The Virtues of Meditation

The Virtues of Meditation
Meditation is entering the mainstream. Large companies offer courses on meditation and mindfulness for their employees. Doctors recommend techniques such as meditation to help reduce stress and improve health. Schools teach meditation to their students. What is creating such an interest in meditation?

Paradigm Shift

This is an era of great change in the world. Your inner world is deeply affected by the world around you so it’s no wonder you may feel in conflict. You have always had struggles to overcome, but there is something different about the current state of affairs. It almost feels as if the world is on the verge of birthing something new, so to speak, both globally and personally. It’s natural to seek ways to find peace and solace, and meditation provides those and more.

Meditation Was Misunderstood

The idea of meditation as being reserved for “new agers” or “hippies” is changing as it becomes more commonplace and even trendy. Meditation has long been a part of history, although known by different names and practiced in different forms. In Latin, the root for meditate is meditatum, which means “to ponder.” Your ancestors have pondered their lives and world for centuries.

The 1960s and 1970s brought a surge of Eastern spirituality, meditation, and music into the popular consciousness (think the Beatles). This image of yogis sitting in lotus position (crossed-legged on the ground) looking peaceful and serene in meditation with unfamiliar deities on the side were the posterchildren for meditation. Understandably, many people could not relate to this. As the New Age took its place on the spiritual platform, meditation was discounted as a legitimate tool for well-being.

There are several factors that have changed the way meditation is viewed. For instance, yoga for health and well-being has inspired interest in meditation, which is a sister practice to yoga. Celebrities, athletes, and influencers of all backgrounds tout meditation’s benefits.

The most important factor, however, is that the world was ready.

Science Confirms Meditation Works

The great thing about meditation is that it meets you where you’re at. If you are a beginner or have dabbled here and there, you can start the practice today and immediately begin to reap its benefits. There is no judgement if you happen to miss a day, a week, or even a year of practice. It is always there for you, ready to lull you back into the stillness and peace you deserve.

With advances in technology, especially in neuroimaging, scientists can see the physical changes in the brain of someone with a consistent meditation practice. Understandably, health-care professionals want to deliver evidence-based techniques to their patients, and science provides this research. The mysteries of the mind and consciousness run deep, and they are just tapping the surface of discovering tangible evidence for why techniques such as mindfulness, gratitude, meditation, and journaling are effective. Scientific research has found many benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices:

Meditation Cleanses the Mind

From the moment you wake up, you are bombarded by stress. Think about what you do upon waking in the morning. For many, this includes checking emails, the news, and social media accounts. Whether or not you realize it, you take in the stress of the world. Similarly, right before bed you might engage in the same activities, which can affect the ability to achieve sound sleep. You likely cannot simply shut out all external communication. But it’s up to you to decide how much you choose to tune in.

But just as you cleanse your body, it’s important to cleanse your mind. Each time you meditate it’s like putting your mind through the washing machine and removing all the grime picked up from the day. What emerges can be feelings of lightness, clarity, and peace. Meditation always provides exactly what you need.

Meditation Reveals Meaning

You may go through periods where you wonder about your purpose. It may feel like something is missing and you don’t know how to fill that void. It’s hard to put a name to it, but it’s there. You deserve the best that life has to offer. The potential to fulfill your deepest desires becomes possible the moment you stop doing and instead start being. This can be accomplished through meditation.

Don’t be deterred by the term “meditation.” Meditation can be anything that reconnects you with yourself. It doesn’t have to have a name or a specific technique as long as you do it. It could be sitting by a lake, taking a walk, playing music, washing the dishes, or gardening. However, since you may have lost touch with how to connect with yourself, this is where learning techniques to help you is useful. The more you tap into this deeper part of yourself, the clearer your purpose or desires will become.

Meditation Is Easy to Learn

You have many options available to learn meditation and mindfulness techniques. Which path you choose is up to you―just choose one that feels right for you. You can learn from an instructor individually or attend a group session. Look up some local events. Apps such as Headspace and Calm appeal to the on-the-go lifestyle. For easy meditations to take with you wherever you go, Ananda is excellent.

Don’t feel the need to stick with one style of meditation—explore. You are constantly changing; what feels good one day may not the next. Be flexible and always move in the direction of what feels good for you in the moment.

The stage is set! Ideally, soon everyone will meditate as part of a regular daily routine. What you do today will affect tomorrow. The cumulative effects are life-changing when doing this type of practice. Be flexible and stay curious. The insights you gain may be surprising or come from unexpected places.

If you have wondered about whether or not to start meditating, the answer is yes. Today is the day!

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.

Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.