Why You Should Try Meditation
Do you ever feel a need for solitude, a desire for a little bit of time alone with your own mind? Having that feeling and acting upon it are two totally different things. It’s hard to put everything on hold and make it happen. If you’ve tried any kind of meditation before and struggled to keep the practice going, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And if you haven't tried before, well…
There’s an old Zen Buddhist saying that goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy. In that case, you should meditate for an hour a day.”
You get the idea: It’s easy for things to come up and distract us from settling down to meditate. But more powerful are the reasons to go ahead and do it.
Here are some of the most powerful reasons you should try meditation…
MEDITATION IS A DEEP, INTROSPECTIVE PROCESS.
The practice of meditation teaches us to take a step back and observe our own mind and thoughts.
The aim is to acknowledge the inner workings of the mind and accept them. A great analogy to understand the process is to imagine your thoughts are like leaves floating down the stream of consciousness.
The mind doesn’t just think, it can also be aware that it is thinking. You’ll experience a form of pure awareness that will allow you to experience the world directly, unclouded by your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
You can think of meditation as climbing a mountain. From the summit you can see clearly for miles around. This perspective of pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step away from negative self-talk and judgmental thoughts and instead look at the world with a fresh pair of eyes.
You’ll become less likely to perpetuate your own suffering by doing things that make yourself and others less happy. You’ll experience a sense of wonder and quiet contentment emerging in your life. That’s powerful!
YOU WILL LOWER STRESS, AND IMPROVES YOUR FOCUS AND DECISION-MAKING.
Meditation has a number of proven health benefits. In several studies, MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of meditation, the brain’s ‘fight or flight’ centre, the amygdala, appears to reduce in size.
This primal region of the brain is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the prefrontal cortex (associated with awareness, concentration and decision-making) grows. While the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that meditation changes the structure of the brain. After all, pretty much everything we do does so. But it’s exciting that recent research is suggesting links between regular meditation, positive mental health and improved cognition.
YOU WILL EXPERIENCE A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF CONNECTION TO THE WORLD AROUND YOU.
This is particularly the case through a type of practice known as loving-kindness meditation.
And scientific discoveries have been able to explain this change. Dr Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, revealed in the mid-70’s that meditation induces a deeply relaxing state he named “The Relaxation Response”. The Relaxation Response is a natural antidote to stress that engages the parasympathetic system, countering the negative biological effects of the fight or flight response.
The relaxation response increases the body’s levels of Oxytocin. Oxytocin is also colloquially known as the “love hormone”; It’s responsible for increasing our bonding, romantic attachments, and levels of empathy. The relaxation response triggered by meditation increases the release of Oxycontin, which makes you feel greater empathy and connection with others. The repetition of the mantras anchors them in consciousness.
In related research, MRI brain imaging has shown that a small part of our brain called the anterior insula becomes activated through mindfulness meditation. This finding is significant because it’s a part of the brain that’s integral to our sense of human connection. It allows us to have feelings of empathy.
The study found that mindfulness meditation could provide an adaptive mechanism in coping with distress due to the empathic sharing of others' suffering, in turn enabling compassionate behavior.
Mindfulness, in particular, teaches you to re-learn having an awareness of everyday activities. It allows you to experience life as it unfolds, moment by moment.
You’ll find new pleasure in hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching, reconnecting with all your senses and witnessing the beauty of the present moment.
A simple meditation practice will, in turn, help you restore a sense of calm, balance and peace.
Suddenly, dedicating 10 minutes a day seems like a small sacrifice to make to unlock something so powerful. Give it a try!
Collaborator and Yogi
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