“My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire or sword” – Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe
Meditation may just be the solution to all your problems. It is one of, if not the, most powerful tool in learning to navigate your emotions and become self aware. It enhances us in every way–mind, body, spirit, relationships, work, play, love and beyond. It's basically medicine, as it cures negativity, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, pain, laziness, complaining, and everything preventing us from living our fullest potential.
The practice relieves the pressures of your thoughts, and through that comes the clearing needed to create a shift in perspective--a shift that helps in taking control of your life in order to live a life you love. You could change nothing else and just begin meditating, and your life will change.
Meditation changes lives because it changes our brain functioning, habits, reactions, and way of responding in the world. Over time, you will feel it resonate on a profound level throughout and past your own lifetime to the lives of those you've touched.
An Intro to the "How" & What to Expect
Meditation may be practiced and enjoyed with or without music, eyes open or closed, sitting or lying down. There are many forms and techniques, but the constant is this: true meditation means fully anchoring your consciousness, awake and aware, in order to witness and observe the true essence of reality, despite any urge to do otherwise.
This re-enforces your capability to find presence at any time. It conditions us to consciously slow down the thinking mind (known in yoga as “Citta” or “mind chatter”), allowing us to more quickly switch gears into a mind frame in which you feel, connect with, and lovingly observe the subtle energies within and around you, anytime anywhere.
You will have many moments in which you catch yourself thinking random thoughts. The practice will help you recognize these involuntary dialogues as they arise, and teaches us how to politely bring ourselves back to that still meditative state.
A great way to come back is by finding the breath, as it is always right there waiting for you to reconnect with it – a loyal guide into this important moment.
Experiencing the sacredness of the present moment helps us take a step back from our circumstances. We reconnect with clarity. The lessons of acceptance, compassion and connection may be just the antidote to all pain and suffering.
The challenges and problems will still be there at the end of your practice - it’s our perspective towards them that shifts. Suddenly we see solutions and inspiration where we once saw confusion. We notice our vibrations are coming from our highest selves.
With practice, your mind and reactions change a bit. Therefore, it can change a lot. You'll realize you have astounding potential to become more peaceful. The freedom to reevaluate your perception of anything. Nothing is fixed. There is no situation that is intrinsically difficult. You'll realize you are capable of transforming your experience.
Emotional strength helps us become better equipped to face and handle challenges, high pressure situations, stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, addiction, and more. It enables us to encounter danger or bear pain and adversity with courage and . According to the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, mindfulness meditation helps control cortical alpha rhythms, which play a role in stress reactivity. Imagine what we can do for others with that innate strength. We can be an extraordinary source of inspiration.
Physically, meditation reduces blood pressure, lowers stress hormone levels, and improves cellular health and neuron function in the brain. Over time, meditation changes the way we respond to stressful situations naturally because the chemical makeup of our brains actually change as we condition our minds to enter meditative states.
Other scientifically-valid benefits of meditation include: boosts in immunity, self-control, productivity, increase in wisdom, decreases inflammation at the cellular level, and even changes in the structure of the brain (for the better).
Effects on the Brain
Ever feel angry despite beautiful surroundings, or happy despite being stuck on a grocery line? According to a study from the University of Toronto, this is because there are two pathways of attention controlled by two different areas of our brains.
One is the Prefrontal Cortex responsible for conceptual external attention and complex thought, particular to humans and advanced mammals. For example: noticing a red light on the street or watching TV. The other is the Insula and Posterior Cingulate Cortex of the brain, which are responsible for observing our internal attention within ourselves: feelings of love, bodily awareness, sensations, and emotions. For example: sensation of the breath, a chocked up feeling of sadness or the warmth of deep love. These areas in the brain are predominate in babies, but becomes increasingly foreign as we learn to “pay attention” to the outside world.
Meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques re-train and strengthen our introspective awareness within the physical body and towards our emotional states. For example, a person who is trained to tap into their introspective attention will be more likely to take a deep breath, tune into their bodies, or rush over to the next yoga class when they find themselves in a difficult situation, rather than trying to “talk themselves out of it” or turning to alcohol, drugs, or other external factors.
Although initially it may be uncomfortable to face our own true emotions, it is the best way to promote healing and growth versus relying on drugs or other distractions that may mask but don’t remove those underlying emotions. Being able to heal yourself authentically is very empowering, which leads to confidence, self-love, and self-respect, leaving you less likely to choose self-destructive habits.
Effects on Happiness
Research suggests that our greatest moments of happiness are times we spent fully engaged in a sensory experience like a physical activity or an intimate moment. It is when we are too distracted that our minds can't seem to fully embrace what could be some of our greatest moments. Being mindful while we eat, for example, helps us to truly taste and enjoy, rather than huffing down lunch while watching TV or talking with your mouth full. Being mindful brings the most out of your experience, and helps you remember it.
Meditating helps gather answers about who we are: our true nature, what we truly want in our lives, how we want to live it, and what (or who) we are better off without in order to get what we want and become truly happy. It helps us realize our values and goals, as well as notice the things getting in the way of them. This is not something we can achieve by weightlifting or physical practice alone.
Effects on your Productivity
When the mind becomes empty, it is always ready for anything, and open to everything. When we meditate we experience our mind becoming more spacious, more receptive, and therefore more productive. Always being able to take a step back reduces stress hormone levels, which in turn allows for more educated decisions and reactions, both in your personal and business life. You will notice an increase in your ability to multitask, as well as an increase in memory, creativity, focus, and attention.
Effects on Sleep
The ability to manage stress and obtain higher mindfulness reduces brain activation at bedtime, according to a study from the University of Utah. When learning to meditate, you learn what soothes you into total stillness in both body and mind. Body Scan meditation, for example, works wonders if you are restless in bed. You may amaze yourself when you realize how much unnecessary tension you’re holding in your body, and that’s why body awareness is so important!
When you meditate consistently, it may even come naturally to remember to relax every single one of your body parts. Sometimes it’s as simple as relaxing your jaw or the eyebrows. Try to just let gravity pull you into a comfortable position so that you’re entire body drops and eases into deep relaxation. Slowly let everything go starting with the toes, then move to your feet, legs, up all the way until your entire face and body are relieved from any tension.
At the end of the day, life’s not about what you have (or don’t have), where you live (or don’t live), who you know (or don’t know), or wishing you spent more time in the office – it’s about the love and beauty you were fortunate enough to witness and remember in your lifetime.
When we connect our mind and body through breath, our pure self, higher self begins to emerge creating inner balance, equanimity. The gift of coming closer to your true spirit - is the ultimate goal.
There are many types of meditation techniques. What works for you may not necessarily work for me, but one thing is always certain: you know when you’re doing it right. It can be done at any time, but I recommend doing it twice a day (for at least 5 minutes per session, with an increase over time): once in the morning before the start of your day and once at night. Don’t worry if your schedule doesn’t permit practicing at a certain time with consistency; so long as you are doing it generally every day. 10 minutes total isn’t much in the scheme of a 1,440 minute day.