There’s a lot that has been said and written about meditation in recent years, and it got me thinking.
I will be honest – I have a healthy streak of scepticism – and always take these kinds of things with a big pinch of salt. Most of it seems to me to be just plain old common sense.
Even so, it’s not just t personal development gurus who tell us about the benefits of meditation. Science, it seems, finally agrees, even if it is in a kind of grudging, half-hearted way, and the evidence is starting to stack up.
The US Department of Health and Human Services, for example, says that meditation is “helpful for a variety of conditions, such as high blood pressure, certain psychological disorders, and pain. A number of studies also have helped researchers learn how meditation might work and how it affects the brain.”
My intuition tells me that theories and academic knowledge need to be grounded in real experience – because far too often those two simply aren’t the same thing.
I decided that the best way to see if it works is to try it for myself.
I educated myself on the basics, and set out on an inner journey of self-discovery for 30 days. At first the results were almost too subtle to notice, but as time went on, I started noticing a few changes.
I Spend Less Time Worrying, and Obsessing About the Small Stuff
When I examined my thoughts and feelings honestly, I had to admit that there was a constant low-level worry – a kind of subliminal anxiety, or resistance to life – that always seemed to follow me.
I stopped ignoring it, as I had always done before, and decided to take a good, honest look at what was going on in my inner world. I noticed that I worried about hundreds, if not thousands of small details, and instead of doing something about them, those worries just got swept under the rug, and accumulated somewhere inside.
“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.” – Keanu Reeves
The simple act of paying more attention changed things. It took a while, but the changes were noticeable.
It became easier to dissolve those worries, as they came up, and what followed was a deeply satisfying sense of relief. I felt lighter, more carefree, and had more energy to take care of the real problems in my life. Even those started to look less like ‘problems’, and more like opportunities to grow.
My Mind Seems Clearer, and I Have More Objectivity
During meditation I found it very hard to switch off my thinking at first. I imagine most of us have the same problem – it’s such a deeply ingrained habit.
With practice and determination, though, I finally found a way that worked for me. I gave my mind something else to do – examine my breathing.
As I became more and more absorbed in that simple, but surprisingly multifaceted activity, it felt as if first my body, then my mind started to relax – almost like a mini-vacation for my brain.
Afterwards when I picked up where I left off, mentally speaking, it was as if my mind felt sharper, clearer, and more objective. It finally got the much-needed rest it was craving all along.
It felt as if I was able to take a step back, and look at things in a different way. Without fully realizing it, I had become stuck in a rut – looking at the same old problems in the same old ways. Now I am able to see solutions where I never expected to find them.
I Don’t Get Bored as Easily
I’ve always had a very active mind. Sometimes it feels as if thoughts and ideas are falling over each other in my head, trying to take centre stage. The trouble is, without constant stimulation, I get bored easily.
After a couple of weeks of meditation, though, I noticed a change. I could sit and look at something for ages – like the way a tree moves in the wind, and become completely absorbed in the slow, graceful dance. My mind didn’t feel so restless. I started to know what the word “peace” really meant.
I Feel More Compassion
Living in this harsh world makes us feel cold inside. There’s just so much pain, anger and suffering everywhere that it feels as if you don’t close up, you’ll go mad. It feels as if you give the world your little finger, they’ll take the whole hand.
Meditation helped me to open up. It was actually like a physical sensation in my chest.
I felt it expand, open, and make room for the outside world. As a result I started looking at other people in a different way. I could see myself reflected in them – and extending love to them was like extending love to myself.
It was a revelation. Instead of the dull, stand-offish attitude I’d always cultivated, I found reasons to be kind, and compassionate – first with my own family, and later to complete strangers too. Most surprising of all was how showing compassion to others made me feel better.
I See Beauty Everywhere
Perhaps the most powerful change I felt was the way I started looking at the world. Instead of seeing only the grey buildings and streets, the litter, the traffic, the chaos and the dirt, I started to see more.
I noticed that small details started attracting my attention. I’d look at blades of grass, and feel a kind of awe – even if it lasted for just a moment. I started to see nature as a living, breathing, magical thing, instead of just background.
I saw the lines of age and experience in the faces of old people, not with fear or sadness, but with a kind of respect and admiration. I noticed people’s postures, I noticed more colour, I noticed the weeds pushing through the cracks in the pavement. It filled me with hope and positivity.
My 30 day experiment revealed much that I had missed while reading about meditation. The real power comes from practice – not theory. I moved beyond an intellectual understanding, towards a true ‘knowing.’
I decided to continue with the experiment well beyond the 30 days, and to extend my practice times significantly. I do it because it makes me feel wonderful – not because Science, or anything else tells me to.
My advice? Verify it in practice for yourself. There’s no better way. If you’re looking for a place to start, Colours of Nature now offers a beginner’s guide to meditation, together with a 15 day guided audio course.