In the moment

Meditation: No. 1 health booster for 2019

By Barbara Pierce


What’s the No. 1 health booster for 2019?

No, it’s not a great new workout or some peculiar diet. It’s a gentle, age-old practice that millions say is the antidote to the heavy burdens of stress that we’re all under.

“The No. 1 health benefit — beyond diet and exercise — to complete the cycle of well-being is meditation,” said Melanie Pandit, meditation instructor of Sahaja Meditation Upstate New York.

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.

There are many ways to relieve stress and combat the negative effects of our hectic lifestyles. So it makes sense to wonder, “What’s the big deal about meditation?”

Until recently, meditation was the “Wild West” of research, Pandit explained. In recent years, there’s been a great amount of research that clearly validates the benefits of meditation — mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that strongly suggests meditation can provide a long list of tantalizing benefits, from lowering blood pressure to literally rewiring key parts of the brain that regulate focus and self-awareness.

Research has shown clear benefits in helping people manage symptoms of medical conditions such as asthma, ADHD, cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and others, conditions that are especially affected by adverse amounts of stress.

The emotional benefits of meditation include gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, better management of stress, reducing negative emotions, reducing anxiety and depression, and increasing creativity and productivity.

Research shows with meditation, people create happiness within themselves, Pandit added. Meditation creates positive chemicals in the brain — dopamine and serotonin — and decreases the negative chemicals that cause fear and anxiety.

ABC News anchor Dan Harris used to think meditation was for people who drank kombucha, listened to Enya and used the word “namaste.”

Now, he meditates daily and says online: “Meditation has been a huge boon to me. It has boosted my focus and productivity while making me less emotionally reactive. I think it has also made me calmer, more patient and generally easier to be around.”

Several options available

meditationThere are several types of meditation. Most promise great benefits and many even deliver the feeling of relaxation, but what you want is the technique that will deliver the best lasting results and not break the bank doing so.

“Sahaja meditation is a comprehensive approach to healing in all dimensions,” Pandit said. “It’s like nothing else you’ve tried before; it’s incredibly simple.”

“I’ve been teaching it for 25 years. I’ve had lots of experience with people coming to my classes and telling me they’ve tried meditation, and ‘It’s too hard,’ or ‘I didn’t feel any benefit.’ These people were able to benefit from Sahaja meditation.

Instead of training your mind to focus on an object, practicing breathing, or twisting yourself into postures, Sahaja meditation allows you the chance to do nothing. That’s right. No memorization of mantras or affirmations. Nothing. No thoughts.

In Sahaja meditation, you are not reacting to or responding to or focusing your thoughts; you get to a place where there is absence of thoughts. That’s what it means to be in the present, Pandit said. It it getting to a place where there is an absence of thought, where you’re able to be fully present in the present.

We constantly have thoughts, Pandit said. Often they are about the past. But we can’t correct what happened in the past; we need to come to terms with what happened, but ruminating on the past doesn’t fix it.

The same holds true for our thoughts about the future as we plan and prepare ourselves for the unknown. These thoughts cause anxiety. The third state is absence of thoughts.

“Sahaja meditation is the best thing that ever happened in my life. I love meditation because in this stressful world I feel balanced and relaxed. Your life flows effortlessly, like a river around those rocks and obstacles,” said GW of Buffalo, online.

“Sahaja meditation is a fountain of youth because it increases gray matter in your brain,” added Pandit. “Healthy brains have more gray matter. It truly is a fountain of youth.”

“Also, the meditation I teach is even free!” Pandit said. She doesn’t charge for her classes or online instruction. “I learned it from someone and I felt so transformed. It’s an act of love for human kindness and gives me joy.”

Pandit will offer an introduction to Sahaja mediation at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 7 at Fenimore Museum, Cooperstown.

Take a lunch and dessert will be provided. For information, contact

Also, she will offer a class at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays in Cherry Valley.

For more information, or for online classes, see or call 518-428-4672.