5 Things You Need to Know About Meditation

Woman smiling with eyes closed, while meditating on the floor next to an open window.

Without paying a dollar or moving an inch, you can unlock a world filled with heightened focus, internal bliss, boosted confidence, and increased productivity.

Meditation offers all individuals — from hopeful beginners to experts in the practice — the opportunity to discover their best selves, a guide by which they can live compassionately, and the grace to remain peaceful among the difficulties and plights that will surely arise. Even those who classify the renowned exercise as inapplicable to their lives — in fact, especially those folks — deserve to know the following information.

No one is too busy to meditate.

The busier you are, the more you probably need meditation. You might think you cannot possibly pencil meditation into your tight schedule, but incorporating some time for yourself each day actually helps you fulfill many tasks without losing energy.

Researcher Giuseppe Pagnoni conducted a psychological study comparing the mental focus of those who meditate and those who do not. In his experiment, the people who did not meditate were more prone to have wandering thoughts and exhibit unstable attention spans. Indeed, meditation lengthens and strengthens concentration — ask anyone who regularly engages in the act. It also boosts morale, enabling you to go from chores to childcare to school to work — and everything in between — without falling asleep.

The practice may seem daunting, but those who meditate know that entering a relaxed state requires a little mental effort, but little else. You have all the “equipment” you need, so you can meditate anytime and anywhere if you work hard enough not to dwell on distractions. An abundance of quality guided meditations can easily be found online, but if you don’t have Internet access during your meditation time, you can still achieve blissful relaxation. All you need is your mind.

Just because it doesn't come easily for you doesn't mean you can't do it.

At first, you may find it challenging to concentrate on your breathing or to meditate with background noise or to set aside some time for yourself each day, but over time, entering a meditative state becomes a natural process. Meditation obviously varies each time, but it usually involves either closing your eyes or gazing softly in front of you, paying close attention to your breathing, and beginning to affirm that your desires will manifest and your fears will diminish.

Once you experience the calming effects this practice has on your patterns of thought and everyday life — though this realization may not be immediate — you will likely consider meditation to be a necessary, fulfilling step in your everyday routine. So even if you try it once or twice and decide that you just cannot clear your mind enough for the practice to be effective, try, try again. Trust that eventually everything will fall into place, and you will soon be able to easily slip into a meditative mindset.

Some individuals understand meditation as entirely self-serving and therefore not virtuous. But when you encounter your best self through meditation, you equip yourself to help others and to interact peacefully with the world around you. How could that be selfish?

Meditation is not one size fits all.

For this reason, well-meaning individuals commonly misunderstand the general practice of meditation or even dismiss the act as cult-like, when in fact they are referring to specific, controversial ways of meditating. Whereas traditional meditation enables people to focus intensely on the present moment, a branch known as Transcendental Meditation emphasizes complete transcendence of current reality and the physical state. Much controversy surrounds this particular derivative of meditation, and many ex-practicers report that the objective of Transcendental Meditation has more to do with money than with mindfulness, calling it a scam or an ineffective waste of time.

Though some assume that religion and meditation are not necessarily compatible, one variation of the practice, known as Christian Meditation, suggests otherwise. In fact, the Bible references the value of meditation 20 times in total, encouraging individuals to enhance their relationship with God through resting in His presence. Christian Meditation centers around contemplation and usually involves reading a Scripture passage and silently reflecting while dwelling on the meaning of the words.

Continued practice can yield health benefits.

Many people struggle with anxiety to some degree, consumed with persistent fears and worries that seem unrelenting or even permanent. Regular meditation has been scientifically linked to eased instances of panic and anxiety, according to a 2012 study that measured stress among individuals. Those who make a concerted effort to develop the practice of mindfulness essentially prepare themselves to approach potentially stressful or unfortunate situations with tranquility and acceptance, rather than with rage and confusion. Harvard researchers discovered that the number of neurons in the amygdala — the portion of the brain responsible for regulating fear — significantly decreased when their subjects meditated for eight weeks.

The scientifically proven mental health benefits of meditation, though attractive on their own, are far from the only reasons meditation can be a perspective-altering, and even life-changing, practice. Implementing just five to 10 minutes of meditation each day can transform your life, and as long as you remain open to giving the practice a try, you will embrace a more peaceful life.

Meditation can enable an easy transition to a calmer lifestyle.

After having a panic attack on national television, ABC journalist Dan Harris began employing the practice of mindfulness in his life and integrating meditation into his busy schedule. His book, 10% Happier, documents his transition into a calmer lifestyle and dispels common misconceptions that skeptics may develop, encouraging them to take the initiative of improving their lives.

“There’s no point in being unhappy about things you can’t change, and no point being unhappy about things you can,” he writes.

Harris’s remark rings true for many folks who practice consistently, as likely all who have participated can attest to the fact that meditation makes their thoughts happier, gratitude stronger, and life more enjoyable.

Grotto quote graphic for what you should know about meditation that reads, "When you encounter your best self through meditation, you equip yourself to help others and to interact peacefully with the world around you."

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