Do you practice meditation on any regular basis? The warriors of Japan had come to appreciate the benefits of meditation to their extremely rigorous way of life by the Kamakura Era; this was one of the reasons Zen Buddhism made such huge inroads in Japan at the time. And even if you are not going to be going out on the literal field of battle any time soon, if you’re not meditating on a regular basis, I’d suggest you are missing out.
I’ve been a fairly regular meditator for a long time now, but recently I have upped my practice: to twice a day, for at least 15 minutes each time (and longer whenever possible — I find that at this point it still usually takes me around 20 minutes to get into a really “deep” state). I can say without a doubt that there have been very positive results. Especially, my creativity and problem-solving powers have clearly increased. I’ve begun suddenly seeing solutions to problems that had been bothering me for a long time, and also seeing solutions to problems I hadn’t even realized were problems at all!
This should come as no surprise, really. There has been a lot of research linking meditative practice to improved mental function and productivity, pain management, and better relationships with other people, not to mention happiness in general. (While there hasn’t been any experimental research to prove this, I’ve also posited that meditation should have a positive effect on language learning (see Zen and the Art of Language Learning).
Virtually all of the major religions of the world have included some type of meditation, as well. I do not think this is a coincidence.
So what is meditation, really?
There are many different styles of meditation, but they all share one main feature: an attempt to quiet the noise of our conscious minds. Most commonly, this is done by focusing on a combination of posture and the breath. An erect, relaxed posture allows you to remain motionless but comfortable and awake for longer periods of time, while controlling the breathing has a direct controlling effect on one’s emotions and thoughts (as you have probably noticed: we almost instinctively know to tell someone who is upset to “take a deep breath”, and do so ourselves when getting ready to do something like jump off a diving board). Both affect the nervous system in ways that have predictable effects on the brain and lead to similar, if not exactly identical, states.
And these states produced by meditation are almost universally acknowledged to be beneficial. They can help you be healthier, happier, more productive… and maybe even learn better.
So the question is, are you meditating yet? If so, what is your experience with it?
If not, why not?
Next time I’ll talk a bit about the basics of meditation and how I fit it into my schedule. For now, take a moment to answer the poll below!
Image courtesy of mack2happy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net