Benefits of Meditation
Chapter 3. Lessening Stress, Increasing a Sense of Well-Being from The Amazing Benefits of Meditation, Book 1
Let’s first address one of the major benefits of meditation–lessening stress. Stress, that feeling of agitation familiar to all of us in response to the pressures of daily, modern life is awful, pure and simple. I look at my 30 something son these days and think, “It’s no wonder he gets stressed out”. He’s got a high pressure, management level position which requires a 45-minute commute in each direction. He has two very active and inquisitive sons.
His wife is fabulous, works part time, and is at the center of his world. He plays in and co-manages a band that is beginning to make a name for itself in the Oakland/San Francisco music scene. He’s in the middle of a remodeling project on his 1930s bungalow. The family has lots of friends who they enjoy spending time with immensely. He’s an accomplished surfer. And then there’s us, his parents, who live 25 miles away and are an important part of his life as well.
Sound familiar? Except for the details, some of which are related to his age and his personal interests, this list could be yours and that of most of the people you know. He manages all of these activities amazingly well but having so many balls in the air takes its toll. A toll many of us can relate to.
The Impact of Stress
Stress penetrates all aspects of our existence: physical, mental, and emotional. For example, according to says Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,” Raison is quoted as having said at WebMD.“ We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers:
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
- New (or new strains of) infectious diseases (vulnerable to weak immune systems)
- Intentional self-harm (suicide)”
According to author Hanna Braime, “Stress and anxiety wreak havoc with our immune system, leaving us susceptible to all kinds of nasties—particularly during the winter. Developing a regular meditation practice reduces the amount of stress-related chemicals in our body, and also leaves us less likely to turn to unhealthy coping strategies to deal with the stress.”
Dr. Raison led a study that indicated that meditation improves both physical and emotional responses to stress. In the study, people who meditated regularly for six weeks showed less activation of their immune systems and less emotional distress when they were put in a stressful situation. Physiologically, it appears that one of the reasons for the improvement in these areas is that meditation “…reduces cortisol (the body’s natural stress hormone) levels in the body” and, as a result, leads to lower levels of stress and higher levels of a sense of well-being.
We only have to examine the substantial increase in the use of anti-anxiety medication in recent years for proof of the impact of stress on the U.S. population and the use of potentially harmful drugs to cope with this “epidemic” caused by modern lifestyles. On the other hand, Stanford University researcher Emma Seppälä, notes that, “Meditation allows people to take charge of their own nervous system and emotions….Studies have shown improved ability to [permanently] regulate emotions in the brain.”
Here are a few more studies about the stress benefits of meditation:
- Decreases stress (study 1)and (study 2) and Psychology Today’s issue on Stress.
- Effects genes that control stress and immunity, Bloomberg, NCBI, American Psychosomatic Medicine Journal, Journal of International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology
- Strengthens the immune system which is weakened by stress, leaving us less susceptible to all kinds of illness, particularly during the winter (study 3) and (study 4)
The beauty of meditation is that it can decrease the severity and the frequency of stress, and the resulting feeling of internal discord that accompanies stressful situations, large and small. Why is this? Here are some of my non-scientific thoughts:
- For some period of time, however brief a time of meditation we might undertake, the ego/body/mind disconnects from the three-dimensional reality that is our human lives.
- This pause allows us to return to our natural state of peace and well-being before returning to the stress inducing world each of us lives in.
- A mere 6 minutes, twice a day, as outlined in my new book, is a sufficiently long meditation to successfully disconnect and to cultivate the experience of peace and well-being. The Higher Consciousness Meditation process is a fabulous way to begin your day in the right frame of mind before the anxiety of getting out of the door and off to work or before traffic madness takes over.
- In addition, the 6 second, brief mindfulness exercises can be used to reinforce the respite that comes with a morning meditation. For example, just taking a Sacred Breath, breathing in and allowing Spirit to flow into your consciousness, pausing, then letting Spirit radiate out to your world on the outbreath, can instantly put you into a moment of peace that can calm you for an hour.
- When Spirit, Eternal Life Force, Buddha Mind, Christ Consciousness, or whatever you want to call it, enters into the moment it cancels out stress and its causes for just that moment. It’s like a very short vacation that refreshes. Our vibration and our sense of well-being increases.
- While pausing for a moment or a few moments, our higher-level vibratory experiences are activated: a sense of calm, clarity, confidence, and lightness. The strangle hold of stress is loosened. After doing this for a few days or weeks, a more frequent sense of peace in the midst of chaos begins to seem possible. When it is experienced, the spell is broken.
- Higher Consciousness Meditation is a great coping mechanism, pure and simple. It is a way to greatly help combat the incidence of stress and its effects.
I love it that science is studying and documenting the benefits of mediation. We all owe Jon Kabat-Zinn and his fellow scientists at the University of Massachusetts, a vote of thanks for the work they have done to show, through the scientific method, the proof of concept beyond the anecdotal evidence that has come down to us for centuries. Every few months, it seems, they push out the boundaries of the field into new discoveries and validations. While the steps seem slow and incremental, at times, they are laying the foundation for what I think is a transformation in the way we as humans experience our lives. A transformation that is evolutionary and will allow us to grow into our new selves as people and as a species.
This latter point was brought home in a report that was highlighted on an episode of the CBS Evening News. CBS News confirmed what we have all heard. Religious services continue to be attended less and less by the U.S. population. More and more people are saying “I’m Spiritual, not religious”.
The most interesting thing that was said in this piece is that 5 years ago about 53% of adults in this country said that they experienced peace and well-being at least once per month and that today the figure is 60%. I was amazed. I would have thought the percentage to be closer to 20 than 60. Lots of folks are having at least a glimpse into what I like to call Five- Dimensional Reality, that Place that we all know, where peace and well-being reside. Where the experience of peace and well-being is a common occurrence.
This indicates to me that we are in fact evolving as a species, and perhaps faster than any of us are aware, into a new species increasingly comfortable with higher vibrational experiences: love, peace, joy, happiness and the like.
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