The benefits of meditation are numerous, and scientific studies are quickly coming out with evidence to back up this claim. Whether it is your intellect, physical body, or spirit, meditation can do wonders.
However, many of these studies discuss benefits that come as a result of the one benefit that I will articulate below. This one benefit is why I meditate. It is so powerful that you will start to see changes in your daily life very quickly if you meditate regularly.
The most basic and most powerful benefit is that meditation leads to mindfulness, which means greater awareness of yourself and others. More specifically:
When we are sitting during meditation, we are training the mind to maintain focus and notice when we are having thoughts. Why is this so useful?
We meditate in silence so that we can be mindful in chaos.
By meditating on a regular basis, we can get in the habit of noticing when thoughts and feelings arise. This means that in daily life, instead of reacting automatically, there is a brief pause of mindfulness. Instead of our thoughts controlling us, we control our thoughts.
Here’s what I mean:
- Controlling your Reactions: Through mindfulness, you will be able to catch yourself having negative or harmful thoughts. Instead of acting out of habit or emotion, we can be more mindful: “Will this reaction be helpful – to me, to them? Is my perspective reality? What may I not fully understand? Why am I feeling this way?” Meditation trains us to notice our thoughts – not get rid of them – since we cannot always control our thoughts or what happens to us, but we can control how we react.
- Creating Positivity: We are all summations of cause and effect. Who do we want to be, and what world do we want to live in? Should you push somebody at the train station because somebody else pushed you? Or do you want to break that cycle of negativity by either refraining from being mean to the next person you interact with, or do you maybe even want to create a positive new cycle by being nice to the next person you interact with by giving them a smile? Mindfulness can help us understand how interrelated and connected we all are, and how we can make a difference in the lives of others we interact with.
- Helping Others: Mindfulness enables us to be more aware of a stranger, friend, or family member in need. We notice more acutely the feelings and actions of others around us, and develop a greater sense of perspective.Mindfulness helps us react in wise ways, decreasing the chances of making a difficult situation even worse. Generally, as you take care of yourself, you will be more able to take care of others around you.
In addition to being more aware of our place in the world and how we react,meditation can lead to a better life. Here are some ways this can happen:
- Finding Peace: The sense of peace found through meditation can be stronger than any pill for anxiety or depression on the market – and with no side effects! If you’re having a busy day, meditating for 10-20 minutes can provide calmness and a much-needed break. Mindfulness also brings perspective into your life, and can make you more aware of the decisions you make and how they impact your body and heart. This can lead to healthier habits and better relationships, leading to a calmer, more peaceful you.
- Finding Joy: By meditating regularly and being mindful in daily life, we start letting go of harmful thoughts and emotions. This clears a space in our mind for experiencing the present moment – for experiencing life. You will finally be able to notice the beauty of flowers, relish in the sunshine, enjoy that walk, and be aware of the love that pervades this world. It sounds too good to be true I know, but just try it for yourself and see what happens!
- Knowing Yourself: Meditation can help us get closer to realizing our “authentic self”. This question of “Who Am I?” is so prevalent in our society, most likely because we are living without actually being. We have become human doers instead of human beings. Taking the time to be and let go can start to lead to transformational changes without even realizing it. As Jiddu Krishnamurti says, “If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.”
- Clarity of Mind: As already mentioned, meditation is simple – just concentrate on the present! Yet there is such power and beauty in this simplicity. This simplicity brings clarity to the mind that is often so difficult to find in our current world. Mindfulness is about clearing the mind of all of our regrets about the past, worries about the future, to-do lists, comparisons, expectations, and judgments. It is about clearing the mind of negative thoughts that have sprouted up like weeds so we can create a positive pathway for our mind to follow. Not only will we be able to more skillfully solve problems at home, but our work lives will improve as well. Instead of letting our emotions take over, we will be mindful and be more able to focus on reading that 20-page report before the meeting.
The quote that I keep repeating because it comes closest to explaining the benefits of meditation is by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “It is not that mindfulness is the ‘answer’ to all life’s problems. Rather, it is that all life’s problems can be seen more clearly through the lens of a clear mind.”