Meditation -- benefits and what is it?
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
For years I’ve been meditating. It’s been a bit off and on over time but even if my practice has stopped for months I’ve always come back to meditation knowing the benefits to my mental health and wellbeing.
In this post I’m going to offer some of the benefits of meditation which I’ve experienced and give you an idea of the approach I use to meditation, which is mindfulness meditation.
The benefits I’ve discovered are:
Seeing stressful situations from a different, uninvolved perspective
Better skills to manage stress
Increased awareness of Self and Other
Living from in the present moment rather than in the past (regret) or the future (crystal ball gazing)
Ability to see awkward emotional behaviours which can complicate my life before I act out the emotion
Increased imagination, creativity, concentration and memory – brain functioning
Increased tolerance and patience
Less focus and worry and catastrophising
What is meditation?
Scads of books have been written on this and there are a variety of types of meditation and a variety of definitions. To give a basic answer meditation is a deliberate focus of attention with an aim that is set by the meditator. So for some the aim may be to meditate to improve brain function, others to reduce stress, while others meditate to connect with the Divine. And some will meditate with the intention of all these things.
What is mindfulness meditation?
The particular approach I’m currently studying and have been practicing for a number of years is mindfulness meditation. Like meditation, mindfulness is also a deliberate focus of attention. In addition, it’s a present moment observance of body, mind and spirit and an acceptance of what reveals itself without judgement.
You see our fantastic human mind likes to have opinions, make judgements, have preferences, etc. This is really handy when we’re doing something ‘important’ (work, meetings, research, learning) and something which relies on us having opinions, making judgements and having preferences. The trouble here is we’re so often not aware our mind is in a constant state of judgement even when we’re not doing anything which requires judgement and analysis. This means we’re rarely being with the present moment and being with what’s happening right in front of us right NOW. Rather we believe we have to follow the judgements of our mind and change what’s happening in front of us to be happy and content.
The more I practice mindfulness meditation the more I’m able to observe the contents of my mind, its judgements, its commentaries, its clinging to a particular outcome, its aversion to anything that it doesn’t agree with. I’ve come to realise that my mind is a tricky, tricky thing and it puts forth a lot of purposeless chatter.
This isn’t just MY mind, by the way, this is EVERYONE’s mind. Just sit quietly for 5 minutes and observe the contents of your own mind. You’ll witness it’s incessant activity and useless blathering.
What I’ve come to know is that the more I identify with my mind and believe its contents, the more angst I create for myself. The more I disidentify with my mind the more ease I find in my life.