Benefits of meditation
There are many people out there still skeptical of meditation and I totally get that, partly because I was one of them a few years ago.
The research out there of the potential benefits meditation is abundant but for some reason my mindset was always slightly cynical in that doubted my own ability to firstly get any good at the act itself (which in my head is where I imagined the benefits would come from) and secondly, to fit it into my life.
The only meditation that I had tried previously was either in times of extreme stress or anxiety in a desperate attempt to return to baseline. Now I have managed to integrate meditation into my daily routine as a habit the practice is second nature to me.
I also realised that there isn’t necessarily such a thing as ‘being a good meditator’ I think you very much get out what you put in, it is a skill that can be developed but also at its simplest level the practise itself, the very act of concentrating (or trying to concentrate) on the present moment brings immense value.
There’s an abundance of research out there that shows meditation has physical benefits such as a reduction in inflammation, decreased blood pressure and a boosted immune system. In addition to the physical effects, research suggests meditation can rewire neurons in the brain to improve attributes like self-awareness, endurance and compassion.
"I think in the future, mental exercise will be considered as important and mainstream as physical exercise" Dan Harris
The above benefits may be difficult to easily quantify in your own life so I will speak of my own experiences and hopefully these will encourage you to take the time to develop a consistent meditation habit.
My personal meditation experience
I show up as the person I aspire to be more often now and I am connected to the present moment in a way that brings me lots of joy
Quite often I used to reflect on an event whether that be an intense conversation, an interaction with a stranger or a whole chunk of the day and would think to myself ‘I didn’t act congruently with who I am’, and I wish I had behaved differently, it was below the bar that I set for myself.
A perfect example for me would be intense episodes of ‘hanger’ where I would essentially turn into an unreasonable, miserable asshole until I could shovel enough food into myself to be pleasant again. (If you suffer from Hanger you’ll be pleased to hear you don’t need to live with it for life, a combination of meditation and intermittent fasting has completely deleted it from my personality)
A meditation practice helps you sift through the noise in your brain and to think clearly in the present allowing your true self to shine.
When you meditate you become aware of how much bullshit floats through your head.
When you stop to listen, it’s almost comical what your logical brain spits out in these moments of quiet.
Now, the freaky bit is that if you didn’t mean to think those thoughts and they just appear in your head, are you really the thinker or are you just the observer?
Meditating has allowed me to differentiate between these thoughts in the present moment and it has helped me to react less with my monkey brain and instead to act congruently with who I aspire to be.
I can also concentrate better in lots of circumstances as I can silence that chatter, that crazy bastard within you who is desperate to be heard.
It has also made me a better listener. I no longer get distracted by thinking of what I should be doing with my feet or what my reply to the person will be instead of actually truly listening to them in the moment.
The impact on your relationships and the way people feel about you when you are a better listener makes meditation and mindfulness worth it even if that was the only benefit.
There is only the present moment and there will never be anything else, even what you are remembering of the past is happening in the present (if you like Sci-Fi books check out Recursion – Blake Crouch themes are memories and time, it’s a mind-bender).
Sometimes I find myself pulled out of the present moment as I think about the future however, with meditation, I can catch myself more and more often and I can bring myself back into being in the moment.
I will often have a wry little smile to myself when I observe one of the thoughts and impulses that float through my mind, I smile because I choose not to act on the impulse instead to observe the thought dissipate like a train into the distance until its gone.
Overall, I still have a long way to go with my journey with meditation but even after practicing it for this short time it has been a real catalyst for self-improvement/not being an asshole or whatever you want to call it.