By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
It is helpful to clearly understand the purpose of meditation before engaging in the practice. As the practice of meditation becomes well known in mainstream culture, the discussion over what it means and how it is done becomes increasingly passionate. Like so many other topics, the differences in meditation often may lie more in perception than in actual intention. Although meditation styles vary – Buddhist, Transcendentalist, Christian, Zen, Sufi, and others – their purpose is largely the same. At the core of each style or lineage is a desire to return to one’s true nature.
Why Should I?
People meditate for a variety of reasons, such as getting better sleep, improving health, making better decisions, concentrating, or reducing stress. Although these are legitimate benefits, the true purpose of meditation is spiritual growth. According to Deepak Chopra, “The purpose of meditation is to take us into the field of infinite possibilities, to go into the gap between thoughts, then to come back here in order to create our dreams.”
Merely transcending the thoughts in the conscious mind, however, may not be enough to achieve the ultimate goal of meditation. In the early stages of the process, the practitioner must become aware of the negative thoughts that are stored in the subconscious mind – where they lie dormant, until triggered by an emotion, or a fleeting thought, and are suddenly forced to the surface. As meditation continues, our thoughts and feelings are filtered by a higher consciousness. As a result, the mind is able to free itself while learning how to refrain from snap judgments or emotional reactions.
With the power to still the mind, we put an end to its emotional reactions and stored resentments. Hence, the potential for greater understanding and awareness of the self and the world around us arises. As a by-product, the floodgates to creativity and passion open, which provide an abundance of new circumstances, and opportunities, that were previously hidden. No longer controlled by traumatic programming, the subconscious becomes aware of the synchronicities and joy in its path.
Although the purpose of meditation is to restore the authentic self, there are several obvious benefits of the practice. Below is a shortlist of the obvious benefits of meditation.
The little worries and annoyances in everyday life seem smaller and less upsetting.
As a result of clear thinking, creativity and productivity increase.
Health improves because of the reduction in stress and anxiety.
There is a better understanding of one’s true path in life.
Sometimes, teachers say, “the purpose of meditation is difficult to define,” the following is my simplistic explanation. The reason why we meditate is to train the mind. We train our minds as often as possible, in order to cope during the worst of times. Meditation practice is preparation for real life sitations. However, steady practice has long term benefits.
Vipassana (Mindfulness Meditation)
Meditation has been around for thousands of years. However, it was not until the 20th century that a study of mindfulness became popular in modern society. Mindfulness meditation is said to have been developed from Asian practices, specifically Vipassana meditation. Meditation can be defined as concentrating one’s attention on an action or object. Therefore, we can focus on breathing, mantra practice, walking, eating, observing flowers, and more. The purpose of this mental exercise is to reach a state of focused awareness.
Training the Mind
Meditation may be defined as a practice of training the mind. Thus the concept of mindfulness may be defined as the act of sustaining one’s attention or a deep state of awareness for an extended period of time on a particular object, concept, or activity.
In the scientific world, it is known that meditation has many benefits for brain health. Many people think of meditation as a way to relax and relieve stress. In fact, recent studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can cause changes in the grey matter of your brain that increase performance on memory tests and tasks that require concentration. Realizing that meditation can increase concentration and improve memory, how can it also help those with anxiety? Through the power of habit, the more practiced you become, the more the likelihood that you will be able to rein in and master your anxious thoughts.
Meditation is a practice that helps us to calm our minds, reduce anxiety, and relieve stress. It is a great way to help the body cope with everyday stressors. Some pleasurable ways to meditate are through creating a garden of flowers, observing nature, deep breathing, or listening to calming music. However, meditation is best practiced in a way that suits your lifestyle and personality. Some people find visualizations helpful during meditation, while for others it is beneficial to watch or listen to a streaming video.
Meditation is a skill that can be studied, practiced, and perfected. You might have heard different opinions on the purpose of meditation. However, everyone agrees that meditation increases your awareness, clarity, and focus. Meditation also helps to deal with anxiety and stress by slowing down the nervous system while increasing control over the body’s responses to stress. It also has a positive effect on heart health. If you have been struggling with insomnia, stress, and depression, it is a good idea to establish a regular meditation practice.
The amount of time you should meditate is up to you. However, at Aura Wellness Center, we have found that it is beneficial to meditate for 20 minutes a day. Experiment with the amount of time you meditate throughout the week and see what fits best for your life. It is important to remember that the longer you meditate, the more relaxed you will become. So try to find a time of day that works best for you and your family.
Food for Thought
Native Americans practiced meditation and so did many indigenous people around the world. There are many forms of meditation, and each one trains the mind with a slightly different method. However, the main objective of all forms of meditation is to bring the practitioner to a state of peace. The purpose of meditation ultimately creates happiness within and reduces one’s stress levels. Meditation helps to create happy and balanced human beings – the basic ingredients needed for a better world.
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