Why does meditation work? Alison G. Walton of Forbes magazine dedicated an interesting article that help’s explain this question. Many of her findings are similar to what I have found to be true in my own experience with meditation as well as with others I have spoken with.
Meditation is, in essence, a timeless science. While we appear to be doing little physical work, we are actually doing a lot of work. It isn’t an easy task to turn off the mind, it takes work! It requires constant checking in with our selves, and drawing our awareness back to the present moment. We are using the mind to release the mind. When we release the mind of burdens we are able to create balance within our bodies. So, through releasing the mind, we also release the body. The body can live and thrive more efficiently when the mind isn’t sending out stress hormones.
A Harvard study has shown there is a strong correlation between a wandering mind, and unhappiness. I’ve already written a blog post about The Wandering Mind which is more of a how-to prevent your mind from running amok. The Harvard study found that those whose mind wandered the most were the most unhappy. Take this as you will.
When we gain control over the minds thoughts, we stop this wandering process. Less wandering = an increase in happiness.
It makes sense too. When our minds wander, the thoughts it has turned to are usually unskillful and stressful. Whether you are thinking about unpaid bills, work, people who have aggravated you, or tomorrows hectic schedule these are all thoughts that aren’t bringing happiness into your life. Even missing a loved one brings a level of anxiousness and unease.
This is why it is so important to quiet the mind altogether. We do this through meditation. Yoga further helps us to sit quietly and comfortably in meditation. In fact, one of the main reasons asana practice (doing yoga postures) was created was so that our body could comfortably sit in meditation without feeling stiff.
Walton’s article further goes on to explain why meditation can be used as a daily medication. It also helps to explain why other habits like smoking cigarettes, and emotional eating don’t actually solve our stress, but again, meditation can. I plan to discuss these other habits in a later post since there is much to say about it. Stay tuned!
Jack Kornfield is one of my favorite Buddhist teachers of the West. Meditation is not exclusive to Buddhism, nor is it a religious practice of any kind. At it’s most basic level, it is a natural alternative to calming the mind, and usually there is some aspect of focusing on the breath. Think breathing exercises. Below I will include a meditation by Jack which I find simple, short and peaceful. Enjoy!