Seeing as I have recently begun to teach meditation, I thought it was high time that I wrote in more detail about the benefits I frequently allude to in other posts.
Originally, I was going to post the title Meditation: the solution to everything! But then I figured that’s a really strong statement, and it might alienate some readers. So I rephrased it as a question. However, I happen to believe that meditation is the solution to everything that can be perceived as a problem.
I hope to outline enough reasons to at least persuade you of this potential, if not convince you of this truth! However, if I were to attempt to do this in the detail I want in one go, it would turn into a mammoth post. So, I've decided to do it as a series of shorter posts.
This first one though is not so short. I'll discuss what meditation is and give a general overview of the benefits to be gained from a regular practice. In follow up posts I will look at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits in more detail.
In the last post I will outline how to get started with a meditation practice and give recommendations on how to integrate it into your daily life.
So, lets get started . . .
What is meditation?
Meditation is a process whereby we quieten the mind, which is normally very busily engaged with thoughts about the future or memories (more thoughts) of the past.
Through quieting the mind, we enable ourselves to rest more easily in the present moment, which is the only place that actually exists in physical reality. When we are busy thinking of the past or future, we are not fully grounded in the “real” * world. We have at least one foot in a world that either exists no longer, or doesn’t exist yet - and may never come to exist at all.
(* all of reality is perception and is uniquely different for each one of us – but that’s for another post)
Meditation is meant to be easy and comfortable to practice - not a test of mental or physical endurance.
Although we quieten the mind during meditation, the mind is not always quiet during the process! It is perfectly normal to experience many thoughts during meditation. If you don't achieve a completely still mind, don't dismiss your meditation as not being effective. Eventhough it might feel like your mind is continually active, you do still quieten it down throughout the process.
During meditation, using whatever your point of focus is (that differs according to whatever meditation technique you practice), you continually interrupt your busy stream of thoughts and in doing so take your mind to quieter and quieter levels. Over time, though you may still experience thoughts, the thoughts become quieter themselves, more abstract, less compelling to the thinking mind.
Many people, when they begin meditating, think they need to banish all thoughts from their mind. This puts the mind under a great deal of pressure, and can also lead to tortuous mental boredom throughout the process. When you let go of that pressure, and accept that whatever crops up in your thoughts is just fine – as long as you remember to just let them go rather than engage with them – then meditation turns into a relaxing and peaceful time that you will enjoy.
Physically, meditation is also meant to be comfortable. The traditional image of a meditation posture is something like this:
In fact, this is not at all required. It is absolutely fine to sit in a lotus position – if you can do so comfortably. If it would be uncomfortable for you (as it is for me), then sit upright in a comfortable chair. If the body is uncomfortable the mind will be engaged with this thought, making it difficult to settle and quieten down.
Comfort is key – then you can forget about your physical body and relax your mind.
Why bother meditating?
Meditation originated in eastern cultures as a spiritual practice. It enables you to connect with your soul, and to integrate the qualities of your soul into your daily life.
In the west, however, it has grown in popularity due to the recognition of its immense power to manage stress and reverse the ill-effects of stress on both the mind and body.
The benefits of meditating regularly cannot be overstated. The practice will positively affect you on every level: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Not only that, but we postively affect those around us too.
Layers of Life
Above is a diagram of the model of the human form that was developed by Adi Shankara, one of the great Vedic sages and philosophers of India. He identified three dimensions to the human body: physical, subtle and causal.
The physical body is not limited to the personal body we recognise and identify with, but also includes the unseen energy body - the prana or chi that provides us with vital life force - and also the extended body, otherwise known as our environment.
When we meditate we raise the vibration of our energy, which improves the health and well-being of the physical body and impacts the energy field around us, thereby affecting the energy of others we come in contact with.
The subtle body also has three aspects: the mind (thoughts, desires and emotions), the intellect (the part which is always analysing and interpreting information), and the ego (self-image). By quieting the mind during meditation we reduce mental and emotional turbulence and increase our sense of inner peace.
The causal body refers to our consiousness, and again there are three levels involved: the personal soul, the collective soul and universal soul. As well as being connected to universal consiousness, each of our souls is connected to a group of other personal souls, and the story of the collective influences each of our pesonal life stories.
Through regular meditation we become more attuned to our soul intentions, and make choices in life that are aligned with the highest good and not just driven by ego desires. When our desires come from the level of the soul, the whole universe conspires to manifest them. How wonderful is that! :-)
Overall, when we meditate regularly we find purpose in our lives and experience greater peace, happiness and overall well-being.
So, how does that translate into the solution to all problems?
Ok, I started with a question, and answered with an audacious claim. To get the full picture on this you will need to read the follow up posts that go into more detail about how meditation can benefit every aspect of our lives.
Although the posts on the physical and subtle benefits will address more practical issues, the post that addresses the spiritual benefits will deal with the big picture, and hopefully will tie it all together. That is the post where I hope you will be persuaded that mediation can be the solution to everything ;-)
Meditation: the spirtual benefits
Meditation: getting started with your practice