There are benefits to meditation that we seldom talk about.
We all know that meditation releases stress, helps us feel more fulfilled, and teaches us to deal with our mental chatter better. However, meditation is more than a brief daily practice that can help us relax.
What we learn in meditation stays with us, and sooner than we think, we begin to see the benefits manifesting in our daily experiences.
Who we are during meditation is different than who we are outside of it. In our modern life, we are vulnerable to life’s difficulties. When we meditate, we realize our mental and physical potential and learn how to best handle issues that arise.
Through meditation, we tap into our true essence and recognize that the practice exists not only for our sake but for others too.
Here’s how meditation can help us navigate our crazy modern life with ease:
Focus on the breath.
The first thing we learn in meditation is how to work with our breath. We observe how the breath flows, enters our lungs, and leaves through the nostrils. In meditation, we use the breath as a tool to reduce our distractions and keep the mind focused. Whenever the mind is agitated, we revert back to the breath.
In modern life, the breath is also the means to moderate our concerns. In moments of anger, tension, worry, fear, confusion, or excitement, we can use the breath to ground us. Meditation helps us realize that focusing on our breath regulates our most rampant emotions.
Developing awareness is another reward we gain from meditation. After a few minutes of practicing meditation, our minds appear to rebel against us and we often claim, “I can’t stop thinking.” Well, we’re not supposed to. The entire objective is to be aware of the mind while it’s active. Awareness doesn’t change facts, but it stops us from becoming attached to them.
Notice the level of awareness when you first get up from your cushion after meditating. We are mindful of every move—the feeling in our legs as we stand up, how we return the cushion to its place, or when we drink the first sip of water. Slowly, this awareness expands into our entire day. We become mindful of our actions, speech, and decisions.
Not so disturbed.
Meditation teaches us how to build a shield against the things that trouble us. When we sit in meditation, a variety of disruptions arise, especially if we are meditating with a group of people. Our thoughts, the pain in our joints or back, the heavy breathing of the person sitting next to us, or noise coming from the outside can all bother us. Yet again, we are asked to accept it, focus on the breath, and watch the temporary nature of things. Whatever emerges in our meditation session will eventually fade away.
The same applies to life. Meditation teaches us to become more tolerant of the things that bother us and that we can’t control. It could be as simple as a dog barking or as serious as the death of a loved one. As in meditation, we watch life’s ephemeral nature and learn to accept it.
Tolerance for physical pain.
Meditation is known for releasing tension and it is said that it might be capable of changing the patterns of our brains. But meditation also teaches us to tolerate suffering and change our perspective on pain. For instance, Vipassana practitioners are asked not to move for one hour during their meditation practice. We know that although suffering emerges (such as pain in the knees or back), the pain is bound to go away if we observe it without any judgment or annoyance.
If we relate this to our daily experiences, it can provide abundant lessons. Regardless of what kind of suffering we might go through—be it emotional or physical—meditation tells us to keep in mind that suffering doesn’t last, even if it’s here in our present moment.
The mind can often block our gut from speaking to us. Our intuition instantly strengthens when the overwhelming energy of the mind decreases. The mind speaks to us through running thoughts, whereas intuition speaks out of a place of silence, which resides within us.
Meditation naturally diminishes the toxic patterns of our minds. It doesn’t stop our thinking, but it teaches us to accept our thoughts without identifying with them. And when we’re less involved with our thoughts, the unheard voice of our gut becomes louder.
Meditation teaches us genuine observation. When we’re meditating, we watch the breath, the physical pain, and thoughts flowing without taking part in them. Observation is essential in our practice since it opens our minds to the reality of things and moves us farther away from our unrealistic misconceptions.
In our ordinary life, we start to observe difficult situations, unwanted emotions, or unexpected thoughts without false presumptions. Through meditation, we learn that running away from problems only keeps them close, but facing them helps us grow and move beyond.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen