This post was originally published on October 13, 2016 on www.lweatherbee.com.
I recently read this article about a school in Baltimore that replaced detention with meditation, and I'm excited to see a growing interest in the practice of meditation and its benefits. I started getting into meditation around ten years ago. I was in my twenties and living in New York City - having the time of my life, but also struggling with bouts of anxiety and depression. One particularly gloomy winter day, I decided to attend a meditation at a Buddhist center in Chelsea. I'm not quite sure how I ended up there because I wasn't even really into yoga at that point. But it made a big impression on me that evening, and it's stuck with me ever since. It's hard to describe in words what I felt, but I guess you could say it was a little taste of peace. Like DEEP, INNER PEACE, if only for a fleeting moment. But more importantly, I realized that there was a whole roomful of people (a whole city full, a whole planet full!) who are looking for the same thing.
I've only been back to the Buddhist center a few times since then, but meditation has become a part of my life in many different days. While I don't have a super-consistent practice, I try to meditate every day - even if it's just for a few minutes. I recently became a certified yoga teacher, and I'm currently studying acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine - all practices that are closely interconnected with meditation. I guess you could say I'm a big fan. I believe that meditation is a powerful healing tool that has the capacity to change your life, and the world around you. Keep reading to see the top 3 reasons I love to meditate:
1. Meditation literally changes your brain
While people from many different cultures have been meditating for thousands of years, modern scientists are only beginning to understand and describe the full benefits of meditation. A study by Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar revealed that as little as eight weeks of meditation can result in increased gray matter in the frontal cortex and sensory regions of the brain. This can lead to a greater sense of well-being, and decreased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. When you meditate, you are literally changing your brain. And just like with any sort of exercise, the more you practice, the easier it will get. Check out this article to learn more about how meditation can change your brain.
2. Meditation keeps me out of my head
While meditation may be good for your brain, I also meditate because it keeps me out of my head. Like many people, I'm addicted to thinking and planning and analyzing. I've found that my brain has served me very well in many situations. But I also realize that my brain doesn't always have the answers. And sometimes it's my worst enemy, bombarding me with negative thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it's important to let go of the constant need to control, to surrender to what is - to simply sit, and breath, and be. In my darkest moments, meditation has been a lifeline that pulled me through. Because when you still the whirring thoughts of your mind, and sit with silence on a regular basis, you start to see things differently. You feel things and hear things and sense things that you didn't notice before when the noise in your brain was too loud.
3. Meditation is like hitting the reset button
Perhaps this has happened to you - your computer is bugging out, and you're on the phone with customer service trying to troubleshoot the problem. You've tried a bunch of different things - closing programs, changing settings, deleting files, etc., but you still can't figure out what's wrong. Finally the customer service agent says, "Have you tried turning it off, and then turning it on again?" And then suddenly everything is up and running smoothly again? Well meditation is kind of like that. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your mind gets stuck in a rut. You don't realize it, but you've been thinking the same repetitive thoughts over and over again, and they're starting to bring you down. But your thoughts, and THE TRUTH, are two completely different things. It's very easy to forget this. That's when the reset button aka meditation comes in handy. Every time you let those repetitive thoughts go, even for a second, it gives the opportunity for new thoughts to come rushing in. It might not happen right away, but over time you'll start to realize that the world is full of infinite possibility, and every moment is a chance to reboot and start over.