9 Benefits of Meditation for Inner Peace: Keys to Living in Fulfillment
I started meditating with a guided audio on a cassette tape my friend sent me. When I was 19 I would listen to it before my acting or dance auditions and noticed a big difference in my performance. I skipped it once and could not get it right no matter what I tried.
That is when I decided to start meditating regularly. Four years later I received a book, First Thunder by MSI from my cousin that changed my life entirely. I started meditating 20 minutes in the morning, and at night.
My productivity at work increased, which affected my income dramatically. I was in sales at the time, on straight commission, so if I didn’t close sales I didn’t get paid. I began meditating on my lunch break and noticed my sales doubling then tripling.
The only thing I did differently was meditating in the middle of my work day. It was unbelievable to see such a drastic increase but I continued the practice.
I loved it so much, I increased it until I was meditating 6 hours a day. I noticed my life going increasingly better in every area. I felt more calm, clear-headed, and kind.
It was turning into one miracle after another. Feeling lucky became normal. I was regularly at the right place at the right time and began to expect this as the new normal. It was impossible to deny the synchronicities surrounding me.
“In workshops that I have conducted, 89 percent of those who practiced mindfulness on a daily basis found themselves not only thinking more clearly but working more productively.” – Lolly Daskal
The results I was seeing in my life caused me to want to meditate even more. I found out that the author of the book started a center for training teachers of the type of meditation. I applied immediately.
It felt like every cell in my body ignited with an inner fire and my heart sang. It was evident this was my next step.There was no doubt in my mind that I would be a teacher of meditation.
I found out the tuition amount and started planning a savings strategy. When I received a call from the center, they informed me of an assistance program. They had a certain number of assistants that helped run the establishment while the training was in process.
It was a two year volunteer program. I would not get paid but my room and board would be covered. At the end of the two years, my training would be paid for. They had a few openings available.
They needed kitchen and office staff. I had experience with both so I decided to apply. After a month, I was accepted. My whole life was about to change. I ended up being with the organization for 8 years and teaching for 5.
I was amazed in every workshop at the predictability of the change in the participants. The first night everyone would gather in the room, full of stress. It was tangible as it filled the room as usual.
By the last day of the workshop there was a subtle glow in their complexions, smiles, warmth, and radiance. They appeared younger, more beautiful, and happier. Their speech took on an eloquence where awkward heady rambling had been 2 nights before. It continued to amaze me even though there was an obvious pattern.
I could no longer have any doubt about the results of deep meditation. It was obvious and consistent. When I talked to skeptical individuals, I felt extreme compassion for them. I wished for everyone to get the magnificent shift I’d experienced in myself and many others.
Don’t Have Time For Meditation?
Most of us are extremely busy. We have a constantly growing list that carries over to the next work day. We could not conceive of adding one more task to our already overwhelming day.
What if that task could decrease our feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and exhaustion? What if by taking 20 minutes a day, we could improve our productivity and efficiency? Would that be worth taking the time out of our busy day?
Multiple Studies show that meditating can improve productivity at work. Approximately one-fourth of all major American employers now deliver some version of mindfulness practice for stress reduction, according to journalist David Gelles.
Why Do It?
9 Benefits of Meditation
1. Helps With Depression, Anxiety, & PTSD
Some of the newest research on meditation shows that mindfulness-based treatments can effectively treat depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress order.
Studies at John Hopkins Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center concluded that Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress.
After suffering for many years with all three of these, I was able to see dramatic results with just a 20-minute practice each day.
It is easy to underestimate the simple practice at first but when you truly commit to it, you will notice a change for the better in all of your life.
“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” says Dr. Hoge
2. Increases Grey Matter
A group of Harvard neuroscientists ran an experiment on 16 people who were submitted to an eight-week mindfulness course. They were given guided meditations and integrated mindfulness into everyday activities.
According to Sara Lazar, PhD., MRI scans show that the grey matter concentration increases in areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulating emotions, sense of self, and having perspective.
In a study with Tibetan Buddhist monks, conducted by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of theUniversity of Wisconsin, it was found that novice meditators “showed a slight increase in gamma activity, but most monks showed extremely large increases of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature”.
In addition, other studies have shown long-term meditators to have larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of grey matter.
[bctt tweet=”By doing nothing, everything begins to happen.-Travis Eliot”]
3. Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
Is it really possible to lose weight by literally doing nothing? Recent studies show how a practice of 30 minutes of meditation and mindfulness while eating can stop binge eating and reduce the “fat hormone” Cortisol.
After years of conducting meditation seminars, I saw this on a regular basis. I would watch in amazement as people let go of stress and allowed their bodies to get into alignment. They would lose weight over a weekend!
I especially saw miraculous weight loss in some of the meditators after our 17-day intensives. They would blossom in radiance and inner beauty. Their bodies just seemed to follow their minds.
4. Helps With Addiction
Three clinical studies conducted by Alberto Chiesa, M.D., using Vipassana meditation in incarcerated populations suggested that it could reduce alcohol and substance abuse.
I got to see this personally when a dear friend of mine quit a 10 year drinking habit immediately after experiencing her first meditation workshop. She just lost the desire for it and it never returned.
For her, drinking was filling a deep longing inside, an emptiness. Once she started meditating this emptiness was filled and the need for her addiction dissappeared.
It might not work this way for everyone. However I have witnessed many others putting down old habits after years of addictive behavior.
5. Reverse Aging
Is it possible to reverse the clock on aging? Recent research says the answer is yes. Even 5 minutes of meditation can lower stress and bring inner peace. How does this affect our biological clock? Elizabeth A. Hoge, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says meditation may keep you young because it decreases the body’s production of stress hormones, which have negative effects, such as tissue damage. In particular, loving-kindness meditation may be valuable because it guides practitioners to think of other people—a social focus that may increase oxytocin in the brain.
6. Blood Pressure
I have personally had friends that have been able to lower or discontinue their blood pressure medicine after consistent meditation practice. This was with a Doctor’s approval after months of testing and slowly lowering the dose they were previously taking.
There are numerous studies finding meditation to help in significantly lowering blood pressure.
*I would not advise stopping any medication without the approval of your Doctor.
7. Improved Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association, Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030.
Transcendental Meditation. Over a period of 5 years researchers accompanying the participants found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
They found that meditation, “significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors.”
8. Increases the Bottom Line
Increased Productivity is at the core of the ever growing number of Mindful Programs in Corporations.
Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna introduced a 12-week meditation and yoga program to thousands of its employees in 2010.
Aetna estimates that since instituting its mindfulness program, it has saved about $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs, and gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity. Mindful employees are healthier and more productive.
He states, “We saw dramatic drops in stress… and 69-minute gain in productivity of our employees over a year. The result for us was a11:1 return on the investment.”
Other companies that include meditation in the workplace to improve the bottom line include Apple, Nike, Google, Yahoo, Proctor & Gamble and this is only a few. The list continues to grow as the results become evident.
9. Pain Management –
We heard about meditation changing our physiological state in reducing stress but can it actually make structural changes our brain as well?
In a study conducted by Kober and Associates, study subjects were tested with pain stimulus applied to their arms.
The researchers found that not only did the study’s participants report 27% lower pain sensation after using a mindfulness technique, they were also able to measure 45% less brain activity in the pain matrix after using the exercise. What was concluded was that mindfulness can improve the perception of pain and the actual neural response to pain.
Another Study conducted by Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found new evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain more effectively than placebo.
Types of Meditation
Vipassana (or mindfulness) – This meditation dates back to the times of Gautama Buddha and translates to “seeing deeply.” This practice can start out as just an awareness of the breath. Later, it can advance into a constant awareness of observing what is, in every moment. Vipassana retreats are often held in silence to drive an even deeper practice and state of inner observation.
Mantra – This style involves the repetition of a word, phrase, or sound, or repeatedly envisioning a specific image. The most popular being the Om or Universal sound. It can be practiced with any word or group of words. Generally, it is used with Sanskrit words as it is a vibrational language. Others use certain phrases that are designed to expand the mind. Some use the practice of picturing the Sun in the center of the heart.
Zen – Zen is similar to mindfulness in its focus on presence of mind, but instead of a specific focus it allows a more general awareness. It is practiced by focusing on the breathing while practicing no thought. It is a practice of clearing the mind of any thoughts.
Qigong visualization – This Taoist practice utilizes different techniques to help restore health and balance to the body, including the Inner Smile, visualizing “smile-energy” penetrating your internal organs; Moon on Lake, visualizing the moon’s reflection on a lake; and Holding Heaven in the Palm of Your Hand, imagining the energy of the galaxy in the palm of your hand. Other simpler techniques, such as those used in the study, involve imagining a beam of light running along the spine. They are all igniting the power of the imagination in order to still the mind and enhance the Qigong practice.
Sound Meditation – This practice is creating or listening to sound to take your mind beyond thoughts into a calm state. Sound has been used for thousands of years as a way of reaching heightened awareness. This has been done by chanting the Universal sound of Om. Others use chimes, gongs, bowls or nature sounds.
There is also technology now used to direct brain waves. This is done according to the scientific study of brain frequencies. I have included 2 videos below by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson.
Brain Wave Frequencies
We have 5 brain frequencies (Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma), and each frequency is measured in cycles per second (Hz). With sound, we can actually reach these states on purpose.
- Beta (14-40Hz) brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness.
- Alpha (7.5-14Hz) brain waves are present in deep relaxation and usually when the eyes are closed when you’re starting to daydream or in light meditation.
- Theta (4-7.5Hz) brain waves are present during deep meditation, light sleep, and REM dream state.
- Delta (0.5-4Hz) frequency is the slowest of the frequencies and is experienced in deep, dreamless sleep and in very deep, transcendental meditation where awareness is fully detached.
Gamma (above 40Hz) waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing.
“We believe that doing meditation improves your memory and attention in the long run,”
– Dr. Andrew Newberg
“One thing that meditation does for those who practice it a lot is that it cultivates attentional skills to help lead to a more tranquil and happier way of being.”
– Dr. Josipovic
“Noticing the differences between sense and story, between primary experience-dependent ‘bottom-up’ input and the secondary ‘top-down’ chatter of prior learning becomes a fundamental tool of the mindfulness approach. Once this distinction, this noticing of the contents of the mind, is readily accessible through intentional practice, the capacity to alter habitual patterns is created and the possibility becomes available for relief from self-preoccupied rumination, self-defeating thought-patterns, negative autobiographical narratives and maladaptive patterns of emotional reactivity.”
– Dr. Siegel
This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation. (…) We found a big effect – about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.”
– Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D.
“The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions and you will work better with other people.”
– William George, Goldman Sachs board member and former CEO of Medtronic
Thank you for reading this article. If you would like to learn more visit work with Misha.
Misha Almira is a shamanic healer. meditation teacher, and full time blogger.