What Can Meditation Do For Me?

Many people approach meditation as another technique to study at an evening class, like aerobics or pottery; something that takes up an hour or so and is confined to a set time and place. But after a few sessions, people often realize that although meditation is this, it offers so much more. With practice, meditation becomes a mode of living and a new way of seeing everything; relations, work, and home life; your future and your past. Along the way it can bring profound relaxation, increased mental clarity, inner peace, and spiritual enlightenment.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is simply consciously directing your attention in order to transcend the never-ending flow of thoughts through your mind. You can do it sitting still and silent with your eyes closed; you can do it by watching a candle flame, walking, practicing yoga, or studying a complex geometrical image, or you can do it by paying attention as you walk, cook, or clean, letting mindful activity block out other thoughts.

Find Out About Yourself

Meditation helps you discover more about yourself. When you imagine your mind as a wide screen and watch the incessant play of thoughts, sensations, and emotions that pan across it, you begin to realize that your thoughts, your anger or frustration, your aching leg don't define the "you" at your core. As you practice, you see that there is something inside that is more than these ever-mutating fancies. Using this self-knowledge, you gain understanding and insight. Your perspective widens and you reassess what is important and what isn't. Miraculously, answers to problems at home and work start to materialize.

Escape From Yourself

When you meditate, you move inside yourself; at the same time, you step outside yourself. Being able to meditate helps you escape from the stranglehold of the ego, with its continual and overwhelming onslaught of desires, cravings, and demands. Freed from preoccupation with your interior state, you stop perceiving from your own perspective, where everything is colored with selfish thoughts, judgments, and comparisons, and with feelings of guilt and jealousy. You start inhabiting a new state of openness, ready to experience life as it comes. This is empowering and works well with the sense of self-determination that comes from knowing what your priorities are and believing you have the ability to work toward them.

"From meditation springs wisdom."
The Buddha

*Excerpt from: total meditation by susannah marriott
Original Post

You want to beat stress and relax? Boost your concentration and sharpen your brain? alleviate a chronic ailment like insomnia? Stop being angry or just be a nicer person?

Meditation is the answer.

Stress Release

We all need a shot of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) in the system to get things done--if we had no sense of urgency and heightened reflexes, we'd never meet deadlines or manage to cross the road safely. Stress hormones are released in response to a perceived threat or demand. They cause blood pressure to rise, muscle tension to increase, the heart to beat faster, and the breathing to become more rapid and shallow. All this equips the body to respond to the threat or demand by running away or fighting.

Modern inventions such as cell phones and e-mail mean you can never get away from demands that cause stress hormones to be released. When we don't act to relieve the tension that the hormones cause to build up over a period of time, the elevated blood pressure and heart rate, changes to breathing, and movement of blood to muscles leads to ill heath. Stress has now replaced back pain as the biggest cause of absenteeism from work.

Meditation eases stress-related symptoms. A study in the 1960s by Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School showed that meditation returns stress hormone levels to normal, relaxes the muscles, and slows the heart rate. In short, mediation induces a relaxation response that reduces mental anxiety and physical tension.

Calmness And Inner Quiet

Meditation offers more than this sheer relaxation, blissful though it is. It brings about an inner stillness and clarity of awareness that can introduce a spiritual dimension to life. When you meditate, you start to appreciate a special or sacred--some might say divine--quality to everything. For its ability to bring this about, meditation is integral to the world's major religious traditions

Reduced Negativity

Meditation is an antidote to difficult emotions such as anger and jealousy. Techniques urge you to stand back and watch yourself in everyday situations until you become aware of our habitual reactions. Like seeing yourself on a video, this can make for uncomfortable viewing. As you meditate more and more, you gain an understanding of why you act like you do. This self-awareness prompts you to stop as you start to get angry and get rid of habits that make you feel bad about yourself. Specific techniques show how to temper and harness these difficult emotions to harvest good from bad.

Focused Concentration

By putting your brain into neutral with meditation, you give it a well-earned rest. When your mind is clear of clutter, you can discern what's important and easily discard what isn't. Suddenly your thinking sharpens, your concentration span lengthens, and you become more efficient and incisive. You know what your priorities are and find it easier to plan to achieve them. In studies, people who meditate report increased performance and greater job satisfaction at work, and students report an improved ability to study and retain information, leading to better academic achievement.

*In Tibet, breezes carry the meditative thoughts inscribed on Buddhist prayer flags to the heavens.
Instant Energy

Alongside the calmness and insight of meditation comes renewed vitality and enthusiasm. It can feel strongly exhilarating to meditate. The breath and mind-control techniques refresh the brain and body after a long day, act as an instant energy blast at work, and, when you learn to bring mindful awareness into every activity, recharge you as you go about the day.

Living In The Present

Meditation isn't confined to one place and time; you can use the techniques to bring a meditative awareness to everything you do, from showering to strength training, simply by staying aware of every action and letting go of intrusive thoughts. The more you live consciously in the present, the more you free your mind from polluting emotions such as guilt and regret about the past and anticipation of the uncertain future. And so you relax.

From this detached place of clarity, calm, and focus, you can respond in a more measured and appropriate way to people and events. When you live in the now, you also experience life to the fullest: with an uncluttered mind, you really see the colors of autumn leaves, appreciate a lover, focus on a book or piece of music, and taste good food. By allowing you to see what's important and get the most out of every moment, meditation helps you simplify your home and work affairs, your belongings, and your social life.

Freedom For All

Living in the present liberates you from worry, fear, and attachment to things that will inevitably break, get lost, or move away. You get a glimpse of what it's like to live in the flow, aware of everything but unfazed by it, broad in perspective, serene, and free from suffering. Many meditation techniques show ways to extend this clarity of awareness to help other people. By developing compassion, love, and kindness, meditation helps you help others.

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