Few would disagree – we live in a stressful world. According to the most current medical research, stress either causes or exacerbates 98% of all disease. We all know that sleep is the most relaxing activity that life offers but few have yet to discover that meditation in fact gives the body and mind a much deeper quality of rest than sleep. This has been seen through EEG measurements of the brain, hormone levels in the blood, and cellular metabolism. It might sound too good to be true, but meditation or as I like to call it – the practice of doing nothing, simply allows undisturbed time for the body to heal itself by switching off the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response) and by turning on the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the relaxation response). As a result, blood pressure and heart rate slow down, the immune systems fires up, cortisol – the stress hormone dissolves, the production of good neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin increases, all this while you are sitting and doing absolutely nothing. Yes, there are thousands of meditative techniques that claim varying degrees of benefits and self mastery but essentially they are all used as training wheels for you to enter the state of simply being and not doing. Letting go of doing and trying is really the goal of meditation. Essentially this is a practice of surrender.
By simply sitting still, focusing on the body, and engaging the mind with present moment sensations, we are able to train the autonomic nervous system, now that’s pretty cool! And if that’s not already some of the best health news you’ve heard all day; as a result of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself), when meditation is practiced regularly, you become much better at simply witnessing and pausing before reacting to your day to day stressors. You will quickly notice that unconscious responses like road rage, will becoming a thing of the past.
But the real value of meditation actually lies in the opportunity to discover our authentic selves. In those moments of quiet self awareness we are able to notice that the mind is in fact continually kidnapped by thoughts. Most of us are addicted to thinking but we had no idea; we were simply never given the chance to notice. Running away from our thoughts and feelings is the root cause of most self harming behaviors. Whether it’s overeating or alcohol and drug abuse, the desire to escape or numb the self instead of facing yourself is where lies the problem. Being able to clearly witness that you have thoughts but you are NOT your thoughts is a spiritual quantum leap that results in greater peace, confidence and self trust. This self discovery is truly the first step towards emotional and psychological freedom.
Learning how to meditate is truly one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself and once you learn some of the basics you are set for life. All the benefits are experienced in varying degrees immediately and meditating every now and again is still great and you will definitely notice a change with each session you do. However a regular daily practice of meditation is the key to experiencing the full force of these exponentially increasing benefits. Forming a new health habit is always a bit of an uphill battle, but I assure you, doing nothing will quickly become your favorite hobby. Meditation healed and changed my life and I am confident it will do the same for you.