What is Meditation?
Meditation is a universal spiritual wisdom and a practice found at the core of all the great religious traditions, leading from the mind to the heart. It is a way of simplicity, silence, and stillness. It can be done by
Anyone, wherever you are on your life’s journey. It is only necessary to be clear about the practice and then to begin – and to keep on the beginning.
Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. But many meditation techniques exist — so how do you learn how to meditate?
“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing.” And different meditation practices require different mental skills.
How do you know if you’re meditating successfully?
People describe their meditative states in a wide variety of ways. Some see a single source of light, some see themselves from a distance, and others see images or even sense colors. Some people see or feel nothing they can express in words. All these experiences indicate a successful meditation session. Just as there’s no better version of yoga poses, there’s no one best way to meditate.
Benefits of Meditation
Because practicing meditation helps you to slow your breath, quiet your mind, and find peace, it can be beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally. Meditation is now commonly used to treat mental health disorders, addiction, and everyday stress, as well as to heal physical ailments and promote better sleep.
- Stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, or the branch of your peripheral nervous system. That helps your body return to a calm, relaxed state after the threat of danger, or even daily stress has passed. When this branch is activated, your body can naturally rejuvenate, repair, and rebuild itself.
- Clears your mind for better quality sleep.
- Improves athletic performance by refining your ability to focus on a goal or situation (another term used for meditation in this way is visualization).
- Slows your respiration for longer, deeper breaths.
- Boosts your immune system by slowing the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
- Reduces anxiety and depression by enabling your body to balance its own neurochemical system.
- Allows you to make better decisions and improve critical thinking.
- Breaks unhealthy habits by helping you detach emotions associated with an action from the action itself.
- Improves communication with yourself. When you better understand your thought processes, you have more control over what you think.
- Helps you stay in the present moment. When you let go of the past and the future, you live 100 percent in the now, which affects all aspects of your life and relationships.
Meditation improves your focus, attention, and ability to work under stress
One study demonstrated that even with only 20 minutes a day of practice, students were able to improve their performance on tests of cognitive skill, in some cases doing 10 times better than the group that did not meditate. They also performed better on information-processing tasks that were designed to induce deadline stress.
In fact, there is evidence that meditators had a thicker prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula, and also to the effect that meditation might offset the loss of cognitive ability with old age.
In a nutshell, science confirms the experience of millions of practitioners: meditation will keep you healthy, help prevent multiple diseases, make you happier, and improve your performance in basically any task, physical or mental.
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