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Why IS Meditation Made Out to be so Important?

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While I am not a meditation expert I believe that each and very one of us would benefit from meditating because it has positive effects on mind, body and spirit. I can’t readily think of anything that has such a profound effect on every aspect of ourselves than meditation does, other than unconditional love. It can enhance the healing of every health condition both mental and physical. Anger, stress, frustration and sweating the small stuff in life reduce and the quality of our relationships improves with meditation. There’s no shortage of information on the internet listing the benefits of meditation so I will not waste time here doing the same; research it for yourself if you wish.

What isn’t often explained is WHY it is so beneficial beyond lowering heart-rate and releasing calming chemicals into the body. Meditation causes us to relax but so do many other things although in every day life few take the time to regularly deeply relax. It is common for people to use TV as relaxation but watching TV isn’t relaxing so much as a comfortable distraction. During the many years I was ill and very low on energy, I learned just how much the brain has to work in order to watch television; it was exhausting. It is my view that true relaxation comes from mental rest as well as physical rest and it begins by learning how let go and do nothing. A lot of people find doing nothing to be challenging and uncomfortable and few know how to really switch off.

Regular relaxation is important because it presses the reset button on our stress ensuring situations don’t get blown out of proportion. Meditation can do this but it does SO much more. Meditation is the antidote to the mind/ego. It is about putting surface thoughts to one side for a while and just being. No interacting with our past or future, just being in the moment. That means that, with practice, we are learning how to suspend our ego and rein back its excesses in our everyday lives. It is this that creates the greatest benefit to our physical and mental wellbeing because much our stress comes from the mind which constantly refers to the past and tries to anticipate the future in order to feel safe.

Anticipating the future isn’t just done by the worriers of the world but by pretty much all of us and done many times a day. We may look minutes, hours, days or weeks ahead depending on the concern.
“I can’t relax until I’ve finished all the jobs I’ve got to do” = future
“I’m concerned what others will think if I do this or that” = future
“I’ll just finish the shopping list and then I’ll relax” = future
“I can’t relax until I know my date isn’t going to be like my ex-husband” = past & future
“I can’t relax because I could be criticised at tonight’s meeting” – future
“I can’t wait for my coffee break” - future
“My boss was a compete arse today” – past
“What have I got to do tomorrow?” - future
“What am I going to eat tonight?” – future
“I hope it doesn’t rain” – future

I would argue that the mind is almost never totally in the present moment. It is either in the past or more often in the future. You may not believe this but it becomes apparent that it’s true when one starts to meditate and tries to focus on the present moment entirely. Many find just how hard it is to do because we are not used to doing it. Modern life and the nature of the mind means we are conditioned to constantly flit from one thing to another.

If we are looking for peace and joy in our lives, there is one place and one place only where it can be found and that is in the present moment. Every thought that is not about what is happening right now takes us away from potential peace and contentment. Much of our stress, our inability to relax and be happy in the present moment comes from our mind/ego’s wounded past and its need to know what is likely to happen in the future. Most of us do not carry huge traumas that eat away at our body and psyche but are, instead, undermined by constant low-level stress caused by a mind almost incapable of being still and focussed.

In meditation all of that mind activity and all of those past and future thoughts are suspended. How much of us is left once all of those emotions and thought processes are removed? The answer is not much at all, at least not much of what we identify as us. Much of our stress fades away. We learn how to just be in the moment. The effects of this go beyond the time spent in meditation. That alone will do more for our physical health than all the healthy eating in the world. It doesn’t take a genius to see that happy and relaxed people are naturally healthier than those who are not. Happy people tend to make better life choices and eat more healthily simply because their minds allow them to because they are happy. The benefits of meditation are recognised by doctors and psychologists alike. The cells of our body thrive on peace, stillness and appreciation and our mental health thrives on the same things too.

Once learned meditation is free, life-enhancing, healing, happiness-inducing and available whenever we want to do it. So why isn’t everyone doing it? My guess is that it is because meditation puts us exactly where we don’t want to be i.e. alone with ourselves. The mind does not want us to look inside and see the things that drive our mental activity. It fears the wounds of the past and is scared of letting go. When we are alone with ourselves things can come up, things we have spent a great deal of time keeping under wraps thank-you-very-much. The mind tries to convince us and the world that we are a temple; wonderful and magnificent. The last thing we want to find out is that the reality of our mental landscape is more like a teenager’s bedroom!

Meditation ultimately can lead us to who we really are; pure consciousness, oneness, peace and freedom. In other words the place we came from prior to incarnating into the body we now inhabit. Unfortunately, between us and that glorious, magnificent peace and contentment is our wounded past i.e. our rejections, hurt, separation (from our Spirit home and parental love), grief, abandonment, guilt, shame and so on. The mind does not want to touch any of that stuff. Going inside ourselves and being with whatever is within is the exact polar-opposite of what the ego wants. Meditation strips away all of that mental activity that we think of as “us” and shows us the truth of who we are.

While the prospect of meditation can feel deeply uncomfortable or even threatening to some what we find is that it gently leads us to peace and truth. Peace is something that most people strive for in some form or another but seek in the wrong place. Like most things in life we discover that peace is something to be found inside of us not from others or the outside world. Peace is a house we must build ourselves and cannot be sub-contracted to anyone else.
When we understand that the mind/ego is back seat driving most of our life without us realising and that our stress, health and life decisions are strongly affected by the mind, the value of anything that helps us to quieten down all of that is clear.

 

© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed