What Is Meditation?

 

Meditation, although we often tend to think so, isn’t strictly reserved for Buddhist monks or some highly spiritual people; in fact, you probably have in your own environment people who meditate daily, and the states of consciousness that it induces are experienced by all of us, only not by purpose.

Your doctor (if he’s not a fan of pills) would probably recommend meditation as one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety; but it can also be successfully used to cope with different medical conditions and, of course, as it is primarily used, to help you grow spiritually.

What Is Meditation and Why Meditate?

Meditation is, simply put, the art of silencing the mind. It encompasses a variety of practices that are somewhat different, but in essence they all hold to the basic principles of consideration and quiet thought to bring about a state of serenity and clarity.

Our mind in its normal state is subjected to a constant chatter within itself: we have tens of thousands of thoughts daily, many of which we aren’t aware of or we don’t consciously register that we have them – but we do. So our mind is always “busy”, bouncing from one thought to another and following them with emotional and physical responses.

For instance, we can start crying in the middle of the street after seeing something that doesn’t have anything to do with us, but our mind, starting with a simple sensory perception, has found a way to associate different thoughts (mostly unconscious), ultimately striking to a painful memory that elicited such response. We often aren’t even aware of the precise thought that has triggered the way we feel.

By meditating, we gain control over our thoughts. We learn to become aware of them, to slow them down and let them pass without getting attached to them, eventually learning to stop our thoughts altogether. Meditative state is a state of unbroken attention directed at anything of your choice (it’s common that people meditate on love, for example, aiming to fill their mind with thoughts of nothing else but love).

Our article about how meditation helps to gain control of your mind explains the process in depth.

Every meditation is not the same – it’s a different experience for different people, especially with so many different types of meditation (Zen meditation, prayer, guided meditation, transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation…), but the benefits are the same, and they include:

  • Meditation helps you to focus better

Through meditation you practice to focus your attention and to be aware of when it drifts. When you meditate regularly, this “exercise” actually helps you focus better even when you’re not meditating, as your brain gets trained to concentrate on one thing. With time, the results of meditation can become permanent. You also become more productive, especially in creative disciplines, as your mind learns to focus on the thing in front of you, and nothing else.

  • You become more calm

Meditation helps us detach from the little things that bother us. Our mind often tends to magnify small things into serious problems, but through meditation we learn how to become an observer, a simple witness of our thoughts, without letting them disturb us. It makes us aware of the present moment, we begin to live in the here and now, without worrying about the past or future.

  • Your health improves

As meditation is a state of deep calm and relaxation, it obviously reduces the level of stress in our body, and when we can reduce stress, many health benefits follow: it boosts our immune system, makes us emotionally ballanced, lowers blood pressure. In some cases it can increase fertility and relieve irritable bowel syndrome, and it can also act anti-inflammatory.

Meditation and Science

There are numerous scientific experiments and studies that have proven the effects that meditation has to our body and our mind.

Meditation causes our brain to undergo some real and beneficial physical changes: one study shows that meditation is linked to cortical thickness, which can significantly reduce our sensitivity to pain. Another study in which the neuroscientists used MRIs to compare the brains of meditators with non-meditators showed structural differences between them, and it’s also been proven that meditation can increase the amounts of gray matter in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain.

Neuroscientists have also proven that meditation affects the brain activity as well as the physical and chemical components of the brain. A study from 2011 has shown that meditation can decrease the activity in default-mode network (which is mind-wandering, brain functions responsible for lapses of attention and disorders such as anxiety and ADHD).

Finally, and what concerns us here the most, is the fact that meditation has been linked to dramatic changes in electrical brain activity: the Theta and Alpha EEG activity are significantly increased during and after meditation, and, as these brain states are associated with wakeful and relaxed attention and profound learning, it’s especially important for the use of meditation in manifesting.

So, meditation isn’t only for monks in far eastern lands; more and more people are using it to cope with different physical and mental issues. Are you ready to go on to experience the benefits of meditation for yourself?

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