Meditation is a popular practice today. It has become disconnected from religions and beliefs, to become a great tool for introspection and emotional management. Meditation is thus a precious ally in our modern world, and has scientifically proven effects on well-being, reduction of chronic pain, insomnia and many others.
The 5 great benefits of meditation
Here are the five main benefits of meditation. These are only a few of the many benefits, but they will help you understand a little better the value of this practice :)
1. Gain inner peace
Are you in the habit of tidying and cleaning your room? When you don’t maintain your room for a while, the dirt will accumulate so much that the room will become unliveable. The air you breathe will be polluted. Your belongings will be messy or loose. You won’t be as productive as you used to be.
Imagine that your body is like a room. Every day, piles of garbage pile up inside ourselves, in our mind, body, heart and soul. This waste comes from negative thoughts, emotions and energies. They can come from different sources: the media, interactions with people, our environment, our work, or even self-generated within us.
If you don’t meditate regularly, this garbage accumulates over time inside you. You become a living garbage can, accumulating these unwanted thoughts and emotions.
Have you ever had a time when bad thoughts come into your mind — that seem to come out of nowhere — when you didn’t think about them the moment before? Times when negative memories resurface when you didn’t want to remember them? It’s all part of that cumbersome garbage you’ve been accumulating inside you, instead of throwing it away and getting rid of it.
When you meditate, you remove this garbage from your system, like when you clean your room. You get rid of negativity and you are no longer mired in it. For people who have never meditated, it may take some time to get rid of all that negativity from the past. Just as it will take more time and effort to clean a very dirty house before it is put back in order.
After regular meditations, I have come to the point of experiencing absolute calm in my mind. It made me realize how noisy my mind was before I started meditating. I never would have realized this if I hadn’t been able to feel this peace now.
This is a state that you can experience for yourself after you start meditating. Your mind becomes so calm that you can literally “hear” your thoughts as they come to you. This has increased my awareness of my thoughts, which brings me to the second benefit, which is the improvement of your self-awareness.
2. Improving your self-awareness
According to the work of Dr. Daniel Amen, did you know that 60,000 thoughts come to your mind every day and that 80% of them are negative?
Did you know that although you think all the time and 95% of these thoughts are just repetition of those of yesterday, the day before yesterday, etc.? Do you sometimes experience moments when you are not sure what you are thinking, or what you want?
Meditation brings you more clarity in your thoughts, your deepest desires and improves your self-awareness. It allows you to get out of this automatic mode, where you just replay your thoughts from the day before, like a broken record. A meditating mind can sort through these thoughts and select only constructive and positive thoughts, while others will be silenced.
By meditating, you will make better decisions in your life, by having more perspective on the choices you have to make. Without the clarity brought by meditation, you become easily influenced by external factors. You live automatically by reacting rather than acting.
3. You become more serene.
During meditation, you stop being fixated on the physical world, and you begin to become an observer of your reality. You observe with detachment the thoughts and emotions that flow through you. You observe how people act around you. You observe things in your environment. You are no longer dominated by your ego and become more aligned with your Inner Being.
With this detachment, you become more serene, calm and keep a cool head. The gap between a stimulus and your response widens. You increase the analytical capacity of your mind, even though everything is happening in real time, you have more time to observe and process what is happening around you.
If in the past certain events could cause you to start off on the wrong foot, or to automatically experience a negative emotion, meditation will allow you to prevent these automatic reactions from occurring. You will be able to deal with these events objectively, with detachment and without your ego getting involved.
4. You become more present and inspired
It comes from that state of serenity you experience when you meditate. Once you are serene, you are much more present in your reality. You stop worrying about what has happened in the past, or what might happen to you in the future.
People who are not “present” often get bogged down in the thoughts that come to their minds. They are busy dealing with the thoughts that come to them, preventing their brain from functioning fully and enjoying the present moment.
As you become more aware, you also become more connected with those around you, with people and with the world around you. With prolonged meditation, you raise your consciousness to higher levels. Fear, anger, desire, and pride cease to hold sway over your thoughts and behaviors.
Through meditation, you improve your connection with your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind is that huge library where your best ideas, solutions to your problems, and inspiration reside. People who work in professions that require a lot of creativity, such as artists, musicians, or writers, quickly learn to connect with their unconscious mind.
If you are faced with a dilemma that you can’t solve, or are looking for new ideas about something, try to meditate and stay open to suggestions from your unconscious mind. With practice you will strengthen your connection with your unconscious mind.
Very quickly you will notice that the solutions your unconscious mind brings to you are often more insightful and better than those generated by your conscious mind.
5. Meditation improves the quality of sleep
When your mind is bombarded with thoughts and worries of all kinds, it causes insomnia. This insomnia then becomes anxiety, stress and depression. Meditation allows you to de-clutter your mind (see point 1), making it easier for you to fall asleep.
Before you can sleep, your mind sorts through the thoughts that clutter it. Meditating before you sleep eliminates this clutter and allows your mind to rest peacefully.
If your mind is enormously cluttered, you will need to meditate over a long period of time to improve your insomnia. Just continue to meditate regularly and your situation will quickly improve.
These few points are only a glimpse of the benefits of meditation, which is a subject that is attracting more and more attention from both the scientific and spiritual communities.
Overall, the benefits of meditation will help you to be more satisfied with your life. You will become more in control of yourself, more positive and rejuvenated. With meditation, your daily life will be more pleasant and you will be able to enjoy the present moment.
The different forms of meditation
Meditation is an activity that has been practiced since the dawn of time by different religions and cultures. There is therefore a wide range of meditation techniques developed and compiled over time. To date, many books and articles have been written on the subject.
Among all types of meditations, it is possible to divide them into 3 main categories. Popular meditations such as Jose Silva’s method or Sedona’s method are variations of these:
You meditate by focusing your attention on an object or a process, such as your breath, a flame, a mantra, visualization, music, etc. Your vision remains open. This means that even if you focus on something, you remain aware of everything that is happening around you and in your mind.
Meditation while walking :
You gain awareness through simple, repetitive movements. Some examples are Tai Chi, yoga or even simple walking exercises.
This is the one usually practiced in religions. It is similar to mindfulness meditation but with two differences. (1) You focus your attention on an invocation or prayer. (2) You must maintain a closed vision, that is, focus your consciousness only on prayer and nothing else.
Although there are many schools of thought on exactly how to meditate, the goal is always the same: to raise your consciousness.
Brain Waves in Meditation
Most people use meditation to reach the Alpha waves, where a certain relaxation occurs. However, it is possible to reach other brain wave frequencies, with the help of meditative music in particular.
Here are the five main brain waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. It should be noted that our brain generates all these types of waves all the time, we pass in the course of the day from one state of consciousness to another.
- Gamma (30 to 80Hz): This dominates during intense mental or physical activity, which leads us to exceed our natural abilities and to reach unequalled performances. Think of times when people perform incredible feats, far beyond human capacity, such as a mother lifting a car to save her child.
- Beta (14 to 30Hz): This is mostly present as soon as we wake up, it’s a normal state of consciousness in which we operate every day. It is characterized by logic, “rational” analytical thinking and mental alertness.
- Alpha (8 to 13Hz): This wave is emitted when we reach a particular state between the conscious and the unconscious (between Beta and Theta). It is a state of serenity and relaxation. We enter this state when we are daydreaming or relaxed. We sometimes experience intuitions, creative ideas and even epiphanies.
- It is also at this level of consciousness that Flow occurs and it is this state that is sought in meditation. Many famous people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, have used this Alpha state to gain clarity and find solutions to problems they could not solve in their conscious state (Beta).
- Theta (4 to 7Hz): We switch to this frequency when we enter into deep relaxation. This is the case during REM sleep, hypnosis or deep meditation. In this state, our unconscious dominates and we enter a trance state. It takes some experience of meditation to experience this state.
- Delta (0.5 to 4Hz): This is the slowest of the brain waves. The Delta wave appears when we are in a deep sleep state. At that point we are completely unconscious. In this state, physical recovery is accelerated thanks to the different hormones secreted throughout this sleep phase. The production of these waves decreases with age.
If you are new to meditation
If you have just started meditating but don’t know where to start, I strongly recommend that you start with guided meditation.
Guided meditation is effective, whether it is done by a physical person, or via a pre-recorded audio file. This will make the process much easier to follow. There are many resources on the internet to get you started, here are two: here and there.
The use of meditative music
Some people may enjoy meditative music, but others prefer to meditate in silence. Meditative music can help raise your level of consciousness for two reasons. First, the music provides an anchor on which you can focus, so you don’t get lost in your thoughts.
Second, meditative music can use different frequencies and harmonics than “normal” music, these are the binaural sounds and improve your level of consciousness.
There are many meditative music available on the market, and some are more likely to help you increase your level of consciousness than others. Feel free to listen and choose the ones that suit you best. You will find some music based on sounds from nature, while others are guided in the manner of a self-hypnosis session, which induce a particular state to help you reach your goals.
A good series of meditative music is available online on Gaiam Life, for this you have several themes (Air, Wind, Ether, Ocean, etc) with which you can meditate.
How to meditate in 5 simple steps
I will explain here only Conscious Meditation. It is the simplest to master, and it can be done anywhere, be it at home or during your travels in transportation.
1. Find your place of meditation
The best would be to be in an enclosed space, far from external disturbances. That said, a place where you feel safe and comfortable may do the trick. If you are at home, the most appropriate place would be your bedroom.
Once you have decided where you want to meditate, clean up the space around the place where you are meditating, if there is clutter do some tidying up. You can then meditate on your bed or on the floor.
2. Sit in a comfortable position
There are different recommended positions, such as lotus, sitting on a cushion, etc. Here are some examples (click to enlarge)
Personally, I have gotten into the habit of meditating in the “Burmese” position, that is, simply crossing my legs (on my bed). I find this position comfortable and simple to hold. Just find a position that you are comfortable with. You don’t have to sit in a special way just to meditate.
Sitting on a chair is fine too. In fact, it’s a good choice if your feet often go numb from sitting cross-legged.
Whichever posture you choose, sitting upright with a straight back makes it easier to concentrate and breathe. I do not recommend lying down (i.e., the sleep posture) to meditate, as you are more likely to fall asleep.
3. Empty your mind
Empty your mind. Relax. Take a few slow, deep breaths, focus on the air coming in and going out of your lungs. Become aware of the temperature of your breath.
4. Just sit down and observe the temperature of your breath.
Once this is done, simply sit back and watch the inner dialogue unfold in your mind. Let your thoughts float. What are you thinking about? What are you feeling? Just observe and don’t interact.
Many people think that in meditation they have to force themselves not to think and/or block all their thoughts. In truth, the opposite is true. Let your mind continue to think, but don’t interact. You play the role of the passive observer watching them, sitting quietly in the back of your head.
Let’s imagine, for example, that a sudden thought springs up, “I have to go shopping tomorrow,” so observing just means being aware that this thought exists. If you begin to react to this thought, you may feel annoyed about having to go shopping, or you may think about what you are going to buy and when you are going to buy it.
Then you would be interacting with that thought. Don’t do it. The state you seek in meditation is simply to observe these thoughts from a distance.
A good way to find out if you have lost your concentration is to count slowly, from 1 to 10. Then from 10 to 20, and so on. Each time your concentration is broken, make a note of the last number you said mentally. This will help you know how long you are able to concentrate. Then start again from the beginning, starting from 1 and trying to go beyond that number this time.
The presence of these thoughts during your meditation means that they are being sorted out. These thoughts have always been there in your mind; you simply weren’t aware of them. But now, through meditation, they can be organized one by one.
After repeated meditation, you can gradually reach a new level of mental tranquility. If you think your mind seems calm now, try meditating for several days in a row, you will notice that you have reached a new level of mental peace.
Meditate for as long as you wish, until you feel cleansed, purified and refreshed. I would recommend 10 to 15 minutes to start. If you want to meditate longer, that’s even better. The longer you meditate, the more buried thoughts and memories will come back into your mind, waiting to be sorted out.
After meditating for a period of time, you will reach a point where your consciousness begins to move beyond physical reality (Alpha, possibly Theta if you have been meditating for a long time). When this happens, you become detached from your physical being and become an observer of your reality. The longer you meditate, the deeper the state you will be in and the greater your level of consciousness.
5. Finish the meditation
When you have finished meditating, gradually return to your normal state of consciousness. Begin to regain awareness of the physical reality around you. Then become aware of your own body.
This may take 15 to 30 seconds, depending on how long you need to complete this step. Then, very slowly, open your eyes. Listen to your surroundings. If you open your eyes immediately and try to resume your physical activities, you may feel numb and numb.
Instead of resuming your physical activities immediately, you may want to continue to sit where you have been meditating and reflect on some of the thoughts, feelings or images that have come up during your meditation. Or you can simply spend a few minutes expressing your gratitude for the things you love in your life.
Some tips during your meditation
Often people end up falling asleep while meditating. This is a sign that you are mentally tired and that your mind is overloaded. All you need is more meditation, until you have emptied your mind properly. Staying awake while meditating is one of the greatest difficulties for a meditation beginner, since there are no stimuli to keep you active.
One way to avoid this is to have slept well before starting to meditate, for example, meditate when you have just woken up in the morning after a good night’s sleep. You will be more focused if you are fresh and available, rather than if you are already tired late at night. Once your thoughts are clarified through meditation, you will come out of it more energetic, since your mind is calm and soothed.
Some people may also encounter resistance during meditation, especially when negative thoughts surface. Simply continue to observe these thoughts by staying in the back of your head. Let them float. Be aware that these thoughts are just thoughts and do not define you.
Others may feel agitated by the level of passivity of the meditation, and think about doing something else during the process. Recognize these emotions and thoughts, but do not interact with them and continue to maintain your meditative state. Once you have overcome this point of resistance, you will begin to feel comfortable in your meditation.
The more out of order your mind is, the more difficult it will be for you to concentrate at first. Just persevere and your mind will calm down very naturally.
Start meditating today
By simply starting to meditate a little each day, you will reap great benefits. When you have finished your first meditation, you will start the second and then the third session… until it becomes a natural habit. You will feel calmer, soothed and more focused in your daily life.