By now we probably all have heard that “meditation is good for you”. Many Yoga classes start with a short meditation and new apps for meditation pop up almost every day. But what is it actually that is so good about it? And what kind of meditations are out there?
The understanding of meditation varies and there are as many views as there are practitioners. In many spiritual tradition meditation is the main practice for awakening from a limited sense of self and to attain higher states of consciousness. In these traditions, silent sitting practice is done over extended periods of time with little or no guidance.
And then there is meditation that has been adapted to our modern times and it has a different goal: the well-being and physical as well as mental health of the meditator. Programs and meditation apps offer guided meditations where a gentle voice guides to states of relaxation or relief of anxiety, stress or fear. These meditations are much more guided, often shorter and more focused on a particular topic.
No matter the style of meditation, the benefits are impressive. Many scientific studies have proven the positive impact of allowing ourselves the time and space to be quiet and focus on our inner state of well-being. Benefits include emotional well-being, increased mental health and balance as well as a healthier body. Meditation – especially mindfulness-based approaches – can contribute to a decrease in depression, stress- and anxiety levels, increase concentration, resilience, creativity and reduce risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, alzheimer. It can also have a positive impact on your relationships as it increases compassion and decreases feelings of loneliness. Overall, meditation increases our capacity to be present in the here and now and brings about inner freedom and peace. And who would not be interested in this one?
Many people are hesitant to start a meditation practice because they believe that meditation is about sitting quiet for a long time and eradicate all thoughts. This idea is very demanding and it is only attained on a very advanced level of meditation. Instead meditation can be seen like this: it offers a break throughout the day. It provides a technique that makes us more mindful with your entire life. And it increases overall state of well-being as we spend a few minutes or longer a day with ourselves – leaving cellphone or any other distractions aside. Meditation does not mean that we have to sit for hours, we can start with short intervals and increase as our capacity (and longing!) to sit increases. And meditation does not have to happen on a cushion: meditation apps bring meditation to commuter trains and a mindfulness practice can just as well be done while doing the dishes.
Buddha was asked: “What have you gained from meditation?”.
He replied: “Nothing! However”, Buddha said,
“let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”