by Katie Dutcher
Maybe you or someone you know is wondering what's the big deal about meditation. What does it actually do? Why does it seem like so many people are jumping on this bandwagon right now? There are so many reasons...and here are the first 11 reasons that I thought of. You can add your favorite reasons in the comments below!
We’ve had it drilled into our heads that “stress kills”... but really it’s our reactions to stress, physically, mentally, and emotionally, that take a toll on our health. While it’s impossible to rid our lives of stress, meditation helps us to develop more skillful responses to stress that help us to bounce back more quickly and experience fewer negative effects on body, mind, and heart.
When we meditate, we pay attention to what’s going on internally and externally. Internally, there are so many thoughts and emotions going on, not to mention sensations moving through the body. Being more aware of ourselves during meditation begins to allow us to be more self-aware in the rest of our lives...noticing more clearly how we’re reacting, how we’re feeling, how we’re communicating… And when we’re aware, we become empowered to change, if change is needed. It all starts with being aware.
Many of us have a habit of behaving as if body and mind are separate. We may spend most of the day thinking, talking, and basically being up in our heads, and then do an hour of exercise to move our body. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but it’s helpful to remember that we are one whole being, body-mind-heart, without separation. For example, we may “know” that we feel fear, and we can also “feel” it in the body. And when we are moving our body, it’s always more effective to be paying close attention with our minds— being present. Meditation helps to connect body, mind, and heart by bringing more awareness to all of it.
Ever catch yourself thinking, “I wish I hadn’t said (or done) that!” ? Sometimes it can feel like we’re trapped in our patterns: You say this→ I say that. Someone cuts me off on the road→ I gesture angrily and spend the rest of the drive fuming. It doesn’t have to be this way. Meditation helps to create space between emotions and behaviors. Viktor E. Frankl wrote, “In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.“ When we become aware of what is happening and what we’re feeling, we can begin to choose more skillful responses that help rather than harm.
When we meditate, we usually get very still and quiet. We might practice paying attention to our breath moving in and out. We’ll also become aware of the sounds around us, as well as checking in with how we’re doing in that moment. All of this is has us being present, right HERE, right NOW. And being present in this moment helps us to feel more grounded, balanced, and often more at peace.
Just like we work out to build strength and endurance in our bodies, meditation helps us to build the “muscle” of focus and concentration. Less daydreaming and mind-wandering, and more paying attention to whatever we want to pay attention to. Imagine the effects this can have on our relationships, our work, and our learning!
Ever find yourself doing something you didn’t mean to do, all because of an emotion you weren’t aware you were having? Maybe you find yourself mindlessly snacking...because you’re bored or lovely. Maybe you find yourself snapping at people...because you’re feeling overwhelmed or hurt. Mindful meditation helps us to actually feel our feelings and to realize when they are occurring...and once we’re aware of what is occurring, we can decide how to respond or what is really needed.
Life moves quickly. We get caught up in all kinds of things that can be confusing, overwhelming, and hurried or harried. Taking even one minute to pause and turn inward can help to re-focus, re-set, and shift perspective. Whether you do this at the beginning of each day and set intentions or simply take a moment to breathe when feeling stressed, meditation provides a moment to just BE, in the midst of a day of doing.
No matter what you’re doing (driving, working, hanging out…) there is a huge difference between really being present and just going through the motions. When we’re not present in the moment, we can actually miss out on parts of our lives that are important, enjoyable, and meaningful. Meditation helps us to develop the habit of being present in the moment so that we can show up fully to whatever we’re doing.
Studies show that meditators get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. Meditating regularly helps to release tension in the body and mind and let go of racing thoughts. It also helps us to accept and work with whatever is happening, so if we’re experiencing insomnia, being accepting of it helps us to feel less anxious about the experience...which may actually help us to rest easier. And more sleep, in turn, has loads of health benefits!
Sometimes things are hard. You feel pain in your body, you’re experiencing illness or anxiety, loss of a job or of someone close to you. When we’re struggling, our first instinct might be to ignore or run away from the pain. Meditation helps us to learn to stay. We practice being with ourselves, being with what is occurring, just as it is, just as we are. We stop wasting energy wishing reality were different than it is. We learn to accept, and we learn to work WITH what is happening, rather than against it.
So... your turn. Why do you meditate? Why might you give it a try? What reasons are intriguing to you, or have you feeling skeptical? Or, to turn it around... why NOT meditate? Is there anything standing in your way?
Too busy? Start with 2 minutes.
Think your mind is too busy for it to "work?" Check out our short video below on common misconceptions about meditation.
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