The concept and practice of meditation has come a long way from the 1960’s hippy days of new age idealism, thankfully. In this day and age, meditation meets science.
The benefits of meditation can be looked at from two perspectives: logistic and metaphysical.
Let’s first explore the logistic benefits. When we are in a chronic state of stress, however your mind perceives stress, there are physiological responses to that stress: elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, inflammation and pain.
Meditation invites the breath to slow. In turn, this calms the respiratory system (lungs), which then relaxes the central nervous system (brain). When these systems relax, the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. This creates comprehensive stress relief within the whole body because it’s no longer in fight or fight mode. The very state of fight or flight leads to inflammation, and inflammation causes pain. So, you can see how the support of just one system feeds the entire body holistically.
Knowing a little bit of the science behind it, now we can talk about the metaphysical changes that occur. Once the physical body feels a sense of safety and relaxation, the protective guards come down. The subconscious mind is given permission to step forward (the same thinking that we are present with while dreaming or under hypnosis). The subconscious is an incredible housing of everything we hide from our consciousness (our analytical mind, day thinking, problem solving). With practice, after the body cultivates muscle memory and a knack for meditation, most begin to experience emotional breakthroughs. Feelings surface that were long forgotten, because they have finally been given permission to surface. This is a beautiful opportunity to acknowledge them, reflect in gratitude and heal.
Outside of deeper emotional freedom, a sense of unified connection to Source is unavoidable with continued practice. This is a byproduct of a clear and balanced channel (relaxed body, healed emotions, balanced mind).
Meditation has a sliding scale of philosophies, techniques and levels of difficulty. However, I invite you to throw out any picture you may have in your mind where you think you need to sit in lotus position (cross legged with feet woven in and up) for an hour and think of absolutely nothing. That concept is completely unrealistic. It takes many years of consistent practice, even for Monks, to get to that place. Plus, Monks do not live in modern society. All of their needs are provided for, and meditation and development are their sole focus. For the rest of us, we have daily concerns we bring into our meditative space, and it simply takes practice to manage the noise.
When starting your practice, start small. Start with five minutes, and make your goal for the next week to hold for seven. Let it build from there. Also — and this is very important — be patient and compassionate with yourself. Oftentimes we bring self judgement into our practice, and if we don’t meet our own, albeit unrealistic, expectations, we beat ourselves up in that space and come out frustrated and deflated. This discourages the will to continue to practice.
So when starting, again, start small and leave old perceptions of meditation at the door. Simply acknowledge your experience, reflect on your progress and celebrate your achievements.
Now that we have the science of meditation laid out, let’s go into more detail of how it can directly impact quality of life.
While most people seek meditation for the stress relief benefits, there is so much more that happens once the initial stress has been decompressed. A far under recognized aspect of meditation is the transformative healing that takes place in the emotional body. This body is responsible for our emotional responses to our experiences both past and present. It houses not only our current emotional state but also all of the unresolved emotional injuries sustained as well. These emotional injuries come in a sliding scale of severity. From a perceived injury from someone calling us a nasty name last week to physical abuse as a child, injury is injury, and it all resides in the emotional body.
Here is where meditation comes in. An emotional injury can be remembered, but the true devastating nature of its effect is not fully felt until it is surfaced in the subconscious. It is necessary to be in a place of surrender and allowance to fully feel what the conscious mind has hidden. The conscious mind is VERY smart, it knows how to protect us from emotional pain. This is why most find it easier to simply busy the mind and stay focused on other things than to truly sit with emotional pain. However, injury is still present, as it’s just sitting quietly in the corners of the subconscious, ultimately lowing overall vibration one unacknowledged injury at a time.
This is the kicker; the very pain that is trying to be avoided, is what brings emotional freedom once it is given permission to surface. Once it’s fully acknowledged and then purged. This is where the transformation is.
Here is a basic breakdown of the process:
This process is imperative to developing a deeper relationship with the Self. Once we purge our emotional injuries, our vibration rises. When we have a higher vibration, we attract higher vibration people and experiences into our lives (law of attraction). You can see the consequences of this on a global scale. If everyone raises their vibration, the collective consciousness shifts to a higher vibration, and low vibration actions naturally fall away. Actions of greed, hate and ignorance have no place in high vibratory beings. Imagine a world where these actions are eliminated. Beautiful right?
In going into meditation to heal yourself, you are becoming part of a greater universal law to heal the world. This is how we make change! We first have to start, seemingly, small with the self. Then, it has its beautiful consequences by creating a ripple effect.