Effects of Meditation
Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.
Saint Francis de Sales
Meditation has been a loyal friend to me. It has helped me write my books.
Now I meditate twice a day for half an hour. In meditation, I can let go of everything. I am not Hugh Jackman. I am not a dad. I am not a husband. I’m just dipping into that powerful Source that creates everything. I take a little bath in it.
Don’t just do something. Sit there.
Meditation is an important part of any spiritual path. The spiritual seeker needs periods of turning inward to focus, clarify and open the heart to the mystery of all that arises. This turning inward helps to shut off the incessant chatter of the mind and static of the world. In so doing the searcher can return to daily life in a more centered and single-minded way. Frequent meditation is where discipline meets intention on the spiritual path.
At this point it seems to me that there are basically four reasons to meditate and depending on which form of meditation one engages in any of them can be central.
1. STRESS REDUCTION: Meditation has become very popular and has spread throughout our country. Most often it is sold as a way to reduce stress. The breath controls arousal and opens the door to the activity of the higher brain functions. There are many many research studies about this. When aroused danger signals travel twice as fast in the brain as normal/safe thoughts. Meditation decreases the fear centers of the brain and activates the calming centers.
2. LEARNING PRESENCE: Life can only be lived in the immediate present moment. Focusing on the breath is a way to learn to focus totally on this immediate moment, right here and now not on tomorrow’s exam or this afternoon’s pain. As we do this life takes on a new vibrancy.
3. TURNING OFF AUTO-PILOT: As the breath and thoughts are observed meditation enables us all to develop a constructive distance from thoughts, feelings, stories and events. We learn that we have thoughts and feelings and roles in life but are not these things. As this is experienced meditation helps develop the skill of stepping out of habitual patterns and reactivity. As we return to the inner focus we are able to see that we are not our reactions or experiences. And we become able to see our feelings, reactions and stories for what they are: a statement about us. As the auto-pilot is turned off all of the usual identities can dissolve so that the deepest Self can be experienced.
4. ROAD TO SPIRIT: the quieter we get the more we can listen to Spirit. As we become totally present to ourselves we are empowered to become present to the deepest wisdom of the Divine. This wisdom speaks constantly to us but is easily drowned out by the chatter of the mind and dedication to false identities we have. Meditation allows us to re-access the ever present Divine.
Meditation brings the primarily physiological and cognitive results of stress reduction, provides possibility of vibrant entrance into the immediate present, changes habitual patterns and opens greater awareness of the presence of Spirit throughout our lives.