It’s no secret that this year has been rough for pretty much everyone. For a lot of us just coming into adulthood, we have seen the world for what it really is: a chaotic mess where not much seems to make sense; and for a lot of us who have been adults for years now, we have lost all hope in this chaotic world and what we can do about it. If we’re not Elon Musk, Barack Obama, or Bill Gates, what can we really do? The answer is to improve what you have the most control over: yourself; and we can accomplish this through meditation.
Most who hear the word “meditation” think of it as spiritual hocus pocus; something not really supported by science. Well as science continues to evolve, it finds that those Yogis – who have practiced all types of meditations for years – were not that far off from the truth. The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health states:
“Many studies have investigated meditation for different conditions, and there’s evidence that it may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia”Meditation: In Depth. http://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth.
Of course, meditation is no replacement for modern medicine. It is instead meant to work alongside it. As Gaëlle Desbordes states:
“There are a few applications where the evidence is believable. But the effects are by no means earth-shattering,” Desbordes said. “We’re talking about moderate effect size, on par with other treatments, not better. And then there’s a bunch of other things under study with preliminary evidence that is encouraging but by no means conclusive.Powell, Alvin. “Harvard Researchers Study How Mindfulness May Change the Brain in Depressed Patients.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 27 Aug. 2018, http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/.
It’s nice to know that as science grows, it seems to support the idea that meditation has many benefits. We don’t; however, need science to see how meditation helps us individually. The Yogis have known for thousands of years the benefits of meditation, not because they put it under a microscope and studied it, but because they themselves have practiced it and seen it improve their own lives.
Talking about meditation can be difficult because the sensations can be extremely hard to explain without sounding surreal. How can you explain that there is a difference between the mind and the brain? How can you accurately describe feeling parts of your body not previously felt? To put simply, you can’t; and to put even more simply, you must try it out! Don’t knock it ’till you try it, right?
There are many different ways to meditate. It’s just as well considering there are many different people in the world. Not all meditation techniques will work for everyone, and if you have tried and failed, I encourage you to try a different method! Here is a great article that goes over some meditation techniques: Which Type of Meditation is Right for Me?
Meditation should become a habit; something to be done everyday. There is a famous Zen proverb that goes: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” It seems counter-productive, but the message is clear: the busier you are, the more time you should dedicate to yourself. Meditation has many applications that can help in daily life. Ever been stuck in a thought loop? Meditation can help you jump off. Ever had depressing thoughts bubble up at inopportune times? Meditation can help turn those thoughts into positive ones.
Dr. Alok Kanojia, a Boston based psychiatrist who focuses on video game addiction and mental health, found a way to apply meditation techniques to help him get through medical school. These techniques worked so well, he found that he only needed to study for two hours a day. Sounds crazy right? Well, hear it from the man himself (strong language used):
So we’ve seen how meditation can improve our physical and mental health. We’ve even seen it being applied to real world situations, but how can meditation help us change the world? When one thinks of the world, it can be incredibly overwhelming. Over 7 billion people, 195 countries, and 6,500 languages make up the world. But lets not forget that in those 7 billion people is you, in those 195 countries is your country, and in those 6,500 languages is your language. When we look inward and meditate, we are also looking at the world. In changing yourself, you necessarily change the world by those you impact around you.
I will leave you with one final quote so old that no one really knows who said it; though they were lost to the sands of time, their message stands loud and clear:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
Unkown Monk 1100 A.D.