How Meditation Can Improve Your Life

I’m an avid meditator. I’ve been meditating since my undergraduate years in university. To this day, I do my best to commit 15 minutes each morning to the practice as well as attend a 1-3 hour group meditation on weekends. 

Up to 3 hours… First, sitting for 25 minutes.

Self-supported, dignified, upright posture. Eyes resting gently, partially open, on the floor just in front of me. Deep, belly breathing, in through the nose, out through the nose. Slowly, rhythmically, in and out. Feeling the presence of others in the room. Knowing they are doing the same thing, here for probably similar reasons. Noticing sounds around me. Breathing, shifting, cars driving by, a baby crying. Noticing that I’m getting distracted by a thought. Returning my focus back to the breath, in and out. Feeling strength in my body, warmth, and relaxation.

Then, 5 minutes of walking.

Right foot, lifting off the ground, slowly, noticing the muscles at work. Placing it on the floor with the heel first, then the ball, and finally, the toes. Feeling my weight shift to the right side as my left heel lifts, then the ball, and finally, the toes. I notice the muscles carrying my left leg forward, slowly. Feeling the sensation of bare feet on cool hardwood, a bit sticky. Feeling the weight of my body, the effort needed to stay balanced. Catching myself a few times from falling. Always to the right side, I notice. Around in circles we go.

Next, another 25 minutes of sitting.  

Trying a new position this time. Same drill as last. Except now, starting to feel some pain in my back. My left foot falls asleep. Pins and needles. The sensation transforms from tingling to numbness. I can’t feel my left foot. I wonder if this is what it’s like not to have a foot. Maybe I should move it a little. Done. Still asleep. Maybe another shift. Noticing these thoughts, bringing my mind back to the breath. It doesn’t matter, my foot’s not going to fall off. My back still hurts, even more now. I wonder if the 25 minutes is almost up. Back to the breath, noticing shifting in the room.

And, then, back to walking, continuing the cycle until it’s noon.

Often, I am asked, “why do you do it?”

Of course, the experience is different for everyone, and a wealth of clinical trials will put forth too many benefits to talk about here, but this is what I get out of my meditation practice, and what I believe you could get out of yours, too:

1 |  Meditation helps slow you down.

You’re in a mad rush most of the time. You’ve got so many jobs to do and roles to play that you feel like there’s never enough time. Meditation allows you to experience quite the opposite. During meditation, you can rest your brain and experience a sense of “there’s nowhere else I have to be right now, and nothing else I have to do.” The slowing of time is like a breath of fresh air, and it often results in slowing you down throughout the rest of your day.

2 |  Meditation helps you savor the small things.

You’re surrounded by so much stimulation nowadays that you can hardly devote attention to any one thing. Meditation helps you develop the skill of mono-tasking by focusing attention on one thing at a time, whether it be the breath, sounds, or watching thoughts come and go. Meditation also trains your brain to pick up the fine details in simple experiences. The breath, for example, can be transformed into a beautiful rhythm with variations in pace, depth, temperature, and sound. You might be surprised to find yourself entertained by such simple beauty, and picking up on more of these experiences even when you’re not meditating.   

3 |  Meditation helps you become “responsive” rather than “reactive.”

Responsiveness involves a lot more choice than reactiveness, which is largely emotions-based. When meditating, you can learn to observe these emotions, whether they be pleasant or painful. By stepping back, you can skillfully watch them pass by without clinging to them. Instead of getting caught up in the feeling of pins and needles in my foot, for example, I sat with the discomfort, and soon my mind calmed despite the pain. I had temporary numbness in my body, but ultimately, I was in control of my mind.

4 |  Meditation helps you get in touch with yourself.

Through the stillness and silence that meditation offers, you’re given the opportunity to meet with yourself, your true self. When you get in touch with who’s really inside (not who you think you should be), what you find might surprise you. As difficult as it can be to sit in the absence of a million distractions, it’s also incredibly important to be clear and honest with yourself about who you are and how to best approach various situations in your life.   

5 |  Meditation helps you connect with others.

Of course, this one applies especially if you meditate with a group of like-minded individuals. Meditating on your own can be a powerful experience, but meditating with others naturally provides a sense of belonging. Regardless, meditating can increase feelings of compassion towards other living beings, whether it be someone you’re close to, a stranger, the plants and animals on the earth, or planet earth itself. This feeling of inherent connection is a critical part of mental health and impacts how well you treat those around you.

With these benefits, it’s no question that meditation is, indeed, an investment in my health that is priceless. With benefits that grow exponentially over time, I feel that meditation more than pays off in the end, numb foot and sore back aside.

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