If you are reading this article, chances are you have discovered that the things you were sure would make you happy are not enough to give your life the meaning you want. You are not alone; millions of people the world over are looking for better ways to find joy and fulfillment in their lives. Meditation can give you what you seek.
I never considered my spiritual dimension when everything in my life seemed to be working. I was a family man, affluent enough to bypass financial worries and a respected Denver citizen after having served successfully as the city’s 44th mayor.
Without warning, fate knocked me flat on my ass and knocked down the scaffolding that held up the self-image with a divorce, an unwanted relocation to Florida and an unplanned retirement. This situation left me vulnerable and a stranger in a new territory.
There is no medicine for the kind of emotional suffering I experienced in the throes of this new existential crisis, and I became desperate to bring security and comfort back into my life. Alone and unattached had its advantages, however, for this new state of mind cleared the way for me to reflect on my life. It was during this time I discovered that the way to my internal healing began when I committed to daily meditation.
What is meditation?
There are as many questions about meditation as there are techniques. Meditation is a practice to quiet the mind so it can go beyond the active level of thinking and allow the practitioner to experience the depths of his/her awareness.
Physicists call this unbounded pure potentiality “the Unified Field” that underlies and unites us all. Some call this source God, Allah, Holy Spirit, Higher Power and many other names. Meditators believe contacting one’s wellspring of inner peace and creativity greatly benefits health and well-being.
While some may scoff at this belief because of its mystical suggestion, it is not a far-fetched concept. Some of the greatest minds in history—Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking, to name a few—had faith in a higher, omnipresent force that gave order to every aspect of our universe. Many of the world’s religions reference how God spoke to followers through visions prophesies and dreams. The Christian traditions reference the Holy Spirit as the spiritual entity is in all of us to help guide our lives.
One need not be a mystic to access this higher essence. Regardless of our worldly circumstances, a daily spiritual practice can put us in communion with this life force. This will help us cultivate the self-appreciation, serenity and contentment we need to live more fulfilling lives.
This is why I meditate twice daily. I use the Transcendental Meditation technique, but there are many other ways to establish your contemplative tradition. You need to find one that works for you.
Here is what daily meditation cultivates,
1) Allows you to know and accept your true self.
Meditation can help us see beyond our false self-image glasses when we need to analyze ourselves. A study in the journal Psychological Science shows that the practice can help us conquer the common “blind spots” that can amplify or diminish our own flaws beyond reality. The beauty of meditation is that it doesn’t require you to leave everything and join the monastery. You can communicate with your higher power just as you are with all of your inner confusion, self-proclaimed flaws and cacophony of feelings. The benefits will still be profound.
2) Strengthens the commitment to better yourself.
The trouble most have meditating is carving out the time required. It is true; applying yourself to a daily spiritual practice requires discipline, but it is not an impossible task. Meditating daily strengthens your resolve because is a definitive action to improve your life. Meditating strengthens your determination to create a better mind, body and soul. Establishing self-discipline helps you become orderly in other areas of your life.
3) It lowers stress.
Research published in the journal Health Psychology shows that meditation is associated with feeling less stressed. This is important when we are suffering great emotional distress when our life is not working out our way because meditation decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also reduces stress by allowing you to become less affected with your inside chaos. You embrace where you are at all times and lovingly accept your transience. Meditation helps you be at peace with your emotional anguish. You will see the feelings and stirrings within as natural, and you will not add pressure for an action or decision on them. It is from this perspective you can unravel any worldly mess.
4) It changes the brain in a positive way.
Mindfulness meditation can make you more focused and relaxed. The University of Oregon researchers found that a meditation technique can result in brain changes that may be protective against depression. The meditation practice was linked with increased signaling connections in the brain; something called axonal density, as well as increased protective tissue (myelin) around the axons in the anterior cingulate brain region. A study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience states that meditation helps the brain to better process pain and emotion.
5) It helps you twenty-four hours a day.
You don’t have to be meditating to gain from the benefits. A study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience verifies this. It shows that the brain’s response to emotional stimuli is changed by meditation, even when a person isn’t meditating. Meditation happens in the present and so it relaxes your mind and allows you to give respect to yourself and the things that surround you every moment without having to force any kind of future.
6) It trains you to become your own observer.
You are more than your mind and body. As you learn to observe sensations, emotions and thoughts through meditation without giving in to them, you realize you have a choice. You need not react to every impulse or feeling. For example, you don’t have to get all worked up and yell (and gesture) at someone who cuts you off on the highway. You can choose to believe there is a reason why they were in such a hurry. This doesn’t mean you excuse the wrong action that occurred, it means you choose to give a person the benefit of a doubt and not take personally what they did or failed to do. Observing and choosing your reactions is key to maintaining serenity and contentment in everyday life.
7) It makes you a better person.
Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities found that meditation makes us more compassionate, kinder, and more generous towards the people we interact with. Replacing anger, fear and hatred with love, understanding and acceptance not only makes you a better person, it will bring joy into your life.
8) This progress is steady and irreversible.
The great Michelangelo described his duty as a sculptor accordingly,
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
This quote provides a great metaphor for the benefits of meditation. Consider your daily practice as the tool needed to chisel out the image of your authentic self hidden in the block of stone. With meditation, the progress of uncovering you happens daily. Before long, you will notice you are living a more joyful life.
We spend a lot of our time regretting the past or hoping for a future of our liking, yet living happens in the present moment. Meditation connects you to the present. It is not a silver bullet or a voice from on high to save you from your restlessness and despair. Remember, it took years to get to this point, so it will not change in one hour or a day. But with daily meditation practice, you will see steady improvement. This will be shown to you in the amount of gratitude, calmness and bliss that will emerge from inside of you.
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