5 Reasons to Try Meditation
- By Kathy Zamora, Studio Manager, Naam Yoga New York
Your closed eyelids flutter, sending brief sparks of light tracing a labyrinthine pattern across the darkness. Your lower back aches in complaint as your legs tingle from the unaccustomed cross-legged position on a hard floor. Outwardly, there is a façade of calm. Inwardly, your mind jabbers on. It confronts you with a collage of scents and images that overlay a tapestry of feelings punctuated by a patchwork of thoughts of varying volume. Catching yourself holding your breath, you remind yourself to breathe again and continue to monitor yourself, withholding judgment. The internal experience seems to be anything but silent, or still…
Depending on the stories you’ve heard from those who meditate in your social circles, or the articles you’ve read that describe the growing body of genetics, neuroscience and clinical applications for meditation, you may perceive meditation to be a nightmarish experience that is awkward at best and miserable at worst. The first few attempts at practicing meditation can certainly be uncomfortable. Afterall, we’re asking ourselves to do things that may be entirely new experiences for us. Even so, I am confident that meditation works for everyone and that you can discover a meditation routine that benefits your life.
I see that look in your eyes. You’re challenging me, “I’m busy. Why should I?”
Unfortunately, I don’t know you well enough to give you a list of reasons why you should try meditation. Chances are you’re equally uninterested in taking advice from a stranger. So instead, let me share five reasons why I’ve tried, and continually returned, to meditation. If you find yourself reflected in any of my statements, I encourage you to start (or deepen!) your meditation practice:
- I feel disconnected from the world around me and alone. Our outer environments and possibilities are directly impacted by our inner selves, as we each determine the reality we see and the decisions we make. The phrase “words create worlds” implies that the way we use words (the thoughts we think as well as the thoughts we speak) directly shape the world in which we live.
Meditation helps us awaken our spirits as we explore the words we use and the worlds we have created through them. As we rewrite the language that we speak to ourselves, we reconnect with the Divine. Through our connection to the Divine, the connections we have to the universe and to other people become more apparent. A growing sense of unity and community displaces loneliness.
- I am in pain. Physical pain, emotional suffering, mental anguish; each of these impacts our breathing. Our breathing impacts both our body and mind. Shallow, frequent breathing reduces our capacity for reasonable decision-making and causes emotional instability. Deep, full breaths calm the mind, massage the heart and ground us in a place of stability that reduces stress, heightens calm and heals us. Meditation techniques – silent, guided, sound, and moving – universally draw the practitioner’s attention to the breath. Through meditation we reap the benefits of breathing well.
Breath is Life.
- I am off-balance. I don’t feel like myself anymore. There are many different reasons we might feel off-balance. Perhaps our values are out-of-sync with our lifestyle. Perhaps we were injured, or had surgery, or are aging and our body is no longer as flexible, strong or responsive. Perhaps we’re fighting depression or anxiety. Perhaps we’re going through a life transition – a move, the loss or gain of an important relationship, or a job change. Keeping busy may mask the imbalance for a time, we may numb our feelings towards the misalignment, but we will not soon return to balance unless we find and face the cause.
Meditation creates space for us to approach ourselves, non-judgmentally; to reflect and discern the unknown aspects of our being that we are otherwise blind to seeing. The hidden within us surfaces and balance returns as we come to know and accept ourselves, and align our lifestyle and choices to fit our true self. Through alignment we discover gratitude and find joy.
Align to appreciate.
- I feel trapped. I’m at the end of my rope. For many years, I’ve enjoyed saying, “Pain is a celebration that we’re alive.” However, in the midst of challenging circumstances it can be difficult to appreciate the meaning of these words. When I fractured my right leg in a bad fall, those words came into my mind as I sat in the ambulance on my way to an extended hospital stay. I really didn’t feel like celebrating at the time.
Life is full of challenges. Some challenges are brought into our lives through choices and actions outside of our control. But let’s face it; some challenges are of our own creation. How we react to challenges is due, in part, to our experience and understanding. Throughout our lives we learn patterns of action and reaction. Resilience – our ability to adapt and change these patterns as we continue to live and learn – strongly impacts our capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and retain feelings of hope and happiness in the midst of our trials. Increasingly, scientific research into neuroplasticity demonstrates that meditation changes our brains at the physiological level in ways that support resiliency. Five of these studies are summarized by Peter Malinowski on his Meditation Research blog here.
Resilient to change.
- I feel stretched thin by my responsibilities. Life is pulling me in so many different directions. Do more with less! Go faster! Multi-task! The world’s demands and expectations on us rapidly intensify. Digital technology and rapid transit make us more accessible, and our lives more public, than ever before. Numerous distractions and competing priorities vie for our attention, so how could we ever have time to add more?
Quite frankly, we don’t have time to add more to a superhero-sized load of responsibilities. However, we do have time to add focused attention. Through the benefits previously outlined, meditation hones our sense of self and clarifies our purpose. By attending to ourselves consciously during meditation, our capacity to focus outside meditation improves. Distractions fall away as we attend to those things which are most important to us. This creates space for abundance to enter our lives.
Abundance through attention.
It’s difficult for me to convey the abundance of my feelings – the inner peace, love, gratitude, confidence and joy – that surface as a result of regular meditation practice. Understanding comes through trying it yourself, as meditation is a uniquely individual experience.
Excited to get started? Visit Rootlight.com for tips on beginning your daily meditation practice.
I’d love to hear your reasons for trying meditation in the comments below. Please share your experiences with me!