Mindfulness meditation is a practice that goes back thousands of years, and has been taught through many philosophical and religious traditions, especially those of the Far East.
For many years I dabbled in and out of meditation, never committing to a regular practice, because it’s difficult to do like anything when starting out.
It’s also a foreign concept to many of us that “we are not our thoughts”, and further that our thoughts are not necessarily our reality or “real”.
Mindfulness mediation is simply the practice of letting go of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judging them as positive or negative.
It’s a practicing that somehow seems to access purer states of being, stillness and peaceful in my experience.
I still remember my first time trying meditation on college on a camping trip, when a friend said “hey, let’s sit down and meditate for a while.”
It was foreign to me, and as I tried to “let go of my thoughts” it struggled, got bored and thought it all was really weird.
Fast forward to many years later with many more “failed” attempts that I began to entertain the notion that there was something to meditation, and I began to bring it into my life more and more.
These days, I feel I get the most benefit out of simple mindfulness/awareness meditation, so I can “undo” from my mind, and get some distance from my thoughts, as it were.
Said another way, it’s the undoing from our thinking/analyzing mind (aka getting caught in our heads) and shifting into our “mindful mind” which includes our mind, body, emotions; and integration seems to occur, by training this deeper space of mind.
Research Supporting Mindfulness Meditation
Up until now, much of the so-called data has been the recounting of people’s experiences meditating as the only proof; with benefits like greater relaxation, well-being, mind clarity, and a sense of stillness and inner peace.
However, now there’s plenty of scientific data via brain monitoring/imaging technology showing the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
Even modern cognitive psychotherapies like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy use meditative exercises as a foundation for training people to dislodge from their thoughts and feelings causing unwanted psychological disturbances in their lives.
Scientists like Sara Lazar of the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program have been studying this using MRI of a control group of non-meditators and a group of meditators using techniques from an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.
All of those that participated in the mindfulness meditation group reported significant improvements compared to their responses before the 8-week group began.
Additionally, MR images were taken of each participants brain showing increases in density of the hippocampus (increased memory and learning), reduction in the amygdala’s mass (fight or flight, fear response) and other brain structures related to self-awareness and compassion changes that were seen in meditators.
The control group of non-meditators showed none of these changes at all; a fairly clear indicator that there were significant improvements with the meditators in comparison to the non-meditators. But anyone who regularly practices meditation will already know this via their experience of practice.
The Numerous Positive Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
- Greater sense of peacefulness and well-being
- Increase mental focus & concentration
- Decreased stress, tension, anxiety, depression
- Increased productivity with less stress and anxiety
- Negative thought reduction
- Less irritability
- Reduction in the “fight or flight” response
- Increased emotional self-control
- Life difficulties and confrontations become easier to manage with greater relaxation
- Reduction in stress and overwhelm
- Increase in self-compassion and acceptance, acceptance of others and difficult life situations
- Greater creativity
- Muscle fatigue and tension are reduced by increasing the circulation of oxygen to the muscles (proper breathing is also fundamental to good meditation practice)
- Proven to lower high blood cholesterol due to its stress-reducing benefits
- Strengthening of the immune system
- Increased relaxation response to help reduce chronic pain, insomnia and headaches.
My Experience of The Positive Effects of Meditation
When I practice mindfulness meditation regularly, I consistently experience higher levels of well-being, clarity of mind and relaxation in my body.
It’s hardest to do a meditation on days when I’m struggling with something in life, and that’s often when it’s most needed, allowing me to step away and practice “just being”.
It recenters me, gets me grounded to where any thoughts that I’m fusing with or are getting in the way, float by and allow me to do what I want to get done, with far less procrastination and resistance.
When practicing, I’ve found out that the key is to truly do the best that you can in catching thoughts, feelings and body sensations, and noticing them without judgment, without furthering any type of story about these thoughts, the world, or yourself and letting them go.
Let them rise again, and let them go. Any beating up on yourself for “not meditating right” is just a mind trap.
You can’t meditate wrong, you just need to do it and then you’re doing it right.
Not attempting to get to a certain state or control my thoughts when doing meditation became much easier, mind cleansing and stress and anxiety seem to dissipate far more than if I didn’t meditate.
If you’d like to learn a simple mindfulness meditation process – click here.