I have been meditating on and off for sixteen years. While my teenage self may have seen it as a way to replicate the thought processes of the Jedi order or manifest some form of secret power. While those things are outside of the realm of possibility for us here in this galaxy, there are still quite a few benefits from adding meditation to your daily routine.
There are quite a few benefits to the way meditation can change the way that your mind works. There are countless studies about how it rewires you to be able to think faster, create more fluidly, sleep better, contribute more to conversations, become more kind, find activities more enjoyable, and relieve stress. Who wouldn’t want this ability in their life? It does sound like a secret power idealized by my younger self.
Now, where do we begin? How do we start? How long do we have to sit down on the floor with our eyes closed, legs crossed, and hand on our knees? Well that is the best part. You don’t. The style of meditation that most people think of when they think of meditation is a style suited to a dedicated monk that is pursuing total enlightenment. If you are not someone that has subscribed to that lifestyle but still wants to add the benefits to your life you need to start somewhere smaller. Mindfulness meditation is one of the most beneficial and easiest to get into. Studies on the subject show that you can receive benefits from as little as 7-13 minutes a day, as long as you are consistent with the practice.
Knowing that you don’t need to dedicate yourself to an hour or more to tame your mind, you should also know that you can also sit in whatever way you find the most comfortable. The good news doesn’t stop there either. All you have to do is breathe in. A long deep breath through the nose completely expands your lungs down into your diaphragm. Then let it out the mouth slowly. You can count if you want to. Next you just repeat the breathing. That’s simple right? You are a master of breathing! I would say you have probably been doing it your whole life, so you’ve got this under control. Now as for those distracting thoughts that keep popping in. It’s okay. Asking your brain to stop thinking is like asking your heart to stop beating. It doesn’t happen. Just focus back on the breath and repeat for however long you want to meditate. Refocus as you need to and just be at peace with your breath.
If you want to continue to explore the world of meditation, there are countless styles and forms that you can look into. Breathwork, Zen meditation, Bliss meditation, Guided meditation, Creative visualization, Binaural beats, Hermetic meditation, and many many more. If you want to try them all I’m sure your brain will thank you from the break of constantly having to give you thoughts and reactions to what is going on around you. Which will bring us back to the benefits of having a meditation practice.
One of the biggest and most sought-after effects of meditating is stress reduction. This one is quite easy to explain. The long slow breathing has a calming effect on us. It activates our vagus nerve which tells the body that we have escaped the danger we were in and can begin calming down. The longer we stay in this state of elongated and controlled breathing the calmer we can obtain. We bring our thoughts, not to a stop and complete silence but focus them in on our breath. This break from our stressors lets us collect our bearings. The workday, The news, the noise from the world around us. It all becomes less involved which lets us take back more control over what we feel and when we feel it.
Another great benefit of slowing down the breath and reigning in wayward thoughts is that it becomes much easier to fall and stay asleep. Stress is one of the biggest causes of sleep difficulties as it raises your heart rate and tells you that you are in danger. Remove the stress and your heartbeat slows and your respirations become even. Your body relaxes and sometimes if you are meditating in bed laying down you might just fall asleep while doing the exercise. This could lead to the interesting side effect of a lucid dream or a dream that you are aware that you are dreaming. The important part of that is you need to be asleep to dream!
A wonderful thing that happens with more sleep and high quality of deep sleep is that your body recovers and rebuilds while you are in deep sleep. This gives you a higher level of endurance and energy threshold. You can do more mentally and physically without tiring or experiencing burnout. Imagine how much more impactful you could be in your work if you were always in a well-rested state. The time that you lose to mindless distractions from too tired to do anything besides veg out in front of Netflix or doom-scrolling through social media. What else could you now accomplish?
In today’s day and age, we have a problem with attention. I bet you didn’t expect to see your attention span increasing as a benefit on this list. You may be shocked by it but, yes indeed, your intention span does increase! A less stressed mind, powered by a well-rested body is capable of a lot more than you think. Once you add in the natural ability of mindfulness that you create with time and practice you begin to be able to do the things that you like and go even deeper into your level of understanding with them. Your friends and family will notice that you seem to be more vibrant during conversations. You change the way you react to not only distractions but emotions as well.
This is where those secret powers come back into play. Wouldn’t you say that being able to experience your emotions without going off the deep end or being drawn into yourself and inaccessible to the world around you is a power-up? Self-mastery is not something that just appears through meditation. It is a long-term outcome of dedicated practice. You can give it a boost by trying to remain mindful after your practice is over. I like to ask myself questions when I find myself drifting off. Is this what I was trying to accomplish? Am I presenting a version of myself that is in alignment with my goals? Am I actively listening to the person speaking? These questions come up less and less frequently the more I ask them, but If I do ask them the answer is usually no. That’s the point though. By catching your thoughts during meditation, you catch them during the rest of the day.
Though I am not a Jedi Master today. I am a better version of myself. I only hope that I inspire you to be a better version of yourself. If you do unlock any secret powers through your meditation practices, I would love to hear about it. Until then may the force be with you.