How Does Meditation Work?
“How does meditation work?” is a question I hear frequently asked by people who are not familiar with meditation’s many amazing benefits. Happily, sitdown and mindfulness meditation have been shown to greatly help humans with many of their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges.
The research offers clues to the answer to this question as my book on the subject details (The Amazing Benefits of Meditation). This blog examines the issue of stress as a microcosm for a wide range of human challenges and, in the process, answers the question of how does meditation work.
11 Mindfulness Techniques
Are you feeling stressed out? Let’s face it these are stressful times. Here are 11 ways you can relax (see this additional material on the subject of stress). Here are 11 mindfulness meditation techniques that can help:
1. Ask the question, “How am I feeling?”
2. Make some bread or work in the garden.
3. Become more Aware
4. Meditate and develop peace of mind
5. Use the Law of Attraction/Vibration to unfold your life.
6. See the true essence of the people around you
7. Offer thanks to everything around you, all the time
8. Bless all things (and circumstances, and people, and moments)
9. Choose well what happens to you
10. Turn everything over to Spirit
11. “Release the Endorphins”
This is a crazy time. A world pandemic. Millions out of work. A difficult president (in the USA). Increasing climate change problems. And our personal stress caused by money, job, relationships, traffic, not having enough toilet paper. Let me offer a handful of ways to help you lessen stress and feel better as a result–Stress Relief 101.
Strategies and Techniques to “De-Stress”
Stress is a feeling of strain and pressure. Its a type of type of psychological pain. Here are some techniques to the answer to lessen the pain. Let’s consider them. These will make the next moment, and your life in general, “better”:
1. Ask the question, “How am I feeling?”
Not an easy question, to be sure. Often the answer is not clear. Partially because this moment can be a bit complicated and have multiple feelings at work. Sometimes contradictory. “Right now my kids are causing me stress through the roof. But I love my kids. I wish I could lessen the stress and just have fun with them. “
The overriding feeling is strain and pressure. If we can pause and be strategic about the situation we might come up with a way to correct the situation and and relieve the stress. Like taking them to the park on a sunny day. We might even ask the question, “How would I like to feel?” And come up with some way to get to that spot in our consciousness.
2. Make some bread or work in the garden
There’s nothing more grounding than the primal act of making bread or working in the garden to improve our state of mind and state of being. It’s important that we do this with as much awareness and good feeling as we can muster, so as to not bake distractedness, anger, or fear into the bread. And stay in the moment with the activity we have undertaken, minimizing the mind chatter by losing ourselves in our work/play. Let the next moment arise out of nowhere. This where mindfulness techniques can help (see next point).
3. Become more Aware; use mindfulness techniques
Much of the time in our day is focused on what seems to be going on in our environment and, much more frequently, the thoughts and feelings that are going on inside our heads. It is estimated that each of us has 60,000 thoughts dancing through our minds every day. It’s no wonder we are distracted and stressed out.
Pause for a moment and take a deep breath. Say to yourself, “Peace, be still”. Take another breath and feel the effect of doing this. You have just done a mindfulness meditation exercise.
When I do this it puts me right in touch with my Soul, or Higher Consciousness, which many of us are not very well acquainted. Yet, I contend, this is where well-being and the spiritual qualities of love, joy, peace, contentment, compassion, healing, abundance (and more) reside—Within.
In traffic, you can say “peace, be still” rather than “I hate you, faceless other driver” or “I hate being stuck in traffic” or “I hate my circumstances that puts me in this situation” or “Damn, I’m going to be late” or….. whatever you say that sets up an angry, upset state of mind reaction to your circumstances.
My book Six Second Mindfulness Meditations: Exercises to Transform any Moment offers many of these mindfulness exercises for us in a variety of circumstances, along with a full explanation of what Mindfulness is and why it works. Click here to get a copy.
4. Meditate and develop peace of mind
There is nothing more valuable in life than developing peace of mind. Not that it’s easy to do, given the crazy world we live in. And the best way to develop peace of mind and to reduce stress is to meditate.
Meditation, or silent prayer, can be done as simply as sitting down for a few minutes, taking some deep breaths, observing the comings and goings of thoughts for a moment or so, and then imagine yourself being at your most favorite place in the whole world for a bit. Your heart rate will slow down, as will your breathing and your thoughts. You might even feel a moment of joy and peace.
For those of you who might be interested I have developed a meditation technique that I describe in my book The Meditation Book which is intended to put you in touch with your Higher Self, the Soul part of you, and really get some peace of mind as well as a heightened sense of Awareness going. It’s a simple yet powerful process for beginners and experts that only takes about 5 minutes, but will get you in the right mood to take on your day.
5. Use the Law of Attraction/Vibration to unfold your life.
I have found that in my life I have to “trust my process”. I never know how things are going to turn out, what I will encounter, what obstacles or opportunities will present themselves, what problems will need to be solved. Trusting my process means trusting that all will be well and that I will be up to any challenge that comes along.
The Law of Vibration is operational here. “The higher your personal vibration the better your outcomes—people, places, things, circumstances” is how I see it. Better input, better output applies metaphysically. In addition, ability and willingness to adapt to change, stay centered and use Higher Consciousness tools (meditation, Sacred Breathing, mindfulness techniques, and so forth) will result in better outcomes.
This takes a certain amount of trust and courage. But, when partnering with Spirit in everyday life, no matter what the situation, trust, and courage come more easily. The more I turn to my Higher Consciousness, I have found, the better my interaction with three-dimensional reality, and the better the results.
The Law of Vibration works better with better outcomes if you focus on higher vibrational outcomes. Enlisting your Higher Self to participate in your process will do just that. Our Higher Selves know what we need, are ever with us and available, and respond best when we bring to our aspirations a sense of Receptivity rather than asking.
Presence rather than preference as Buddhists like to say. In other words, work on your state of mind, your Awareness, which will serve you eternally, rather than focusing so much on your desires, which change day today. And let the Universe provide that which is best “for all concerned”, including you.
6. See the true essence of the people around you
This is a big one for me. My human mind has a strong proclivity to be judge, jury, and executioner. Not so very long ago I slowed down long enough to recognize how pervasive is my need, desire, compulsion to judge everyone I meet. I still catch my body/mind/personality making up stories about everyone and everything I see.
Instead, learn to see the true essence in others. Here’s the technique: Take a deep breath. Squint a little and soften your eyes. Look to see if you can see the Spirit of the person in front of you. Even for just a flash. I call this Sacred Seeing.
One of the best places to practice this technique is at the grocery store. Lots of people there and none of them know or are paying attention to you. When I am successful, I see them from a loving perspective, am in a gentle state, acknowledge them with a smile, and the whole store seems to light up. Try this with your friends, significant other and kids. It makes a huge difference, if only in how you see them.
7. Offer thanks to everything around you, all the time.
Over the years I’ve come to recognize the benefit of the act of offering thanks and gratitude. For everything around me. All the time. The many things surround us every day. Things we have placed in your vicinity and things that show up in our vicinity. Atoms cells and electrons arranged in such a way as to serve some need that we have and serves that need well.
Today, for example, when I opened my Toshiba laptop it went through a 20-minute routine of informing me that there was trouble when I last closed it down, and did a preliminary diagnostic and fix, then an update, a disc repair, and finally a reboot. Back to good as before the problem. “Good computer” I said, like I say “good girl” to my dog Sasha. And I meant it. My computer is a workhorse and a friend. It helped me write this piece.
Or my car, whose steering wheel I pat periodically and say, “Good car”! This is the older BMW that began to fall apart in sorrow when I took it off the road for a while since we didn’t need two cars. The mechanic said that this car doesn’t do well when not driven. And it even has a “smart car” system that adapts itself to my driving habits. (Which I found out when they had to reboot the system because of prolonged disuse.) I felt like I had jilted my formerly well-used transportation mode when I was working full time.
All of my surroundings have, in a way showed up for my benefit, and stand ready to serve me. They are part of the world reality that I occupy. Today I threw away a razor and thanked it for its usefulness to me in my shaving endears. Make it a point to praise all things useful.
If you do, more stuff will want to be with you. This is also true of more/better circumstance and more/better people wanting to hang out with you. To be liked by you. I know that sounds strange, but it isn’t from a spiritual perspective. From that perspective “stuff” is a metaphor, an idea that somebody had, thought through, and many had a hand in shaping that thing for my use. It could be a lamp or a bowl or a telephone or a plant.
I have a great mobile that hangs above me in our living room. Some creative, artistic person dreamed up, had a picture in her head of what a bit of copper could turn into. Sketched it out. Took the sketch and developed a 3d drawing. Gathered some materials and formed them into something striking. And offered it up for manufacture, and marketing, and purchase, and shipping, and receiving, and getting hung up in my house. For my pleasure, which it does give me.
As I open my heart more and more by experiencing my heart center getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger and more and more loving, I see that my thanking the people, the happenings, the furnishings are for my benefit. It’s way to be more loving, and heartfelt, and compassionate. And a way to raise my Awareness. To experience Higher Consciousness more frequently and deeply.
All of these things help put me in a state where “All is well with My Universe”. The Universe I occupy, I coalesce, I create around me to support my personal existence on Planet Earth. the Universe’s natural inclination is to “be well”.
8. Bless all things (and circumstances, and people, and moments, and, and……….)
Not only thanking but blessing all things. Wishing them well, holding them in high regard, allowing your Higher Consciousness to flow out, and surround, and caress.
Not too long ago, soon after my 3rd grandchild was born, I was holding him, looking at him, and began blessing him. “Welcome to Planet Earth. And to a renewed relationship with your parents. And to Lynne and me, your grandparents. I sense that I have known you before. Your Grandma and I will be acting, no matter what your named godparents will be doing, as your godparents, also. We will have your well-being and spiritual development as our highest priority for you. For as long as we are around. I also sense your Eternal Beingness inside this little, awkward body you are occupying and will constantly shift my perception to see this about you. Blessed be.”
A few days later, our wacky neighbor acted really weirdly in an interaction I had with her. Unfortunately for her, she’s emotionally challenged, so strange interactions are not unusual. All I could say to myself, and to her, was “Bless you, my dear” and shift my attention to her Eternal Beingness.
Now, I didn’t mean that in the Southern way that I grew up with when people made allowances for those difficult to deal with by remarking, “Bless her little heart” in order not to say something “ugly” (also Southern phraseology). But as a way of internally offering my higher vibration to the moment and letting it go.
Blessing another in a special moment or in a difficult moment essentially has the same effect–an offering of Higher Consciousness to the other and raising the level of my own awareness.
Doing a project or cooking a meal or driving the car are also opportunities to bless what is or has just been going on. Infusing the salmon that I just cooked to near perfection with a blessing for it and the folks who are about to consume my offering of sustenance, adds an elevated quality to my food preparation.
Blessing your physical form for its coalescence to house your consciousness, from time to time, and acknowledging the intricacy of its inner workings will go a long way toward encouraging your body to be well. Such acknowledgment is like the rider’s praise for the horse. The horse wants to please, to continue to please, and to enjoy the ride as much as the rider himself/herself.
The body wants to be well. This is its natural state. It has many self-correcting systems and processes to be well, stay well, and correct itself in a time of illness. Its natural inclination is to repair a cut inflicted upon it. To fight a dis-ease that passes through it. To mend a bone that is broken. Blessing it at these times of distress and at times of wellness will set the stage for this highly complex vehicle to run properly for many a year.
9. Choose well
We all experience that “stuff happens” in life. Sometimes unfortunate, awkward experiences seem to just come out of the blue, from who knows where. I am one of the first to argue that each of us creates our own reality, and that very little just comes “out of the blue” without being attracted on some level by us.
You’ve heard it said that it’s not what happens, though, that we can control–it’s our reaction to what happens that we can control. We do have control over whether to curse or bless the person who has just cut us off in traffic. Whether we react one way or the other that reaction is a decision made and a reaction undertaken.
Then we react–to people, circumstances, and stimuli hundreds, perhaps thousands of times a day. The knitting together of these decisions is the pattern of our lives. The quality of the arc of our lives. Fundamentally, we constantly make a choice between a higher level, or octave, or a lower level one. Between a Higher Consciousness or human consciousness.
The answer is right there. In the synergy between the action and in the reaction, there is room to react from ego/mind or to react from Spirit Mind. To react with from fear or from love. To devolve or evolve.
And one decision is built on the last one and adds to the next one. Before long momentum is built and a pattern emerges—growing incrementally, decision by decision. A good decision moves us forward. A bad decision moves us back. Decisions that are from our Higher Consciousness lead to the next and the next and the next.
What’s a good decision? What’s a bad one? What’s neutral? How to make the better decision? The beauty of this understanding is the realization that a life is knit together by good and bad decisions. The better we become at making good decisions, the better our lives become. Day by day we advance or retreat. Moment by moment the future is being built. And most decisions can be reversed or redone if they are not in the “good” category. A decision made out of fear, for example, can be recognized and remade or repaired.
If we don’t like the direction our lives are taking about most anything, we can simply take them into our Holy of Holies, examine them with the clarity of Divine Judgment, and use our Higher Consciousness to execute a makeover, favoring growth and evolution over false gains and empty outcomes. (See Book 2 The Meditation Book for details about the use of your Holy of Holies for doing healing work) . Change the filter, change the throughput. Change the throughput, change the outcome. Change the outcome, change the World.
10. Turn Everything over to Spirit
One way to make better decisions, to have better results in your life, to begin to relax your grip a bit on trying to control everything, is to turn the outcomes over to Spirit. To ask Spirit, God, the Universe, or whatever you consider to be the Source of All to take these things and unfold the outcomes in a way that is “in the best interest of everyone and everything involved”. This may sound a bit wonky and passive, but it is not.
Our Universe is a growing, expanding, evolving place. It grows and expands and evolves in the most efficient and effective way possible by “ the lowering of entropy” or chaos, according to physicist Tom Campbell’s terminology. Entropy happens when the Universe, and our lives by implication, becomes more conscious. This leads to increasingly expanded states, on micro and macro levels. Therefore, inviting Spirit to take the best decision you can come up with and have it turn out for the best sets up a vibration that encourages the best outcome.
Furthermore, if you turn to your Soul or Higher Consciousness, your individualized Spirit, for the guidance you are bringing this concept down to your particular slice of the Universe. Give it a try. Can’t hurt. And you can always change your mind if you get a nudge from your Soul that a change is needed.
11. “Release the Endorphins”
Deepak Chopra, physician and mystic, who wrote that when we are having a good day and feeling happy, our body is producing happy chemicals that protect us against cancer. When we are happy, we release dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins associated with joy, the same chemicals that are associated with healing of all types, including stimulation of the immune system.
On the other hand, if we are feeling angry or stressed out our body will receive those toxic signals and release adrenaline throughout your body. Anger and stress, more than anything else, cause inflammatory disorders like heart disease.
In response to being exposed to this teaching I decided to explore this healing modality. I considered that it might be possible to consciously “release the endorphins”, shorthand for endorphins and other healing body chemicals. I took this idea into my meditation sessions for a week or so.
One morning, the thought came flowing in, “If I can just find that ‘spot’ in my consciousness where there is endorphin release”, that might do the trick. Sure enough, it did. Now I can just say to myself, if I wake up with body aches, “Release the endorphins, release the happy, healing chemicals” and I can feel the beneficial chemicals enlivening my body.
Bonus: “Illuminate, Elevate”
One of my favorite mindfulness phrases is “Illuminate, Elevate”. This is a phrase I use over and over to remind myself to shift my awareness into Higher Consciousness. I say “Illuminate” to remember to go Within where my Soul resides and is constantly luminous, and then say “Elevate” to raise my awareness into a higher rate of vibration and stress disappears. Never fails to lift my spirit and brighten the moment.
Great Bunch of Tools
These are great tools because they can help you create the atmosphere around that sings with the exquisiteness of your raised vibration. In addition, the movement of Spirit in and through these moments will have impact in Eternity that is hard to understand fully. Tools, the use of which will take you to the place where you will have that blessed experience of “all is well in my Universe”. Quite the opposite of stress.
We all want our lives to be better; it’s a natural human desire. Seldom are things perfectly calm and peaceful. There are a handful of tactics we can choose to make them better, all of which work to help us de-stress. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are two of the best, closely followed by giving thanks (appreciation) and blessing circumstances and people.
If you were to choose one method, from the list above, to make a difficult circumstance in your life better, which one would it be? Why?
For a more in-depth exploration of these techniques get a free e-copy of Book 1, The Amazing Benefits of Meditation, by clicking here. And we’ll give you a free annotated list of great mindfulness exercises in exchange for a Share (here).