Much has been written on the benefits of mediation. A simple Google search is sure to yield thousands of results, many of which are very appealing.
Here is just a small taste of some of these benefits: empirical evidence now shows that mediation can help you concentrate more deeply, improve your memory and even give you a boost of energy. Other, more subjective findings suggest that meditation can actually help people overcome chronic pain and even the common cold. As science catches up to the benefits of meditation and as the evidence continues to support such claims, it’s no wonder the mindfulness movement has exploded in the past few years.
Now, as I’ve said in many posts before, I am by not an expert when it comes to meditation let alone the scientific benefits of meditation. I will leave that work to the gurus and the scientists. But, I am a student of meditation and I have seen the following four benefits play out in my life that I think are worth sharing. So, for those of you on the fence, trying to decide if mediation is right for you, I hope these anecdotes nudge you in the right direction.
Benefit #1: Clarity
From your first day in the meditation seat to your last, meditation helps bring clarity into your life. The first thing I noticed when I started meditation was that I have a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head. Those thoughts, if not attended to, can begin to cloud your judgement and make you feel on edge—at least it did for me. Once I started looking inward, I noticed there was this problem. And, as many of you know, the first step in solving a problem is to admit that you have a problem. Mediation has taught me how to see through the weeds in my head. I’ve seen that most thoughts are insignificant and don’t warrant my attention. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned since sitting to watch my mind is that I don’t have to believe or buy into the thoughts that arise. I think that right there is worth the price of admission.
The clarity you build through your mediation practice is inevitably going to show up in other arenas. Believe it or not, clarity does indeed allow me to focus better because I know where my attention should and shouldn’t be. So, for example, if I’m working on a tough project at work or I am studying to learn new subject matter, I can keep the stream of thought to a minimum and bring my attention back to the task at hand. When my mind tells me, “I’m never going to get this done in time” I can redirect the mind back to what I’m doing. I see the thought and then tell my mind to get back to work!
Benefit #2: Know thy self
With clarity comes knowledge. More specifically, knowledge of one’s self. Most people live their lives without knowing that they are being constantly bombarded by thoughts. Interestingly, mediation gives you control over the thoughts that are running amuck and making life difficult for you. We all have narratives or stories that we have been telling ourselves for years—“I’m not good enough,” “I’m always going to be fat,” “Good things never happen to me,” “I’m stupid” and so on and so forth. We take these thoughts and conglomerate them into a personality. The thoughts we believe are who we become.
The gift of mediation is that it creates space between you and these limiting beliefs. When you know you’re thoughts aren’t real you can choose better thoughts to define how you want to live in this world. Thoughts like, “I’m not smart” can be quickly replaced by thoughts such as, “I will learn this” as long as you see them when they come up for you.
It’s not always easy to choose better thoughts. In fact, the ones that have defined who you think you are your whole life will take time to renounce but mediation is the tool through which this is accomplished. When you think about it, what is meditation? Well, at the end of the day, it’s a way for you to get to know your true self.
Benefit #3: Perspective
Clarity begets self-awareness and self-awareness begets perspective. Meditation helps create perspective because you come to the reasonable conclusion that everyone is suffering from the same affliction! Everyone is on their own path, just as you are. This understanding can give you the kind of perspective that only can come from inspection of the mind.
You know that being plagued by ones thoughts is not an anomaly. With that knowledge you become more empathetic. You realize that for every struggle and negative thought in your life, the people around you have had just as many and maybe even more of those same negative thoughts. So you can’t help but become more understanding and caring about the conditions of others.
Benefit #4: Improved relationships
One of the first lessons the Buddha taught was that life is suffering and knowing that you are not suffering alone can only improve your interactions with others. Pain, anger, sadness, and insecurity do not belong solely to you. They belong to everyone and you will inevitably want to help those around you when you have this realization!
We are all connected and that is a beautiful thing because it helps you relate to others on a deeper level. When my wife is in pain, it becomes my pain. When a coworker gets a promotion, I am actually happy for them and not just saying so because I know what it feels like to strive and accomplish something meaningful. When my friend is down in the dumps, I truly want to help them because I know what it feels like to be struggling with life.
Finally, meditation can only help you on your journey. Clarity will allow you to focus on the vital few things in your life and perspective will help you relate to others. If you’re interested in meditation but haven’t started, why not? What’s holding you back? What do you have to lose?
For those of you that have started to mediate, let us know what benefits you have seen! And for those of you that are still toying with the idea of meditation, write in and let us know what your hesitation is and what challenges you are facing that seem to be keeping you from starting your meditation practice.
Until next time, many many blessings :)