What is meditation? Why meditate? Here are some simple ways to understand meditation and what it has to offer. (Excuse the recurring analogy between meditation and going to the gym.)
What is meditation?
There is nothing woo-woo or mystical about meditation (but these options exist if that’s what you’re looking for). Just like hitting the gym and doing physical exercise for the body, meditation is exercise for the mind. Both forms of training are evidence-based and both contribute to our wellbeing in different ways.
At the gym we train endurance and strength of muscles in the body, and in meditation we train our attention ‘muscle’ in the mind to increase our control of it.
Everyone can meditate. All meditation styles use our natural human capacity to deploy and sustain our attention on different objects as the foundation of the practice.
Typically meditation also involves an intention, acting as a roadmap for where you want to go with your meditation. The intention is focused on gaining experiential insights and cultivating useful qualities that can support us in life when we step off the mat.
Similar to working out, it’s not always enjoyable to meditate and it takes both effort and patience, yet for most people the benefits make it worth it.
In short, meditation can offer a greater sense of wellbeing, joy, and quality of life. And this transformation happens with the practical insights, qualities, and tools you gain through your practice; insights about how your body and mind work, heartful qualities that will bring out the best in you and the world, and new tools to deal more skillfully with life’s ups and downs.
The details of what people discover through meditation can vary, and build with time and consistent practice. Here is a summary of what some of the research says about why we should meditate*:
With that said, meditation is not a cure-all and it’s not for everyone. The best way to find out if it’s for you is to give it a shot. We recommend trying an 8-Week Mindfulness Meditation Course (2 h/week) to give it a fair try, here is a good option.
*References: Mindfulness – A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Mindfulness – Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science.