Why do people meditate?

Group meditating

Meditation can help create a different experience of life

Why isn’t there one simple answer to the question:  “Why do people meditate?”

That’s because there are so many benefits to meditation.  It’s actually near impossible to create a definitive list of all the benefits, because it can affect people’s lives in multiple ways, and there is a ripple effect where one benefit can lead to more benefits.

When I teach beginners to meditate, they want to know why people meditate.  I start by explaining that meditation is fitness for the mind, and when you cultivate the practice, it can change your experience of life, and improve your health.

Simply put:

  • Most people meditate to deal better with life – primarily stress management. This is probably the first benefit that people will notice from having a meditation practice. This unto itself can be life-changing.
  • The multitude of health benefits has been vastly proven in recent years, and continue to be actively researched. The Harvard Business Review is now recommending that health insurers cover wellness and prevention-oriented therapies that are both low-cost and evidence-based, as both yoga and meditation are.  See: “Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health”
  • Some people choose to use meditation for spiritual growth.  This can be a beautiful practice to cultivate a connection with something bigger than yourself, whatever your belief system may be.

So when someone asks me ‘Why do people meditate?’, my answer is that people come to meditation for many reasons and it is a personal choice as to why one meditates.  What inevitably happens once someone starts a meditation practice is that they can cite many benefits they are getting, and the initial reason they started meditation is happily accompanied by numerous other benefits.

So if you are thinking of starting a meditation practice, it’s well worth doing so.  It’s life skill that can be life changing.  Ensure you find a good instructor that you trust and can guide you.  There are many wonderful meditation apps to get you started and keep you going, but in my opinion, when you are learning, it is best to find a group with a good instructor.

Wishing you a wonderful day,

~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey.

 

 

 

How meditation helps in this crazy life

Carousel spinning

Life is too fast. What can you do to slow it down?
Photo credit: James Fielden.

Are you on a ride that is crazy busy,  each day running into the next, leaving you feeling exhausted?  You may not even be too aware that your life has a chronic low or mid-level pattern of stress that doesn’t often ease up.

I don’t know what’s happened to the world but just in my short lifetime, the pace of life and the financial and societal pressures of living in this beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia have become overwhelming. I’m sure it’s not too different in most other large cities in this world.

Technology has catapulted our lives into a momentum of craziness, and now, more than ever, is when important life management skills are needed.

Meditation and mindfulness is in the media constantly, but don’t let such popularity fool you.  Yes, I’d say that meditation and mindfulness does seem to be a trend, and I know it will be challenged and likely wane in the media eventually.  But the benefits are real and astounding.

Meditation is not about having a blank mind.

Meditation does not have to be a religious practice.

Meditation provides space in your life to just ‘be’.

Meditation provides space in your life.  It allows you to take a pause.  Imagine what it would be like to just be alone and feel the essence of who you really are, without the layers upon layers of responsibilities you have in this world. Do you even remember who you are without all your responsibilities?  When you create this space and calm in your life, it can feel like a revelation – to remember and experience the feeling of just ‘being’.

Meditation has a very long list of benefits, and everyone’s experience is unique to themselves.  Every ‘sitting’ of meditation is unique as well.  But it always gives you a place to just ‘be’.

If you haven’t tried meditation or have previously tried and it didn’t stick, I encourage you to keep trying, and to get a good instructor who can guide you along the way.  There are so many types of meditation as well.  The trick is to find an instructor who resonates with you, and to find meditation techniques that work for you.  But keep on the search until you find your sweet spot, because it’s so worth it.

Wishing you a peaceful day,

~Wendy

Related posts:

Talk about meditation the right way

Meditating in Sedona vortex

It’s tempting to share the benefits of meditation. If you meditate, you know what I mean.

Excited to tell others about meditation?  It’s easy to turn people off quickly if you don’t do it right.  Much of the population is often misinformed about what meditation is, but the general understanding of it is improving these days.

Here’s a great infographic from Mindful about 7 tips for how to talk about meditation.  Here’s the short version:

  1. Don’t force it on anyone.  Appearing overexcited can be annoying!
  2. It’s not about stopping your thinking or clearing your mind.
  3. It’s not just another thing to fit into your day.
  4. It can be hard, but not too hard.
  5. If you can tell the person is interested, listen and find out why. It’s better than coming across all preachy.
  6. Remind them that it can help the nattering in your mind (the ‘monkey mind’)
  7. Say ‘here’s what I know about it and what it’s done for me’.

And here’s another tip that I think is very important:   Keep your ego in check, which means remembering not speak as if you are better than someone else who doesn’t meditate.

If you’ve spoken to many people about meditation, you know there are lots of opinions and levels of interest about it.   Speaking from a place of authenticity and with humility is the best way to capture people’s interest if they are curious about it.

If they are interested but apprehensive about attending a class, suggest that they may want to start with guided audio meditation recordings.  There are lots of good online sites. A resource is my meditation recordings.

Wishing you a peaceful day,

~Wendy

 

 

 

Top 3 meditator stories – July 2015

I love to share people’s experience with meditation and mindfulness with you. Some of these may seem profound and some will not – but it’s always meaningful when the people come up to me to share what’s going on with them.

Here are the top 3 for this month.

#1. From a woman who was in a car accident 3 years ago and has chronic neck and back pain:

After just 10 minutes of doing my very first meditation ever in Wendy’s class, the pain was gone!  It was a simple breath meditation.  I’m so excited to have this new skill and use it in my life. I can’t wait to do it more!

#2. From a meditation student who tried walking meditation with me for the first time:

I really enjoy seated meditation but it’s often hard to concentrate, so I find I don’t meditate as often as I should.  Doing a walking meditation was great as I found I could concentrate so much easier than in seated meditation, even though we were walking along a very busy street with cars driving by and people watching us. Amazing!

#3. From two of my Learn To Meditate students who did a standing meditation for the first time, where you hold your hands in front of you and your eyes are relaxed with a soft gaze looking at your hands:

We both could see a fuzzy glow around our fingers!  What is that?   Wendy said it is our human energy field.  Fascinating and very exciting! 

There are so many benefits to meditation. There are so many ways to do meditation and incorporate mindfulness into your day.  Be curious, explore and relax into the practice.

~Wendy

Beer or meditation?

beer or meditation

Alternatives to bad habits

I had a great question from one of my blog readers, Keith, from the US.  With Keith’s permission, I wanted to share our dialogue with you because his question represents what a lot of people wonder about – how to better deal with stress, and avoid some potential bad coping mechanisms.

Here is Keith’s question:

“One of the ways I deal with stress is to drink beer.  Not the hard stuff.  Just beer.  Now, I know intellectually this is not the smartest thing to do, and it can be habit forming.  But, it brings immediate results – relaxation. 

What can you tell me about how meditation can help with this and/or reducing stress? Is there a particular method you’d recommend? Any advice is appreciated.”

Here was our dialogue:

Wendy:  Thanks for writing and your question.  This is a big subject, but when you boil it down, it’s pretty simple. Having a meditation practice creates a ‘blanket’ of calm in your life.  It’s like turning down the volume knob so the stresses of life are dialed down, or when something stressful happens, you’ll be able to recognize it sooner and easier, and not stay as stressed for as long.  Everyone is different in terms of exactly what benefits they will get, but overall, it reduces stress, increases resiliency and brings more joy into your life.  However, it is something that needs to be cultivated, meaning you can’t just meditate once every few weeks or months and expect a result.  The good news is that I have many students who tell me that they are too busy to meditate for long periods of time, so they meditate about 5 minutes per day, and they get wonderful results.  Some people meditate about 15 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week.  That’s good too. There are numerous benefits, but the first benefit that most people see is stress reduction. From there, other things like reduced anxiety, depression, increased patience and joy start to happen.

Here is a nice infographic about meditation:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/09/meditation-skeptics_n_5954090.html

Mindfulness is a practice that can be done anytime during the day, and gives a lot of the same benefit as sitting to do meditation. Here is a post I did about the similarities and differences of meditation and mindfulness:  http://thecalmmonkey.com/2014/08/08/is-meditation-different-from-mindfulness/

To answer your question specifically, most meditations are likely to provide you with stress reduction.  When I teach my classes, I teach several types of meditation so people can find what works best for them.  The most basic meditation is probably paying attention to the breath. It teaches you how to become present in your body, to learn to concentrate better, and it is very centering and grounding to pay attention to your body breathing.  May I recommend that you download my meditations and give that a try?  They are simple, 15 minute guided meditations good for beginners or experienced meditators.  Start by trying the free breathing meditation:  http://thecalmmonkey.com/meditation-recordings/

I’d recommend setting a goal for yourself, perhaps ‘Do 10 minutes per day for 2 weeks’, then evaluate how it’s working for you.  Sometimes people try meditation a couple of times, and unguided, and that’s usually not successful.  Being guided is best for a beginner, that’s for sure.

Good for you for being curious and reaching out to ask the question.  And you’re right, drinking beer to relax on a regular basis isn’t the best idea  🙂

Does that help, Keith?  Please let me know.

Keith:   Yes, that does help.  Let me ask another question. So, you would say that acquiring the benefits of meditation takes time, then?  And, I’ve heard something about “alpha” brain waves that one can get to with practice. Is this the “peaceful” brain wave pattern? 

Wendy:  Hi Keith, yes, absolutely the benefits of meditation is acquired over time.  Having a regular practice means cultivating and maintaining the benefits.  Many people who have meditated for awhile agree that a fairly regular practice creates a ‘blanket’ of calm in your life.  Your resiliency builds so things don’t bother you as much, and you can bounce back faster from setbacks. Also it brings more joy to life.  Many of my students report lowered anxiety and depression, and their ability to reduce or stop pharmaceutical meditations for such conditions.

Here is a post I did about brain wave states:

http://thecalmmonkey.com/2014/10/18/meditation-and-brain-wave-states-2/

As your practice improves, you may be able to recognize when you are in the alpha and theta states.  This would take some instruction, however, to help you recognize this. Alpha is the relaxed, inward facing state. Theta is a much deeper state which you may feel just as you wake up in the morning, or just before you fall asleep at night. This is the state where the brain is most ‘plastic’ and can be changed/rewired.

Keith:  I’ve read the link and it is very informative and easy to understand. I have started re-reading a book called How to Meditate by Kathleen MacDonald. I appreciate your responses and I’ll stay in touch. 

Thank you to Keith for reaching out and asking some great questions. I’m sure others will benefit by reading our conversation!

All the best,

~Wendy