One of my students said to me recently “I just don’t get meditation.” I can understand why he said that – there’s often no immediate gratification when we start meditating. Rather, beginning meditators often experience frustration, great discomfort, overwhelm. It takes alot of trust that the process will yield results. With that said, I wanted to share what meditation does for me and some of the great research that has been done into the effectiveness of meditation. Who knows maybe it will inspire trust in your own process…
For me, meditation helps release the emotional attachments to thoughts so I can think clearly. I sit and the same thoughts cycle and cycle til they are almost meaningless, then a state of bliss descends. This is really nice! If I stop then, I am happy for the rest of the day, but left feeling like I may have cheated myself of some meaningful exploration and am living in an illusion.
If I stay past this blissful point, things change and I feel like rather like Dorothy entering the forest in the Wizard of Oz: scary creaks, darkness, unknown shadows all seeming to follow me… Except, unlike Dorothy, I KNOW this is all in my head and I know that the only way out is though. That’s not to say that its enjoyable, but I can watch it like I watch a scary movie – I feel my breath quicken, sometimes my body tightens, sometimes I cry. Haven’t screamed yet ;-). But I can simply watch it. And when its over, I can walk away; altered from where/what I was before but better for the journey.
In essence, my meditation practice most days is almost like I encounter the the Emerald City before the forest. But that further (seemingly backward) journey, should I choose to make it, is like clicking my heels together and the magic of life happens in the most wonderful way!
There are HUGE health benefits to meditating on a regular basis, including stress reduction, lowering blood pressure, easing fibromyalgia, reducing anxiety, reducing insomnia and pain management to name a few. Here are some resources to help you learn more:
Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about meditation, including the benefits to physical and mental health as well as some methods of meditation.
The National Institute of Health also has some great resources on the benefits of meditation, including links to reputable studies on the use of meditation.
For inquiring minds: No, I do not meditate everyday. Self-discipline has never been my strong point and there is little that I absolutely do every single day. Sometimes I can pull it off for weeks at a time, sometimes its a here and there practice. But, you know what? I surely do notice the difference when I do sit, even just for 5 minutes. ENORMOUS difference. In times of great stress, I do find the discipline to do it at least once a day because it means the difference between being able to deal with the stress and succumbing to it.