(your tango) - Learning how to meditate has its benefits.
I bet you know people who meditate. They’re often hawking the benefits of meditation and encouraging you to start meditating too, right?
Annoying as it is, they’re correct.
There is a wealth of research showing the benefits of meditation. These benefits include: greater happiness, an improved sense of well-being, better emotional control, more compassion for, and better relationships with others, less depression and anxiety, improved focus and even less inflammation in the body.
Though you may understand the benefits of meditation, when you imagine yourself in the perfect meditation space — sitting on a cushion, the temperature is just right, there’s a slight scent of lavender in the air, it’s silent except for the tweet of a bird outside — you know you are never going to find that in this lifetime.
You’re busy, it’s noisy everywhere, and there may be a smell in the air, but it’s more likely to be car exhaust or pet effluvia, than lavender.
However, when it comes to reaping the benefits of meditation, that’s OK — you don't need the perfect meditation space to start practicing.
Now, imagine a less comfortable, more realistic scenario: You're sitting on a slightly uncomfortable chair. You just had a call with a disgruntled client, and you’re a little upset.
You’re breathing is slightly labored from the stress and that knee pain you’ve been having is acting up.
There’s the sound of a weed-whacker outside and the room you're in is a bit too chilly.
Although we would all prefer the perfect meditation space, the imperfect conditions work just as well. In fact, one might argue that the real-world situations in which you often have to practice present you with the same challenges you face IRL. Your imperfect and often absurdly stressful life is the very reasons you have to meditate.
Carving a little time out daily — it can be as little as three minutes (try the three-minute breathing space) — to meditate can help pave the way for an ongoing meditation practice that will lead you toward improved health and well-being.
People want you to meditate because they understand the benefits.
Here are 7 feel-good benefits of meditation that will encourage you to start meditating:
1. You learn to turn down the volume on the world.
The noise of the weed-whacker, a slightly uncomfortable body today, and your phone constantly vibrating, can all become “noise” that distracts you from your meditative focus.
The focus might be your breath, a mantra or the sounds around you.
Each distraction gives you an opportunity to work on shifting your attention back to your intended focus.
One of the benefits of meditation is this very practice of tuning into your intended focus, thus tuning the noise out. It’s a skill you can apply in the rest of your life when you need to.
2. Meditation is a quick and dirty reset for anxiety.
Each time you meditate, you choose to focus your attention on a specific object; you're practicing the ability to refocus your thoughts. Anxiety is triggered by getting stuck on unpleasant or worrying thoughts.
As you practice meditating, you find you can note your unpleasant thoughts, and then move onto neutral or pleasant thoughts, experiences, or return your focus to the breath.
Similarly, in your daily experience, you can turn your thoughts away from something that is anxiety-provoking, the way you do in your meditation practice.
You can turn your thoughts away from the weed-wacker, toward your breath, and you can turn your thoughts away from worry, toward your breath.
Once you learn to do this, when you find yourself becoming tense, you can take a minute to sit, refocus and relax.
3. Meditation teaches you to be more present in the moment.
People who spend more time in the “now” tend to be happier than those who spend a lot of time in the past or the future. It makes sense, since the past is often about regrets, while the future is often about worry or anxious anticipation. The present just is.
You’re reading this right now so you’re present. When you focus on your breath, you’re present, because your breath is always in the present.
Shifting the balance of your time to the present moment is likely to help you experience the world as it really is, instead of the haphazard way in which we often construct it based on our expectations and beliefs.
4. Taking time out for yourself creates self-acceptance.
Every time you sit to meditate you are deciding that you are important enough to warrant this time out from the other responsibilities of your life.
Putting yourself first each day reminds you that you are worthy. Those few moments when you sit quietly by yourself, with no judgments, with simple joy in being present, is one of the reasons to meditate.
Another benefit is that being accepting of yourself will help you be more accepting of others.
5. The self-compassion you cultivate creates compassion for others.
Meditation is a compassionate process. Each time your mind wanders you gently and kindly remind yourself to come back to your focus. With practice, this patient attention can extend into your day and to others.
Practicing a loving-kindness meditation also cultivates these qualities. This simple practice cultivates loving-kindness toward yourself, others you love, neutral others, and others you find difficult.
It helps you let go of anger, another benefit of meditation.
6. Practicing meditation brings more mindfulness to life.
Noticing your breath, the sounds around you, and what's going on in your body and your mind, helps you bring this awareness to the rest of your life. You become more aware of yourself and others and more open to experiences.
Meditation can help you connect with others. You can notice things about people you might otherwise miss. You can notice things about yourself you might otherwise miss.
7. You'll gain better control of your emotions.
Equanimity, or the ability to view events calmly without undue emotion, increases with a meditation practice. You are cultivating equanimity and composure in the face of adversity, each time you sit with yourself in a non-judgmental way.
As you accept who you are today, how you feel today and how your body is today, it may not always feel wonderful, but it’s the real deal.
It’s easy to say, “It is what it is,” but it’s better to learn to really accept that truth. Over time, meditation helps you accept adversity in your life.
You don't have to sit for an hour to meditate.
Even a few minutes of meditation is valuable. You don't need any fancy equipment, just a chair or a cushion or two from your couch.
You don't even need a teacher with all the apps and online instruction available.
There’s no right or wrong to it, so you can leave your inner critic behind, and just sit in silence.
There’s no one to please, no one to do something for and nothing else you have to do, for just those few moments. Surely you can allow yourself this gift of health and wellness.
If you must, you can think of it as doing your significant others, your co-workers and the rest of the world a favor.
Everyone wants a less anxious, more focused, calm, caring person around. That’s why everyone is telling you to meditate.