I had always been curious of meditation. I’ve heard of it often in songs, on TV, or just being talked about on social media. For a while, I did truly think what most people think—that it’s just a breathing practice. I was okay with the fact that yes, I know how to breathe, and meditation is just a fancy word people throw around to sound like they have things together.
That is until I started taking up meditation myself. The inspiration behind this is thanks to the fact that I’m an avid “self-help” reader and can spend three hours at a time in Barnes and Noble looking for the best next book for myself.
I took a liking in two books one day, “Super Attractor” by Gabrielle Bernstein and “Don’t Hate, Meditate!” by Megan Monahan. The initial attraction to these books was I had read something by Bernstein before and trust her work.
With Monahan, my curiosity with meditation and her liveliness/ rawness of the book gave me reassurance that modern meditation can be practiced by anyone and I do not have to pretend I have it together more than I really do.
These were meditations based on intentions rather than religious practices. These two books were the open arms and planted seeds I was waiting for to become a more compassionate, loving, healing and self-aware person.
I first began my meditation practices by following the modern guided meditations in Monahan’s book. Grounding myself and meditating on positive mantras of acceptance, peace, light and everything that is for the highest good of all. Through these practices, I have noticed a slow and steady change in myself. I notice it my mental strength and the way I now perceive things.
I could go into detail about my personal experiences or newfound enlightenment, but I know that to some, these words can sound a bit out there and I acknowledge that there can be some skepticism regarding this practice. While the mental and emotional stimulation through this practice is so rewarding, what is the science behind it? How can breathing in and out really help stimulate a mind and change someone’s life for the better? There are two sides to meditation- the practice of it and the science.
In an article found on mindful.org, authors present 10 facts about mindfulness that scientists and research have concluded. One of these facts is that meditation does increase compassion and make it more effective.
“It appears to do this by lessening amygdala activity in the presence of suffering, while also activating circuits in the brain that are connected to good feelings and love.”
One thing I found most important in reading about meditation comes from a quick subchapter in a book about adulting and world issues by Melissa Kirsch. Kirsch mentions that in the same way we train our body in exercise, we train our mind in meditation or practicing mindfulness. She continues to list the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness.
“It has been proven to lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and physically change your brain through a process called neuroplasticity.”
Kirsch also mentions that scientists are continuing to work with the Dalai Lama to find exactly how consistent meditation can rewire our brains to “become better problem solvers, more compassionate, and better able to handle stress.”
Things that can often turn people off from meditation is that it can be intimidating. Even when I first began to practice, there were times where I could only do it for five minutes. My mind could not shut off, and the stillness was hard to master. Now, I’m up to twenty or even thirty minutes at a time. This was possible through the constant practice. Just like in any other work, we can only achieve our desired results through constant practice.
There will be some days where you feel that your meditation practice is not working, or your mind can’t shut off—and that is completely okay. Meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts, it’s about noticing them, forgiving yourself and letting them pass. Just the exercise of doing it is good enough for the day.
As Monahan mentions in her book, “The experiential benefits of meditation don’t show up while you’re meditating. Meditating is the mental workout that breeds the results in the rest of your day.”
If meditating for five minutes is all you can do, start there for the day. Planvting the seed for meditation is a great place to start even if it’s just closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for thirty seconds. It will allow you to reconnect with the present moment.
While I am not an expert in meditation, the results and experiences I have come to know during my few months of meditating have changed my life and are continuing to do work. There are many more aspects I could get into regarding this practice; it is great for spiritual health and our mental well-being. However, these are things that go beyond the basis of the practice.
No matter your religious beliefs or whether you have them or not, I do want to encourage the practice of meditation. Kirsch jokingly says in her book, “meditation isn’t just for Buddhists and David Lynch,” and this is true.
There are many different types or ways that one can meditate. I enjoy the modern practices taught by Monahan in her book and sometimes even will follow a guided meditation practice on YouTube. However, if you want to meditate, I encourage you to begin with guided practices. Find the practice that is good for you and start there. Slowly, you will see a change in your outlook on life. Being able to connect with myself in a way I had never before has made me more aware of myself and other aspects of life in the most positive way.
These moments of connection and quietness with ourselves is so important. Just as I was before, you may be thinking that you are completely fine and don’t need meditation or even mindfulness. While this may be true, I can guarantee this practice will enhance your everyday life. Meditation, of course, can’t fix all of our problems and every single day will not be filled with sunshine, but it will aid us in how we get through that day and how we approach our problems.
To find more information on mindfulness and meditation practices, I encourage you to pick up a book in your taste and learn more about the benefits. Personally, the three books I have mentioned throughout this article were amazing and were in the taste of modernization. There are many online resources as well that can assist in teaching you or giving you guided meditations. Remember—one day at a time. Meditation is not an overnight fix to everything, but it is a start to a better, more mindful, healthy lifestyle. You can still be your outgoing, fun self and practice meditation. Celebrities like Big Sean, Jhene Aiko and Gwyneth Paltrow all practice meditation—there is no certain person or personality you need to be; meditation is for everyone.