I've told the story to many people over the years, meditation did not come easily to me.
In fact, I spent the good part of 20-years in my early life trying, but never being able to really "GET" meditation, each time giving up and obviously not really experiencing the benefits.
What really changed for me were the events around 9/11 as well as some personal and health challenges I was experiencing at the time, suddenly I was open to trying meditation again and really needed the peace of mind and perspective that it would bring to my life.
At the same time, I decided to stop using "guided" meditation and instead went back to the very fundamental upon which meditation was based…habituation.
In other words, one of the ways you can bring your mind to a total state of calm is through constant repetition of the same stimulus…to the point we become habituated to that sensory stimulus and suddenly we replace all of the "noise" with "nothing!"
For me, the constant sound of waves was the ticket…they allowed me to become habituated to the point where all other thoughts were eventually replaced with total calm.
Notice I say "eventually" – for any given session that may take anywhere from 10-20 minutes where you actually begin with a spike in "noise". Thoughts come flooding through – the key here is to NOT fight them, but welcome them as part of the process.
Eventually you can allow the "noisy" thoughts through and slowly get to a place where you are hovering OVER your own body and mind and see these thoughts as sort of a movie that may be playing instead of thoughts in your own mind which is an amazingly powerful concept because you remove much of the emotion tied to anxious and stressful thoughts helping your mind to reach a calmed state.
But Why Meditate?
There are many benefits to meditation, I have experienced the first two first-hand and hope to benefit from the 3rd in later years.
1. Manage Stress And Anxiety
While this benefit may seem natural, most people who do not meditate do not really understand WHY this happens. I mentioned above that meditating not only allows you to clear your mind it gives you an on-demand tool for taking a flood of thoughts or inner dialog that is causing you stress and anxiety and learning to view those thoughts as if you were someone else. Since learning to meditate I have used this concept in every stressful situation I end up in where I simply bring my mind to a place where you can hover over your body and observe your thoughts AS IF you were a third party (in other words without the emotional baggage that often is associated with thoughts). In this sense, meditation gives you the ultimate tool-set for handling stress and anxiety throughout your day – not just during periods of meditation.
2. Physical Benefits
From first hand experience we know that meditation lowers your heart rate, improves your immune system, reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, stabilizes blood sugar having many beneficial impacts on your physical health – especially as it relates to chronic health conditions. In my case, improved digestion was one of the BIG benefits. I write about it in Attracting Greatness – the first 20-years of my adult life I experienced many digestive issues – after meditation those issues were dramatically reduced (no more ant-acids, reduced acid-reflux, reduced bloating, better sleeping and absorption of key nutrients which also meant a better immune system)
3. Mental Benefits
Not only will you experience incredible clarity and focus short-term with meditation, there are recent studies pointing to long-term benefits as well. For example, this study demonstrated that long-term breakdown of the brain was much less severe in those who regularly practiced meditation compared to those that did not. The key message being, if you want to preserve high quality of life over the next few decades in your life, go ahead and spend 20 enjoyable minutes a day meditating now – you can do it and take it from me, the results are incredible.