How I came across meditation.
Firstly let me start with the question, “Why meditate?” Meditation seems pretty useless from practicality aspect. After spending hours of siting in silence there is nothing to show for it. You don’t get to speak a newly learnt language, it doesn’t produce a product like a chair or a book. So what is the point?
I would like to share my story before giving you scientific facts about benefits of this practice. I came across meditation in my late teens reading a glossy book about Zen Buddhism filled with beautiful Japanese themed photographs. The idea of enlightenment seemed cool so I decided to give meditation a go. I crossed my legs in a half lotus pose and try to sit still for about ten minutes but nothing happened. It did not make me levitate off the floor nor I travelled in to the fifth dimension. Feeling disappointed, I dismissed the whole affair as a boring waste of time. I thought to myself, “Perhaps if I had a real Zen master as my teacher and a Japanese garden in a backyard then it would work.”
Learning from the best and finding my why
Thankfully the search for enlightenment didn’t finish with that and the idea of learning meditation returned once again to my unenlightened mind years after. I was getting an espresso shot at a cafe when a pencil-drawn flyer card with a meditating monk under a bamboo tree caught my eye. “Come to find inner peace and tranquillity” called the card. Being stressed at work this seemed like a great idea.
After internet research, I signed up for an 8 weeks meditation course at the Buddhist centre in Sydney. I had my doubts about hours of sitting in complete silence but I pushed myself to do it. I found teachers and the center to have a calming presence on me.
The course was running by real monks with long and interesting sound names though those guys were Caucasian folks with Aussie accents. That spiked my curiosity even more. I also found that despite my past struggle with 10 min mediation I could easily sit still for 2 hours after the first weeks of the course. Maybe I was right about having a Zen master as your teacher?
I learned a lot from that course and had my “How to mediate” question answered. Unfortunately, my question “why” still was not clear. Determined to continue practice every day and walked away with 4 notebooks full of notes and a sitting mediation bench. As it often happens with good intentions lack of time got in the way and my meditations were more of an ad-hoc practice. In retrospect without having compelling reasons and habitual practice my newly learned skill had little chances of survival.
If you ever played a role-play computer game you probably came across a scenario when to get to another level you need to unlock a door and you spend most of the time looking for the key that unlocks it. This was the exact opposite. I found my key but I was not exactly sure what door it opened. I put the meditation key in my memory box with a sign “keep for future use” and moved on.
Solution to the issues
Beating weight gain, unhappiness and stress
Years later I found myself stressed out, about 20 kilos heavier than I am today, smoking and surviving on office vending machine food. I didn’t feel heavy only in my body. My mind felt cluttered and sluggish too. I ran on a constant supply of coffee and stress hormones getting sucked into work and life dramas. I was desperately looking for a solution. The universe tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the memory box. A door leading away from the nicotine and junk food level was finally found!
Finally solution to my problems
Within a few weeks, I started to notice a difference. I became calmer. My buttons were still pushed but returning to the calm state became easier and faster. I could feel negative emotions raising and was able to respond rather than have a knee jerk reaction.
I was able to feel compassion for challenging people. The enemies turned into human beings with their insecurities, vulnerabilities, and somebody that I could relate to. It also improved my awareness allowed me to listen more attentively. Little things made me happy for instance a glass of water all the sudden tasted incredibly good, walking on grass with bare feet became a joy. I am certain those things were always there I just never paid attention.
The positive effect of meditation was cumulative. While I was getting results right after a short daily 10 minutes session the positive effect continued to build up. A bit like your savings accounts with interest gradually increasing your money in the bank. And this is how I found my “Why” to continue with the practice.
Scientific evidence of meditation benefits
Was my experience a placebo effect that worked for me but may not so effective for others? There has been a lot of research done from the 70s when meditation became known to the western world. A well-known example of adaptation is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course created by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 but there are many others. Some time of meditation like visualization is used by athletes to improve performance
And if you are still not convinced yet here is some facts:
- You can use meditation to help to alleviate anxiety, depression, and pain as found in this research with 3515 participants in 47 studies found improvements in anxiety, depression, and pain.
- Do you want to get sick less and become an optimistic person? According to this study, meditation can help with that.
- And this is how you can become a happier person without depending on winning lotteries or getting new things with the use of loving-kindness meditation that we will discuss in these series.
- Improve your sleep with mindfulness meditation as found by this research.
- Become more satisfied with your body – as found in this research women who participated in only 3 weeks of self-compassion meditation felt significantly reduced body dissatisfaction, body shame, and self-worth with the effects present 3 months after the study was completed.
- Become smarter and improve attention span by practicing meditation
- Fight addictions as found by these scientists mediation can help with alcohol addiction relapse and curb food cravings.
Seeing how much benefit I got from mediation I included it into my mindset coaching to help with stress management and resilience. These series of posts are a beginners guide to get you started.
What is next in these post series
The next parts will give you an overview of two best meditation practices mindfulness of breathing and metta Bhavana (also known as loving-kindness or LKM), meditation scripts that are easy to follow, and important detail on how to make meditation a habit.
We will also cover tools that you may want to use in your practices – meditation bench, cushions, meditation timer, singing bowls and a few books that will help you to understand this subject more.
You can read the rest of the posts by the links below: