Benefits of Meditation
Benefits of Meditation
Many Benefits But None (If You Don’t Practice).
By Lucienne Shanti Di Tempora
No one can meditate for you, and while there are many benefits, there are none if you don’t put in the effort and the ease that is required to maintain a consistent commitment to the practice which will give you the greatest chance at really experiencing the effects and benefits on offer.
Before we dive in, let me define what Meditation is.
Put simply, the practice is about waking up, turning on the light and seeing clearly. With this illumination, things become familiar, and understanding is available which is where insight and wisdom will dawn from. A common misconception is that mediation is about “relaxation”, although this is a by-product and indeed a benefit, it is not the intention. Other misconceptions include escaping into an imaginary world or the most common belief, emptying the mind.
``The main aim of meditation is to tame and train the mind so that we can work with it, collaborate with it and ride it so that it doesn’t control us.``
The main aim of meditation (dating back thousands of years) is to tame and train the mind so that we can work with it, collaborate with it and ride it so that it doesn’t control us i.e. have thoughts but don’t let those thoughts, have you. This is done through attention training — a traditional form of Mindfulness that Meditation teaches. There is nothing to achieve with meditation, rather we set out to simply learn… about ourselves, our habits, our patterns, our projections and the affect that those conditionings have on our relations to people, things, places and situations. We become so familiar with our conditionings that we begin to see through them, and eventually cut-through them to see what is really there without any preconceptions. Then we move from a place of reactivity and to an ability to respond (responsibility) and in so doing, decrease the perpetuation of stress, anxiety and worry that comes from an afflicted and confused mind. Such a disturbed mind impacts the health of our body and general state of being and, ultimately, our quality of life.
``Training the mind toward clarity, strength, and stability will give you the tools you need to deal with any experiences that usually knock you off balance.``
Training the mind toward clarity, strength, and stability will give you the tools you need to deal with any experiences that usually knock you off balance. Furthermore, you’ll find that you can manage and deal with painful experiences in a much more healthy and helpful way as you live with greater equanimity and groundedness. We will always get knocked about, but the ups and downs are closer to our baseline of balance, so we find it easier to recover, repair and return to equanimity and groundedness. However, to develop and maintain this stability of mind, we need to set aside time to meditate each day and train ourselves to “pay attention”. This is a discipline. The qualities it requires are also the benefits it provides — patience, strength, clarity, just to name a few. Repeated practice of meditation over time results in lasting traits and qualities that naturally seep in while you sit and then are spontaneously seep out while you live.
We will experience these benefits in our day-to-day life as we experience the transparency of thought. Each meditation session is like giving ourselves a mental flossing — moving what is stuck and causing dis-ease. We begin to see through our projections and illusions as they occur and have the chance to free ourselves from them before being dragged around by them. We now meet life’s ups and downs with skilful intelligence. We have access to more moments of mindfulness throughout the day. We can see situations panoramically and so recognise our emotions, thoughts and feelings as temporary experiences and causes of stress, worry or anxiety if we believe them and let them take over. We respond, rather than react. And the more we practice, the more we expand that spaciousness between reaction and response known as patience, which takes us out of our own prison sentence and into a place of possibility.
``Human emotions rise and fall in dependence on causes and conditions and meditation trains us to have greater agency over our responses.``
In the reactive mode of mind, we are worrying, anxious, and stressed. In the responsive mode of mind, we are at peace with ourselves, others, and the world at large. Human emotions rise and fall in dependence on causes and conditions and meditation trains us to have greater agency over our responses. The ability to RESPOND is the skilful intelligence we develop in our practice; that is our “superpower” when things get tricky or sticky. And the best part is … we do NO-THING to develop this responsiveness. We sit, maintain relative stillness and see with open eyes what comes up. We simply watch and observe the mind’s comings and goings.
The bad news is we will never stop experiencing the full spectrum of emotions. The good news is though, over time, we can respond in such a way that brings us back to balance. Instead of perpetuating a habit of emotion overpowering us, we can take control.
What’s more, the benefits are also profoundly physiological too. The most current clinical data suggests that a regular meditation practice naturally alters the activity in the brain and can retrain it by creating new neural pathways. So, we are essentially rewiring our mind so that it works with us rather than against us.
Here are just a few benefits that have been scientifically proven:
- Reduces pain and enhances the immune system, enabling it to better fight disease
- Increases cognitive and emotional control
- Enhances emotional awareness regulation (i.e., deeper understanding of our emotions)
- Increases wakefulness, concentration, and decision-making (the underpinnings of our life)
- Increases learning, memory and emotional regulation
- Enables greater empathy and compassion towards ourselves and others.
One more benefit is Happiness. However, not how society might describe it. I’d like to use a description of Happiness from a Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard who also has a PhD in molecular genetics and has been labelled, “the happiest person in the world”. He explains happiness as “a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being.” Ricard describes this sense of “happiness” as an integrated life where everything connects, and we are content; where you can meet challenges more intelligently; and you manage emotions more skillfully.
As you can see, this scientific take on meditation dismisses the mystical claims of creating an enlightened being who is no longer subject to human emotions. We are certainly not trying to tranquillize our emotions, but rather getting to know and work with them. This tried and tested, age-old practice isn’t magical or romantic in any way whatsoever. We are simply waking up to reality and doing what we can to collaborate with it and the world. Doing this takes discipline: “giving up the search for entertainment” as Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche so eloquently put it. Meditation is a game-changer. It’s hard to argue with what science has discovered about its benefits. But only you can meditate for you. There are no shortcuts. The benefits accumulate if you can stick to it for the long haul. It’s not entertaining, nor should it be. The practice is boring and mundane but it’s those qualities that make it sustainable! Like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, washing your clothes, going to the toilet …none of these are landmark moments. Nevertheless, they make you feel good and organised, and life is that much easier and manageable. So, see if you can add 10 minutes (a modest request) into your routine 3 – 4 times a week. The benefit of regular practice is bar none.
Take a meditation dedication with Lucienne via her IG teaching account.
Take a meditation dedication with me via my IG teaching account. Sign up at WWW.LUCIENNE.COM.AU/MEDS and use the code MUKI for 50% off the the 10-day challenge.
LUCIENNE SHANTI DI TEMPORA
After 10 years of teaching yoga, I now dedicate myself to meditation and making it as accessible and practical as possible so that all are welcome and included. Teaching globally, in-person and online, I teach what meditation is, why we do it and how. Having trained in the Buddhist meditation technique for four months in the United States under the impeccable guidance of senior Buddhist teacher David Nichtern, student of master meditation teacher, scholar, poet, artist and founder of Shambhala and Naropa University, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche; I aim to make this ancient practise fresh and accessible while remaining respectful of the unbroken lineage of teachers that it comes from.
The feedback from past and present students continues to remind me of the enormously transformative power of this ancient practice and empowers my motivation to continue to work hard at spreading the message of its benefits near and far.