I’ve been meditating off and on for over twenty years. I had a gym teacher, in high school, who would lead us through a guided meditation on the days when we seemed too frenetic to actually play sports. I would leave that class feeling so much better that I started to meditate in my room after school. I never thought more about it than just that I felt good after doing it. The older I got, the more I turned to meditation to keep me grounded, or sometimes to get me beyond this particular space and time. Over the years I’ve noted all the benefits to meditation in my personal life, and these are five reasons I meditate, and although anecdotal, they are backed by research.
- It makes me happy, and alternatively, it takes the blues away. (Research here)
- It boosts my empathy and compassion towards others, and I can see this because people speeding along usually get a muttered curse from me, but if I’d meditated my first thought is “oh they might have an emergency” and I let it go and wish them well (research here).
- It keeps me healthy. When I meditate I physically feel good and I know that when I’m stress free, I don’t catch colds. It’s true! (Research here).
- It keeps me calm. I’m not normally an anxious person, but when I get anxious about things I meditate and it diminishes. And it’s a proven fact that meditation helps with anxiety. (Research here).
- It helps me focus. I can point out times in my life where meditation was a daily thing for me and it corresponds to times when I was most productive (in school, in my career) (research here).
There are many, many more benefits to meditation, and if you haven’t already started, or have been out of practice, definitely consider it!
If you have never meditated but would like to try, here are the basics of meditation:
- Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit, and sit with your back straight. If you have back pain, find a chair with a back to keep you upright. Set a timer for ten minutes.
- Close your eyes, focus on your breath. It may help to audibly say “breathing in” while you breathe in, and “breathing out” as your breath leaves your body.
- Continue this for 10 minutes. If you find your mind wandering, that’s fine, it’s what minds do, just come back to your breath and take it easy on yourself. (If ten minutes seems too long, start with five and work your way up as soon as your comfortable. It can take a day, a week, a month, or more.)
- Again, come back gently to your breath, when your mind wanders. The point is to clear your mind of thoughts, but thoughts will drift by and try to tug at your attention, just notice that a thought is tugging and let it go.
If you’d like to practice meditation consider reading Real Happiness: 28 Day Program by Sharon Salzburg. “Cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, author of Lovingkindness, Faith, and other books, Ms. Salzberg distills 30 years of teaching meditation into a 28-day program that will change lives. It is not about Buddhism, it’s not esoteric it is closer to an exercise, like running or riding a bike. From the basics of posture, breathing, and the daily schedule to the finer points of calming the mind, distraction, dealing with specific problem areas (pain in the legs? falling asleep?) to the larger issues of compassion and awareness, Real Happiness is a complete guide. It explains how meditation works; why a daily meditation practice results in more resiliency, creativity, peace, clarity, and balance; and gives twelve meditation practices, including mindfulness meditation and walking meditation.”