Eastern practices have become much more commonplace in the western world. Yoga has becoming increasingly popular in America, and meditation is a practice the more and more people are becoming involved in. I started the practice of meditation after watching a YouTube video of media mogul Russell Simmons speaking about the seemingly miraculous effects and enormous benefits of sitting still and breathing. Wondering whether or not it was too good be to true I decided to try it out for myself. What did I come to find out? It works. At one point I was meditating so often and reading so many books by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn that I seriously considered relinquishing all of my possessions and becoming a full time Zen Buddhist. I’ve since reconsidered, but I still meditate often, and I find it to be an extremely useful tool to help me find contentment and peace in my life. I am by no means an expert, and all of my reasoning is anecdotal of course, but here are some reasons why I love mediation, and why I think you’ll love it too:
1. It can lower stress – Yes I know, this is me being captain obvious, but seriously, it can really bring your stress level down several notches. In Vipassana meditation, the goal is to focus on the areas of your body that experience emotions. Emotions are actually physiological responses; you’d be amazed at how many areas of your body are under duress. Meditation is the closet thing that I’ve found to an actual “chill pill”.
2. It can make you a nicer person – A continual meditation practice can actually cause you to treat people more kindly. Much of the time, when people are rude, it is simply because they may not be having the greatest day. Putting yourself in a position to feel more at peace throughout the day will in turn cause you to be more pleasant company to others.
3. It can help you form the proper perspective – I’ve had times where I was in conflict with another person and have decided to take the time to meditate on the issue. At the beginning of the session I would feel that I was completely right and that they were absolutely wrong, but towards the end I began to realize that there are two sides to every issue and I became more empathetic to their point of view. Meditation allows you to step outside of yourself in a certain sense and be able to see things from a different viewpoint, which I’ve found to be conducive in my ways of thinking.
4. It can help you focus – I’ve found that I have a higher propensity to focus after having meditated. If you have an assignment or project to complete, try a quick session before you get started. Meditation helps to clear your mind of distracting thoughts that may side track you while you are trying to get important tasks completed.
5. It can reduce anxiety – I feel that we all struggle with some degree of neuroticism. When you meditate for the first time, it will blow your mind to step back and see how little control you actually have over your mind. Anxiety, doubts, worries, and fears, race in and out of our minds incessantly throughout a given day. Meditation helps to quiet these thoughts. Sometimes after a long meditation it feels as if my mind is literally shielded from negative thinking that would normally occur. In my opinion it is the best remedy for anxiety short of taking medication.
6. It can help you fall asleep – I like to meditate if I am having trouble falling asleep. Soon thereafter I am out like a light. This relates to the aforementioned anxious thoughts. Usually when we are having trouble sleeping it is because we have something on our minds. Quieting the mind is an advantageous method for getting some shuteye.
7. It can help you to look within yourself – Many of us are constantly blaming our state of happiness or lack thereof on outside circumstances. The truth of the matter is that being happy or unhappy is really a product of the mind. Meditation helps you to realize that much of the pain in your life is really self-inflicted. Introspection is key in figuring out how to improve one’s life. Meditation gives you assistance on the greatest journey of all; the journey within.
8. It can make you feel more connected – Getting into a deep meditative state makes you lose yourself in a sense and become absorbed with your surroundings. Try meditating in nature. Listen to the chirping of the birds and feel the wind graze your face. It can be a surreal experience.
9. It can keep you in the moment – Oftentimes, the source of our anxiety comes from regrets of the past and worries about the future. Meditation helps you to stay in the present moment, which according to these teachings is the only state in which you can be happy. A good book that explains this more in depth is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Staying in the present moment can help you to appreciate each day as you live out your life.
10. It can literally make you a happier person – In one of my favorite books “The Happiness Hypothesis” Dr. Jonathan Haidt claims that meditation is one of three definitive ways to make you a happier person. I am inclined to agree with him. When I’ve meditated regularly I became a much more content and happy individual. I’ve also noticed that when I stopped doing it for extended amounts of time, my levels of happiness decreased. This is just my personal experience, but if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or are simply fed up with the bullshit life throws at you, give it a try. It works.