Principle 3 – Meditate daily

November 22, 2020

Daily meditation?

Why should you do that?

There are immeasurable benefits to meditation.

  • Improved sleep
  • Clearer thinking
  • Stress reduction
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Generates kindness
  • Helps fight addictions
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved pain control
  • Increased attention span
  • Enhanced self-awareness
  • Improved emotional health
  • Reduced memory age-loss
  • Reduced risk of depression
  • Decrease in blood pressure

Can this all be real?

Read on and let’s find out.

After all, if there is one thing that I would recommend every single human being could benefit from, it would be meditation.

In February, I will begin my mindfulness meditation teacher certification program, which will take me two years of study to complete.

Improved sleep

This is a great article on the benefits of meditation for sleep. It notes that meditation may:

  • increase melatonin (the sleep hormone)
  • increase serotonin (precursor of melatonin)
  • reduce heart rate
  • decrease blood pressure
  • activate parts of the brain that control sleep

Anecdotally, meditation assists me with sleep 100%.

First, one of my reasons for meditating is to reduce anxiety. To reduce an over-active mind.

Meditation allows me to regulate my thinking. To reduce the amount of chatter that is incessantly happening in my mind.

Often, when I’m having trouble sleeping, my mind is very active. There is a lot of thinking. Most often, it’s negative thinking. It spirals, sometimes out of control.

Clearer thinking

A key with meditation, as with Stoicism and cognitive behavioral therapy, is recognizing that we control our mind, our mind does not control us.

With meditation, it is not about not thinking. We are humans, we think, it’s innate. It is, in fact, our gift. Unfortunately, often that thinking is flawed. It does not add value. It does not move us forward.

In meditating, we don’t seek to not think, we seek to not grasp our thoughts. To let them flow gently through our mind, as leaves would flow down a stream. We seek to only dive deeper into those thoughts that we choose to dive into. In Stoicism, we refer to this as giving assent to our thoughts.

Stress reduction

Anxiety and stress can go hand in hand.

When we are stressed, we generate our flight, fight or freeze response.

Short-term, this is not an issue. A certain amount of stress is positive. The Yerkes-Dodson Law indicates that performance increases with stress until you reach a point that the stress is too great. At that point, performance degrades.

Meditation causes physiological responses in the body that are the opposite of the fight, flight or freeze response. Instead, our bodies are put into a relaxation mode. This relaxed state may allow us to remain in the peak performance of the stress / production curve as identified by Yerkes-Dodson.

Reduced anxiety

I have often heard, and believe, that thinking too much about the past results in depression. Thinking too much about the future results in anxiety.

Meditation, and mindfulness, is about focusing on the present. The here. The now. This exact moment. There is no depression. There is no anxiety. There just is.

Further, I learned this year from my Buddhism teacher an exercise with respect to mindfulness and meditation that allows me to address anxiety issues. Specifically, it is relevant during these covid times, which are resulting in amplification of mental challenges.

What he taught me is to think about my awareness. When he tried his trick question on me, I actually managed to get it correct. I intuited that my awareness is infinite. It knows no boundaries, nor does your awareness. Next, he asked me to think about anxiety. To recognize the feelings behind it. To not label those feelings. Instead, I now do this:

  • Feelings arising
  • Feelings next to infinite awareness are immaterial

By recognizing that my awareness is infinite and the feelings that I would normally label as anxiety are (1) Impermanent and (2) Immaterial relative to infinite awareness, I can make my way through the feelings.

Generates kindness

My favorite meditation is loving kindness meditation – Metta.

If every human on this planet practiced Metta meditation, there would be no fighting, no arguments, no war. At all. Nothing. The world would be a better place.

Often, we find it difficult to wish ourselves loving kindness, which is why most Metta meditations first start with us wishing loving kindness on those who are close to us – children, spouse, pets, loved ones.

Once we focus on our loved ones for a period of time, we may switch to imagine that we are our loved ones and we are wishing ourselves the same loving kindness. A next step may be to directly offer ourselves that loving kindness.

A further step, which I incorporate now, is to offer our inner-child loving kindness. To picture ourselves at our most vulnerable moment. That moment that sits with us for life. That scars each of us. Scares us. To offer our inner-child in that moment the loving kindness that we deserved.

For me, this is my loving kindness mantra:

  • May I be well
  • May I be safe
  • May I be loved
  • May I be happy
  • May I be healthy
  • May I be peaceful
  • May I be protected
  • May I be successful

I use this mantra at other times. When I am practicing active listening and not trying to think of what I will say, I often say this mantra above as a May You be…with respect to the person I am listening to. It 100% makes me much more empathetic to the speaker. To their plight.

Helps fight addictions

This is a great article on how meditation can assist us in the fight with addiction.

I have not dealt with too much addiction in my life; however, the one area that I can identify with is the overwhelming urge that comes with addiction.

I can also see, as I discussed above, that meditation does not attempt to subvert those urges; instead, it teaches us to not recognize them. To not give assent to them.

The article also notes that meditation gives us a similar high that we would get from those behaviors – drugs, sex, whatever the addiction is.

Finally, it notes that most addiction stems from stress, which we noted above is reduced through regular meditation practice.

Improved self-esteem

Who is your worst critic?

Unfortunately, your worst critic, like me, is yourself.

Often, we have negative thoughts recurring in our minds and meditation can help us reduce those negative thoughts.

Meditation, as discussed many times above, does not negate these thoughts; however, it helps us to minimize them. To sidestep them.

With time, by practicing meditation and stoicism or cognitive behavioral therapy, we learn not to give assent to these negative thoughts. To ignore them.

Think about it. If you mentally were able to reduce the negative thoughts that are flooding through your mind continuously, wouldn’t you automatically be more positive about yourself? Wouldn’t that result in increased self-esteem?

Reduced risk of depression

As I discussed above:

  • depression is thinking about the past too much
  • anxiety is thinking about the future too much

By focusing on the here. The now. This moment, we are able to reduce anxiety. Reduce depression.

These, more than anything we have discussed throughout this article are two of the greatest benefits I believe meditation offers.

Remaining benefits

While there are many more benefits to meditation, I beleive this article has extolled enough of the virtues of meditation that you ought to consider giving it a try.

If I can be of assistance in your journey, please reach out. Give me a call. Let me know how I can help. Some of the remaining benefits that I have not discussed are:

  • Improved pain control
  • Increased attention span
  • Enhanced self-awareness
  • Improved emotional health
  • Reduced memory age-loss
  • Decrease in blood pressure

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