Why meditation is good for you

Ever wondered why meditation is good for you? We hope this article will put to bed some of those misconceptions and lift any resistance that may have stopped you from starting your journey with this profound, often life changing practice.

Meditation is not something to be afraid of. Nor should it feel arduous. And despite what you may think it doesn’t take up a lot of your time. But it does require regularity.

The process of meditating should bring you peace, be calming and if you are like me…it gifts you an escape from daily life. Time to be with yourself and your thoughts.

Since 2012, the number of people meditating has tripled. It is believed over 200 million people meditate worldwide. Yet, some of the most common barriers and misconceptions around meditation remain, often creating resistance to those who would benefit the most.

Common barriers to meditation

Some of the most common barriers we hear include… “I can’t sit for long periods of time,” “my mind is too busy, I can’t stop my thoughts,” “I don’t have enough time.”  Or “Isn’t it all a bit Woo Woo?”

In the beginning it can be difficult to sit comfortably for long periods. And yes, the mind wonders continuously, generally from thoughts of “Am I doing this right?’ to your daily to do list, or a conversation you had the day before.

But it’s like anything. You have to be consistent with the practice to experience the benefits.

Meditation to support your wellbeing

I’ve heard meditation often described as an “opportunity to connect with the deepest part of yourself.” Which trust me, is a beautiful thing.

Meditation can be a facilitator in your own evolution, guiding you along your personal path of self-development

It is a practice where you will develop your inner awareness, enabling you to re-connect and understand yourself more. You will gain a deeper understanding about your personality and behaviours.

Through regular practice you become more aware of the pattern and fluctuations of your mind. You learn to observe your thoughts and feelings as they arise, without any judgement or attachment. (More on this later.)

Our busy minds are a reflection of our busy lives. From the moment we awake until we go to bed our nervous systems and our minds are switched on. A regular meditation practice is an opportunity to press a pause button. To ease the tensions of the mind and calm the nervous system. And it will help you sleep more soundly.

It is a practice that has really supported me over the years to develop my inner and outer awareness. To be more present and able to be less effected by what is happening around me. It helps me to relax. I found I’m able to cope better with what life throws my way.

If I meditate before bed, I sleep more soundly. Every morning I meditate as part of my sadhana (daily practice) it allows me to approach my day with a calmer, balanced mindset.

why meditation is good for you
Meditation is not about stopping thoughts

When you sit for meditation, it can be difficult to switch off from the external sounds and there can be a lot of mental chatter going on! Even the most seasoned meditator will tell you, you cannot stop the thought process. It is true that through regular practice you settle into the process of meditation more efficiently.

Despite what you may think, meditation does not require you to switch off or suppress your thoughts. Rather you learn to befriend the mind, distinguish, understand, and almost categorise the different thoughts. “Is it true?” And, “oh! there’s that thought again.”

Generally, thoughts tend to be around past events, or the mind is looking to the future, fantasising the perceived outcome of an event. A decision you are waiting to hear about. Or you will re-run the same thought in a different scenario!

Meditation is about awareness. You are aware that this is happening.

inner awareness
Developing the ability to witness.

 You should never try to suppress the inner dialogue, allow the thoughts to come and go. And over time begin to understand the patterns of thoughts without attachment. To observe them as a witness.

The best way to describe this concept of Witness (and how it was explained to me) is to imagine you are standing in a doorway looking into a room. In this room there’s a whole conversation going on, and you are there watching, observing the conversation without any involvement. With detachment.

Over time this ability to witness transfers to our external self, where we learn to be unaffected or caught up by all that is happening around us and what life throws our way.

Dhāraṇā (Concentration)

Dhāraṇā is a relaxed state of concentration, where you are un-wavered from any distractions. It takes time, it will only occur when the mind is relaxed and present.

The body is completely still, the only movement or awareness of movement is with the single point or object of focus. Most commonly this would be the breath. But it can also be a visual cue like a yantra, the repetition of mantra, or focusing your gaze on a candle flame.

In Patanjali’s 8-fold path of Raja yoga, Dhāraṇā is the 6th limb. It is considered to be the first step to deep meditation.

To achieve this state of concentration you first must physically be comfortable, in a position where you will remain still without discomfort. Gradually withdrawing or tiring the mind of any distractions, a stage referred to as Pratyahara the withdrawal of our senses and thoughts.

Dhāraṇā will happen once the superficial and disruptive surface thoughts pass.

As our spiritual teacher Swami Satyananda says “This state of natural thoughtlessness combined with awareness is a prelude to meditation.”

The actual state of Meditation is a state of being that You may only experience state for a few moments. It is also a process in which you begin to know oneself.

Being comfortable.

Being comfortable for meditation does not mean you have to sit in sukhasana. Don’t be afraid to modify how you sit in meditation with props or sit on a chair.

It is also ok to move the body as long as you do so with awareness so that you don’t externalise too much and loose the experience of the practice.

To be able to experience the practice of meditation the body must avoid any tension. If the body is tense, you cannot meditate, you will be sitting and suffering!

We have a blog “how to sit comfortably for meditation” that goes into more detail on this topic.

Regularity of practice.

A daily meditation practice may seem like something you don’t have time for in your already busy day. If you want to make meditation a regular ‘habit’ in your daily life, then it’s best to keep things simple. This way you are likely to stay motivated and committed.

It is a journey that begins with practising regularly for short periods of time.  It is better to do 10 minutes each day than 30 minutes once per week.

Commit to 10 minutes first thing in the morning before breakfast. Or before you go to bed at night. This way you are likely to keep this practice as part of your daily wellbeing.

Have patience with your practice. Meditation is like anything else you are learning; you have to do it to experience any of the benefits.

seated meditation
Which meditation practice should I start with?

There are so many different types of meditation practices. Some have their origins in the Buddhist tradition, for example loving kindness meditations. Or practices that we teach which derive from the ancient Yogic tradition.

The most well-known meditation techniques are performed sitting in silence, closing your eyes, and keeping the body still. With one pointed awareness or concentration techniques that focus your attention on one point. Like your breath or practice repetition of Mantra. Other techniques include steady eyes gazing mediations called Trataka.

Whichever meditation you choose, they are all based on the same principle. To develop inner awareness, inducing a relaxed stated so you can focus your mind on the technique. To be aware of thoughts, emotions or sensations in the body as they rise, moment to moment. and witnessing with equanimity.

The meditation of Antar Mouna (link below) means inner silence. This is an awareness-based meditation practice developed by Yoga Master Swami Satyananda, the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga. Where you specifically observe the thoughts as the witness.

You learn to see thoughts, feelings etc…for what they are and not as part of who you are. When you no longer identify with them the mind becomes clear and spacious.