What’s in it for me?
Before I lay out for you the mind-boggling amount of science that has been collected on the benefits of meditation in areas ranging from mood, attention, health, stress and well-being, let me ask you a question.
Are you ready to let go of thoughts, beliefs, concepts and emotions that make up what you call your “self”. I ask this question, as I feel this is the fundamental turning point in one’s practise of meditation, it may very well ascertain whether or not a person simply receives continued stress-reduction, or a more permanent glimpse of their self-less nature, allowing themselves to ‘get out of their own way’ so to speak.
Are you willing to let go of programs, beliefs and thoughts that make up your “SOS” sense of self?
Many people are unwilling to let go of their story which includes their anger, pride, joy, betrayals and pain. We like to retain the right to hold onto these burdensome aspects of ourselves which colour our world, relationships and reactions through the lens of the past, causing our dread, anxiety and avoidance of the present moment in fear of the future.
But there are many ways in which we can lead a more loving, fulfilling, and present life by letting go of these heavy programs and learned beliefs, as more than often ,they shut us down, close our minds, and prevent us from creatively problem-solving to appreciate and do our best with what we have got in any situation.
We still don’t really know all the ways meditation affects our brain and nervous system, we may not even know all the places where we could possibly look for such changes. However, below I have listed some key areas in which we have noted the beneficial changes that occur with science.
The monks have talked about it for centuries, but how is feeling more compassion going to benefit you? Well, to start off, it feels great! It’s wonderful to feel a warm and caring compassion for others, and genuine desire for them to be happy and live up to their potential. This kind of feeling gives you motivation and drive to connect and engage with life and others as much as possible. Having compassion can help us wish for the best for someone, without feeling their pain or sadness when they are down, which ultimately drains our emotional energy. Mediation helps us to build and maintain compassion, rather then empathic feelings that take on another’s emotional negativity and sadness. Meditation helps you to focus on wishing the best for everyone around you. When this compassion can extend outside your inner circle, you have a chance to make a real difference.
Research has shown on many occasions, that meditation helps increase our compassion, and feeling of trust, safety, and bonding with other people. It also helps boost compassion for ourselves!
One of the reasons most people find meditation so difficult is the tendency for the mind to float away and get caught in thoughts, fantasies, and dialogues. But this is one of the benefits of meditation, we continue to bring our mind back to the present moment, and learn to watch our mind rather then get carried away with it. This starts to create separation from believing that our thoughts are the “truth” or “ultimate reality”, but it also trains your mind to focus. This focus carries over into our lives in many areas. The ability to do deep and focused work is a real advantage in today’s distracted society.
What’s all this achievement, focus, attention and compassion for if we can’t share it with the most important people in our lives?
Ultimately everything we do, is so others can experience the expression of who we are. There are healthy and unhealthy ways we can relate to this kind of attention and approval, but ultimately we all know, there wouldn’t be much point to anything if we were the only person on earth.
One of the main reasons people begin to meditate is to reduce feelings of depression or anxiety which can be heavily linked to our thoughts, (although also having roots in biological processes). Even if there is something biological going on, such as adrenal fatigue, meditating can help one dissolve upsetting thought patterns about illness or a situation we are in. This reduced stress can help us to take positive steps in the right direction for our health and recovery.
Sense of well-being
By reducing stress, depression, anxiety, and boosting happiness, health, brain matter, and social intelligence, meditation makes you more focused, productive, wise, happy and positive. Yep, all from doing nothing!
Really, to experience all the amazing benefits of meditation, all you have to do is sit down and watch your mind, like a movie, for small amounts of time as regularly as possible. I started off with no more than 10 minutes a day, and I think this is a great place to start out. Meditation can bring up some emotional junk, so it’s best to start small and monitor your progress.
At first your mind may be running around with so many thoughts, emotions, voices, and anxiety that you find it difficult or unpleasant to stay in the same place. Don’t worry about this, I experienced it too. If this happens try dropping the time back to suit you, and slowly work your way up. I now enjoy sitting in quiet meditation for 15 minutes a day. It may not seem like much, but this time frame is easy to work into any ones schedule. I am thinking of working my way up to meditating for 20 minutes a day, especially as the time passes so quickly now. I am now at a stage of meditation practise where I often enjoy renewed energy, vitality, and a sense of wholeness from each session.
For those of you who want something really nice and enjoyable to help guide your journey of meditation I recommended this amazing app called Headspace, my partner recently started using it to experience some of the benefits he has observed in me from my practise. He is a scientific sort of guy, and he can’t refute the amount of evidence that has built up over the years in favour of meditation. Click the head space link above to be taken to a page full of scientific trials and research.
For those of you that want to try meditation by yourself I have a few pointers:
Try and find a time that suits you.
If you like to do nice things for yourself in the morning before going to work to support a productive day, try sitting down first thing after waking up in the morning. Vice versa for those whom feel more focused in the afternoon or evening.
Find a quiet and relaxing place to sit
Try to find a place you wont be disturbed, but don’t let noise or distraction keep you from meditation. The goal is not to control everything around you till you can find inner-peace, it’s to watch what’s happening in and around you, observe it, and notice anything that stirs or arises in you, even your reaction to your environment as well as your thoughts, to give you more perspective of the inner workings of your mind.
Keep a straight back
Traditionally, this is said to help energy run smoothly and cleanly through the body. For those of you that don’t need any of that fancy stuff, think of it as good practise for your posture. This position will most certainly help any messages or currents of electricity pulsing through your nervous system to get where they need to be much quicker and smoother.
Also, it helps not to fall asleep during your practise, that’s why I tend to avoid lying down. But there is also something about the gravity of sitting up straight which helps me to feel more poised, aligned, alert and aware when meditating.
Set a timer
Or use your intuition to guide you in terms of how much you need in the present moment.
A way to stay motivated is to journal about how you are feeling, reactions you are having, the quality of your life, thoughts, motivations, relationships. It’s motivating to see how you are changing over the course of your meditation. When I have a particular issue I’d like to work on, or gain clarity about, I write it down and focus on it in my next meditation with (lightness and awareness), I never try to force an answer, I simply remain attentive to any insights I might receive. I also love going back through my journal to see the diminished intensity of thoughts and emotions. What I love about this process, is that over the years it has taught me to trust. I don’t have to force things to be fixed immediately, I don’t even have to really focus on the issues I am noticing, noticing is enough. Things dissolve and resolve on their own as they are meant to.
Keep it regular
Make it a daily habit, the effects of meditation are cumulative, so try not to miss sessions.
Find a good meditation teacher
Many of us can bring up old emotional wounds from the past, or discover things about ourselves we may find daunting. Staying dedicated, focused, and strong during this period can be difficult. If you feel you are having difficulty with any emotional debris or thoughts that are coming up, it’s time to invest in a good teacher. A guide can help you understand your mind and the process quickly, keeping your transition into a better you simple and streamlined.