10 Really Good Reasons To Meditate
There are so many reasons why it’s helpful to meditate:
1. Meditation calms us!
Modern life is stressful and meditation really helps to relax us. In fact, this was the first aspect of meditation to be thoroughly researched. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School found such significant results that he wrote several books on the issue, the first being ‘The Relaxation Response,’ first published in 1975. Since that time, there has been extensive scientific research on meditation with literally thousands of papers having been published. The results speak for themselves. Besides many other benefits, there is no doubt that meditation is extremely helpful when it comes to stress. If you meditate regularly, this will be obvious to you. You will be more relaxed.
2. Meditation helps us to step back and so be less reactive!
In our ordinary lives, we tend to be very reactive. If, when we get to work and see dozens of unread emails on our computer and we tend to dive straight into answering them. If something comes up that threatens the business, we will probably find that our mind becomes consumed with finding a solution. At the end of a busy day, we’re going home and someone pushes in front of us. The tendency will be to instantly feel annoyed. We get home and our partner brings up a difficult issue between you. Instead of listening, the immediate tendency will be to begin to defend ourselves.
Reactive patterns are what meditators call conditioning – habit patterns and instinctual programming – that cause us to react in specific ways. The only way around this reactive merry-go-round, is to become conscious, to notice the pattern arising and to choose to take a different route. This kind of consciousness is called mindfulness and it’s developed through meditation.
3. Meditation enables us to see things more clearly!
So, if through meditation, you are able to resist falling into reactive patterns, you will be able to see things more clearly. So, for example, let’s say that, at a financially stressful time, you loose a client. Your reactive pattern may be to feel very anxious and you may well fall into justifying yourself – justifying why the client was wrong to go. Now, were you to be a regular meditator, you would be able to see that you’re getting caught by a pattern that is not very helpful and this might give you the space to see what, if anything, might have gone wrong. Having done that, your attention can be turned to strategies to obtain new clients. This brings up another vital aspect of meditation and that is attention.
4. Meditation helps us to direct our attention!
Daniel Goleman has just completed an analysis of the importance of focus in achieving success (‘Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence’). By taking a careful look at the research available, it’s obvious that the ability to focus is enormously enabling. Meditation is an excellent way of training our minds to focus.
5. Meditation helps us to find solutions!
It’s not necessarily intuitively obvious, but we are at our most creative when our minds are still enough to allow creative thoughts to arise. This is obvious to regular meditators. If we still our ordinary (thinking) minds with meditation and then drop a problem into our minds, creative solutions tend to emerge. This is enormously useful in any sphere of our lives.
6. Regular meditation brings a deep sense of peace!
Meditation takes us into a different state of mind and that state of mind is characterised by a deep sense of peace. If we meditate regularly, we are left with a taste of that peace underneath all of the turmoil of our ordinary lives. An image that’s often used by meditators is that of the ocean. The waves symbolise the surface turmoil of thoughts and feelings, whilst the vast depths of the ocean symbolises the majority of the mind – this deeper mind – that is profoundly at peace. When you’re being conscious, you can put your attention on the turmoil and experience that and then turn your attention to the deep peace and that will be there too! The more skilled we are at meditating and being mindful, the more we experience this peace being present.
7. Regular meditation makes you happier!
There is very little that will actually make you happier. Careful scientific research has shown that, above a very minimal income, having more money is very unlikely to make you sustainably happier. Nor will a move to better climate, winning the lottery, getting a promotion, buying a new car, or taking a spectacular holiday make you any happier. Any gain in happiness will tend to stay for a only a short period of time.
Regular meditation, on the other hand, is very likely to bring greater happiness. Just as with the sense of peace, this sense of happiness develops in the depths while on the surface things continue in their habitual up and down way. Some things are pleasant; some are not! Sometimes you win; sometimes you don’t! But, deep down, if you meditate regularly, you can experience more and more fundamental happiness.
Another thing that meditation does is increase the serotonin levels in our brains. This is the so-called happiness hormone – the one that Prozac and chocolate increase, for example. So, we do get an increase in our more surface levels of happiness too!
8. Meditation is medically advantageous!
Much of this benefit is related to the relaxation response. Being more relaxed, your heart rate slows (which is good for our hearts) and the blood vessels dilate. This increases the blood flow and reduces the blood pressure in those with high blood pressure. All of this is good news for those of concerns around cardiac disorders – one of the biggest killers in our modern age.
Meditation also increases exercise tolerance in heart patients and some studies have shown that meditation can even help reverse heart disease (such as arteriosclerosis). In fact, meditation has been shown to be of benefit to all stress-related diseases – such as some cardiac disorders and asthma.
Meditation also enhances the immune system thereby reducing the incidence of viral illness and it’s been shown to assist in post-operative healing.
9. Meditation improves our memory!
If we meditate regularly, we will tend to have better memories. In part, this is because we are able to focus better, but it also because, being less stressed, we produce less of the stress hormone cortisol.
10. Meditation helps us to make wiser decisions!
Being less caught by reactive patterns and with access to greater clarity, we are likely to make wiser decisions. It will no longer feel like we are continually fighting fires. Rather, more and more often, we will be able to see when we are getting caught, be able to step back, be able to get perspective, and be able to tap into creative problem-solving. This will give us much greater wisdom in our lives.
So, perhaps the real question is: Why would you not meditate?
Bill has been meditating for more than 25 years and has been teaching meditation since the 1990’s.