If you are a truth-seeker, a freedom-seeker, meditation is the most powerful practice you could engage with. And–it is definitely a practice. It’s something that evolves and grows as you change and shift. It goes as deep as you’re willing to go. It gives back benefits equal to what you’re willing to invest.
I was thinking about the top benefits that nearly a decade of meditation has brought to my own life–what have I really ended up with, after all those hours on the cushion, all those moving meditations and inquiry meditations and mantra meditations?
These were my top four–the top benefits of a meditation practice.
#1: To become suspicious of any “Top Whatever Reasons” lists. Meditation brings us to a place of critical awareness, where we stop taking things at face value.
When you’re on the cushion, or practicing a walking style of meditation, or noticing how quickly emotional states warp in a movement meditation, you stop believing that whatever you’re thinking or feeling in the moment is any kind of absolute truth.
You start thinking critically, more willing to engage in a process of inquiry rather than bouncing back and forth between “maybe this my problem” and “no, no, this other thing must be my problem.”
You might even stop seeing things as “problems.”
#2: Because it enhances your physical health. Mindfulness-based practices have been shown in clinical studies (“clinical” meaning controlled studies that administer scientific measurement) that at the very least, meditation reduces stress and anxiety.
In some studies, it’s been shown to reduce depression, and others have suggested that it lowers risk of high blood pressure and heart-disease. The field of mind-body medicine is exploding as neuroscientists look into how we might even promote our own healing with meditation or mindfulness-based techniques.
#3: Because it reduces overwhelm. In my Breathing Space circles, I talk about how overwhelm isn’t really “problem,” but what we think about our busy schedules and to-do lists is the problem. There are plenty of people with busy schedules and to-do lists who take a pretty measured approach to everything that they do–and they aren’t overwhelmed (at least, not chronically).
It’s the out-of-control thinking that gets us overwhelmed, and meditation practices become the place where thoughts can be distilled down to their essence, and then examined. When we start examining the thoughts behind our overwhelm (“If I don’t get this done, it means ____”) we can start to change our relationship to overwhelm.
#4: Meditation is communication with our deepest selves; it’s where you go to know yourself intimately, beyond to-do lists and personality archetypes and what other people think of you.
I ask people to think of the relationship they have with their practice. What would your meditation practice say to you, if it could speak? What would it ask you? What would it be trying to tell you?
It’s really hard not to see the truth any time we remove distractions. This is what meditation does, in essence–the practice removes distractions.
I’ve spent a decade practicing meditation, sometimes more often and sometimes less often, and I’m not someone who just walked into the practice, all blissed-out in my hot little stretchy pants as I burned some incense, and immediately went, “Ah, yes, transcendence.”
Meditation practice is for everyone. It’s for you. It’s enlivening and enlightening. It’s a pragmatic and useful path to self-realization and deep growth–and it’s a way to just chill out in a life that feels hectic, over-worked, under-appreciated, and chaotic.
Meditation is how you come home–to yourself.
(P.S. Always wanted to start meditating, but feel like you can’t stick to it? Head here, and download the free Shift Plan, and you’ll start seeing exactly what shifts you need to make, to create a regular practice: https://www.yourcourageouslife.com/begin).