension went down, and my attention span improved.”

Jennifer Ogden has benefited from meditation for years, too, she said. That’s why she and others have organized an all-day meditation workshop Saturday at Rose Hill Baptist Church.

“It’s not a religious practice or a church practice,” Ogden said. “There’s no affiliation with any kind of religious practice. We’re using it because it’s centrally located.”

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., attendees will learn how to meditate and the practice’s health benefits.

Ogden herself meditates on a regular basis.

“There’s a tremendous benefit to it,” Ogden said. “You begin to feel lessened anxiety. That’s really what meditation is, removing yourself from the busyness of life, the noise and distractions, all the things we think we have to do.”

Dr. Kofi Kondwani, an assistant professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, will lead the workshop Saturday. Meditation involves quieting the mind, he said.

“People will learn a way to consciously rest,” Kondwani said. “They will learn how to keep their minds alert and awake while their bodies are resting.”

Kondwani has taught meditation for 25 years and has participated in controlled studies that showed the benefits of the practice, he said.

“I’ve been involved in randomized clinical control trials, looking at the affects of meditation on cardiovascular disease, anxiety, stress and sleep disorders,” he said. “In these studies, we’ve found there’s an improvement on these disorders.”

He said he has taught in forums from prisons to hospitals to schools, and he often gets positive feedback.

“No matter what religion you are, no matter what you do or don’t believe in, everyone can meditate,” he said. “Calmness is always there. We know peace and quiet is within, but we don’t know how to get there.”