Meditation is learning how to relax, just the way you are.
In our culture, it can be difficult to understand the benefits of meditation, even if we read all about it in the news and on the internet.
I remember when a co-worker first told me that he practiced meditation, and I wondered: “What could he possibly be doing with all that silence?”
I had always associated meditation practices with renunciates, ninjas and monks. As I read more about the benefits, I quickly learned that its practice is spreading like wildfire across the corporate world, as well as in the education and health care sector, as a way to manage high stress levels and improve performance.
Meditation is difficult to describe to someone who has never practiced before. However, I assure you that it’s a very natural, effortless process, and one that can bring great healing, joy and clarity into your life.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a way of training the body and mind to relax, just the way you are.
In the state of relaxed awareness, your perception of yourself and the world around you changes. Your brainwave patterns — which can sometimes get stuck in habitual stress response, frustration or overthinking — change to alpha and/or theta states of relaxation, mental calm and healing.
Meditation serves to release deep seated stress from the body and mind, which naturally accumulates in our busy day-to-day lives. This is also what makes meditation a more potent form of medicine than any spa.
However, meditation not just about relaxation. It is considered the single most effective way to improve mental focus and to strengthen executive function in the brain, including long term planning, motivation, organizational skills and self-control.
Meditation enhances our connection with ourselves, including our bodies, our emotions, our compassion and our passions. It is truly a way of regenerating yourself from within.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Meditation naturally changes your brain wave patterns, promoting alpha and theta brain waves associated with relaxation, mental calm and healing. It is a more potent form of medicine than any spa.
The benefits of meditation include:
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Improved executive function : long-term planning, focus, organizational skills, self-control
- Improved mood and behaviour (through increased serotonin production)
- Improved communication with others
- Better immunity and stress resilience
- Increases energy levels
- Increased creativity, intuition and emotional intelligence
- Increased self-confidence
- Happiness and peace of mind
Physical Benefits include:
- Reducing anxiety, depression and stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves the immune system
- Balances blood sugar levels
- Can help to balance weight
- Supports deep sleep
- Slows the aging process
Committing To A Practice
You will benefit most from meditation when you make it a daily practice. The easiest way to do this is to commit to a short, sustainable daily practice for 40 days (e.g. 10-20 minutes per day). In the beginning, it is better to start small and be consistent rather than to set very ambitious goals.
I usually recommend that beginners make the commitment to practice every day for 40 days without stopping. This allows you to start training yourself in the habit and to start to experience some of the benefits.
Committing to a practice is similar to practicing a sport or musical instrument. You have to keep practicing on the days you don’t feel like it, or where you feel you are really performing terribly. Part of learning meditation is to be indifferent to the results.
Once you make meditation a habit, your practice will quickly become a very special and important part of your day. We often compare it to brushing your teeth: you won’t want to leave home without it.
I can also say — having tried to learn from books and CDs — that it is much easier to learn meditation from an experienced teacher. Learning is a very human process, and you will benefit greatly by knowing that you are being supported, and in an environment where you can ask questions and get feedback along the way.