What Is Meditation and Its Benefits In Todays World? Does It Matter? How can you personally benefit?
Understanding what meditation is and its benefits on a practical level are mental training and practice.
It’s when an individual focuses the mind in order to improve concentration or to create a certain state of mind to gain physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
In a very real sense, the benefits go beyond the physical aspects of our life to a much deeper connection with our true essence.
We have already established in Lesson 1 that it is not some sort of metaphysical, spiritual or mystical state that you enter.
It’s definitely not some sort of attempt to achieve some sort of an alternate reality or navigate some sort of spiritual truth. Instead, meditation works with how your mind already operates.
The bottom line is, if your mind did not have a self-correcting system to achieve some sort of balance or some sort of inner peace at some level or another, you would have gone crazy a long time ago. That is the bottom line.
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Meditation really boils down to getting in touch with that and becoming more aware of that machinery so you can call it into action when you need it, and on your own terms.
Your mind is a very powerful biochemical machine. It has all sorts of gears and processes and systems. Meditation just simply taps into this amazing interconnected network of internal systems that manage your personal reality to make the system work for you instead of against you.
The Cloud Analogy Of Meditation
To get an understanding of how these systems work, I need you to imagine that you are looking at the world from 500,000 feet. At that distance, the world is a globe. You can see the clouds on the surface, and you can see some storms.
And when you sink deeper, let’s say, to 200,000 feet, you can see the storms up close. You can see the lightning, you can see the movement of the air. You can even see the surface of the waters. You can see the heat of the deserts. There’s a lot of commotion. There’s a lot of stress.
But when you sink another 200,000 feet, you can see everything up close and personal. There’s a lot of turbulence. Then you sink another 500 feet into the ocean. It starts getting calmer. You can still see some patterns from the surface or, if you dig into the earth, you can see some mild disturbance.
But when you get to the core of the earth, it’s surprisingly stable. In fact, it’s a molten core. It rarely moves. It’s just liquid because of all the heat and pressure from the surface. But it is very, very stable in the center of the earth.
Your mind is the same. When you drill down enough, things get calmer and calmer despite how traumatic, turbulent and stressful the surface areas of your mind become. When you get to the core, you can take a lot of comfort from the fact that it will always remain calm.
It has to be this way because, as I said earlier, if humanity did not develop in such a way that our minds have some sort of self-correcting system that’s always stable, we would have died as a species a long, long time ago.
Meditation is All About Getting to Your Core
Practical meditation is all about getting to that inner core. It’s all about getting to that part of your mind that is always at peace. It has these mechanisms that ensure that you keep going back to this sense of peace.
Believe it or not, really stressed out people, people who are going through a living hell as far as their emotions, their relationships, their career, their finances, and everything else in their life, actually have a calm inner core.
Unfortunately, that’s just buried in all the stuff that’s taking up all their mental energy. But it’s not going to go away. It’s always there. You are programmed by biology to have a calm inner core, otherwise, you would have gone crazy a long time ago. The bottom line is simple: meditation is all about living in the moment. That is where we reconnect with our calm inner core.
Here’s the twist, though. Meditation is an art, not a science.
If meditation was a science, like some sort of equation that you just plug in variables into and you will get the same predictable result, then we wouldn’t be here.
But unfortunately, it is personal in nature because you have to go through the process of making choices to clear up your mind, so you can lock in on the present moment. That’s how you reconnect with your deep, abiding inner core of calm and serenity.
Now, with that said, although meditation is an art and not a science, it’s been scientifically studied thoroughly. In fact, there are at least 200 peer-reviewed, hardcore scientific studies of meditation. A lot of this was done in the 1970s. Meditation has a lot of scientific benefits. I will go into that in the next lesson.
But don’t think that what I’m going to be teaching you is some sort of an experimental or completely new method. No. Its effects have been known for quite some time. In fact, in many parts of the world, it’s been practiced for at least 1,000 years.
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You’ll be surprised at what “sitting down and doing nothing” can do for your body, brain, and overall well being.
It is not a destination, but a journey into your own mind to harness its power and live your best life. Once you are living your best life, you will be able to help others much more easily, without getting burned out. Understanding what is meditation and its benefits will help us create a new reality in our own personal lives.
Meditation goes back thousands of years and has been used as a component of traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) and Chinese medicine in order to promote balance, health and overall well-being of body, mind, and spirit.
A healthy mind brings about a healthy body and vice versa. Poor health can affect one’s mental state, triggering anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. A good meditation practice will balance your energies and enhance your mood. This is truly the essence of what is meditation and its benefits in day to day living.
The Healing Wonders Of Meditation
Things that seemed to be the use of meditation for healing and spiritual enlightenment has been an ancient practice that is common among the world’s great religions and cultures. It is an accepted and proven alternative therapy that is classified under “mind-body medicine.”
Through the years, more and more people have found meditation as an effective way to ease chronic pain, improve heart health, relieve stress and anxiety, boost mood and immunity, and resolve pregnancy problems. Even doctors are already prescribing meditation as a way to lower blood pressure; improve exercise performance in people with angina; help people with asthma breathe easier, and to relieve insomnia. It is a safe and simple way to balance a person’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
According to cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD: “Any condition that’s caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation.” Benson is the founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He said that the relaxation induced by meditation can help decrease metabolism, lower blood pressure, and improve heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. When the body receives a quiet message to relax, tension and tightness begin to seep from muscles.
Brain scans (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI) of people who meditate have been used to show scientific evidence that meditation really works. It shows an increase in activity in areas that control metabolism and heart rate. Other studies on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in brain activity in areas involving attention, working memory, learning, and conscious perception.
Meditation is not difficult to learn but it is a skill that needs to be practiced in order to develop the ability to focus on the breathing patterns and the need to ignore distracting thoughts. Meditation is often accompanied by a mantra, a word or phrase that is repeatedly chanted to produce a biological response such as relaxation.
The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of meditation. Constant practice of meditation allows people to learn and develop the ability to produce meditative and relaxed states without difficulty. Meditating several times during the day makes the practitioner feel relaxed throughout the entire day.
The Health Benefits of Meditation
Heart Health: Countless studies have shown that regular practice has significantly helped reduce high blood pressure. A study conducted at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa, showed a significant lowering of blood pressure and heart rate in black adults. Another study conducted by the American Journal of Hypertension showed that teenagers who meditated for 15 minutes twice a day for four months were able to lower their blood pressure a few points.
Immune Booster: In a Psychosomatic Medicine study testing immune function, meditation has been shown to be useful in warding off illness and infections. Flu shots were given to volunteers who had meditated for eight weeks and to people who didn’t meditate. The result of blood tests from the meditation group had produced higher levels of antibodies against the flu virus.
Women’s Health: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), infertility problems, and even breastfeeding can be improved when women meditate regularly. In one study, PMS symptoms subsided by 58% when women meditated. Another study found that hot flashes were less intense among women who practiced meditation.
Women struggling with infertility had much less anxiety, depression, and fatigue following a 10-week meditation program; 34 percent became pregnant within six months. Also, new mothers who meditated on images of milk flowing from their breasts were able to more than double their production of milk.
Meditation Enhances Brain Activity
Those who practice meditation regularly showed evidence of significantly higher brain activity, called gamma wave activity, in areas associated with learning and happiness compared with those who didn’t practice meditation. Gamma waves involve mental processes including attention, memory, learning and conscious perception.
Many health care providers consider meditation as a key element of an integrated health program. However, when you are having a hard time getting into that meditative state, try to enroll in a class. It will help and guide you with your progress. Any practice that can evoke the relaxation response can be beneficial, be it through meditation, yoga, breathing, or repetitive prayer.
The growing body of research literature on meditation and other alternative therapies gives us no reason to believe that one is better than the other, real problems will soon become just a few of the small challenges you face as you go about your daily routine.
Meditation is not about zoning out and emptying the mind completely.
The original Sanskrit word, Dyhana, means thinking. We all think, endlessly, every day, every waking moment, and even when we are asleep, in the form of dreams.
But how many of those thoughts are actually useful or beneficial?
No matter how ‘modern’ and practical we think we are, how on top of things, or how intelligent we believe ourselves to be, there’s always room for learning how to think more clearly.
Meditation can help even the most rampant type-A personalities find inner peace and become less stressed once they learn what meditation is and why it is so effective.
The most important aspect of what is meditation and its benefits is quieting the mind in the first place in order to be able to use the calmer mind to be fully present in the now and to gain wisdom. In this guide, you will find a range of tips to help you hone your mind to focus and deepen your ability to meditate.