5 Ways Meditation Will Improve Your Life
(3.5 min read)
I joined a new meditation group last night and for the first time in a long time, I meditated for a full hour.
First, sitting for 25 minutes.
Self-supported, dignified, upright posture. Eyes resting gently, partially open, on the floor just in front of me. Breathing deeply from the belly, in through the nose, out through the nose. Slowly, rhythmically, in and out, in and out. Feeling the presence of others in the room. Knowing they are doing the same thing that I am, here for probably similar reasons. Noticing sounds around me. Breathing, shifting, cars driving by, a baby crying. Noticing that I’m getting distracted by a thought. Returning my focus back to the breath. In and out, in and out. Feeling strength in my body, warmth, and relaxation.
Then, 10 minutes of walking.
Right foot, lifting off the ground, slowly, noticing the muscles at work. Placing it on the floor in front of me with the heel first, then the ball, and finally, the toes. Feeling my weight shift to the right side as my left heel lifts, then the ball, and finally, the toes. I notice the muscles carrying the left leg forward. Slowly, slowly. Feeling the sensation of bare feet on cool hardwood, a bit of stickiness because it’s warm outside. Feeling the weight of my body, the effort needed to stay balanced. Catching myself a few times from falling. Always to the right side, I notice. Around in circles we go.
Finally, another 25 minutes of sitting.
Trying a new position this time. Same drill as the last. Except now, starting to feel some pain in my back. My left foot falls asleep. Pins and needles. The sensation transforms from tingling to numbness. I can’t feel my left foot. I wonder if this is what it’s like not to have a foot. Maybe I should move it a little. Done. Still asleep. Maybe another shift. Noticing these thoughts, bringing my mind back to the breath. It doesn’t matter, my foot’s not going to fall off. My back still hurts, even more now. I wonder if the hour is almost up. Back to the breath, noticing shifting in the room. And, then, the bell chimes.
Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through the pain. Although, I used to wonder this a lot more when I first started meditating. I know that a lot of non-meditators wonder this as well.
Often, I am asked:
“Why do you do it?”
Of course, the experience is different for everyone, and a wealth of clinical trials will put forth too many benefits to talk about here, but this is what I got out of my one-hour meditation that night, and what I believe you could get out of it, too:
1| Meditation helps slow you down. You’re in a mad rush most of the time. You’ve got so many jobs to do and roles to play that you feel like there’s never enough time. Meditation allows you to experience quite the opposite. During meditation you can rest your brain and experience a sense of “there’s nowhere else I have to be right now, and nothing else I have to do.” The slowing of time is like a breath of fresh air, and it often results in slowing you down throughout the rest of your day.
2| Meditation helps you savour the small things. You’re surrounded by so much stimulation anymore that you can hardly devote your attention to any one thing. Meditation helps you focus on one thing, whether it be the breath, or sounds, or watching your thoughts come and go. Meditation trains your brain to pick up the fine details in simple experiences. Suddenly the breath is transformed into a beautiful rhythm with variations in pace, depth, temperature, and sound. You might be surprised to find yourself entranced by such simple beauty, and picking up on more of these experiences even when you’re not meditating.
3| Meditation helps you become “responsive” rather than “reactive.” Responsiveness involves a lot more choice than reactiveness, which is largely emotional. When you meditate, you learn to distance yourself from your emotions, both pleasant and painful. By stepping outside of them, you can become skilled at watching them pass by (like a car on the road) without clinging to them. Instead of getting caught up in the feeling of pins and needles in my foot, for example, I sat with the discomfort, and soon my mind calmed despite the pain. I had numbness in my body, but ultimately, I was in control of my mind.
4| Meditation helps you get in touch with yourself. Through the stillness and silence that meditation offers, you’re given the opportunity to meet with yourself, your true self, which you often get disconnected from throughout the course of your busy life. When you get in touch with who’s inside, what you find might surprise you. As difficult as it can be to sit in the absence of a million distractions, it’s also incredibly therapeutic and serves to provide some clarity with regards to your thoughts and emotional processes.
5| Meditation helps you connect with others. Of course, this one only applies if you mediate with a group of like-minded individuals. Meditating on your own can be a powerful experience, but meditating with others provides a sense of truly belonging. The energy in a room full of meditators is so incredibly tranquil that it feels like you’re being offered a big old hug. The support of a group is motivating, empowering, and makes you feel like you’re not alone in your struggles.
In experiencing all of these benefits after only an hour, it’s no question that meditation is, indeed, an investment in my health that is simply priceless. And, with benefits that grow exponentially over time, I feel that meditation more than pays off in the end, numb foot and sore back aside.