Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Start Meditating Today

by Jerry Kolberg

"Meditate Daily" has been hovering on my to-do, someday, or maybe lists for more than ten years, since the late 1990's. Two years ago the universe conspired to deliver me to the doorstep of the Interdependence Project, where the clarity of instruction and friendliness of the community led nearly immediately to my committing to a daily meditation practice. Though I miss a day here and there, the positive effects of the practice are so profound that when I don't make it to the cushion I feel it in my bones.


Sometimes people ask me why I meditate, or have specific questions or misunderstandings about meditation, and my answer seems to vary depending on what I've experienced that day or how that morning's session went. But I have noticed that I offer some of the same answers over and over, and so here are my top ten reasons anyone should start a meditation practice today.

1. Meditation makes you calmer. By offering you tools to deal with stress and stressful thought-patterns, meditation helps you develop the option of remaining calm if you so choose.

2. Daily meditation offers you a sense of connection to all things by helping you notice that there is an observer beyond your usual understanding of the term "observer".

3. Meditating helps you deal better with anger, desire, lust and other potentially intoxicating emotions.

4. Being a regular meditator does NOT mean you no longer experience emotion; your experience of emotion just becomes keener and more subject to choice rather than habit.

5. Meditating regularly leads to an increased sense of empathy and compassion, towards others and towards yourself.

6. Becoming a regular meditator will increase your creativity, creating more space for new ideas to arise and to be noticed, and lowering any resistance you may have to new concepts and ways of thinking.

7. Meditating makes you healthier. Not only does it help you become aware of how to handle pain and illness better, but scientific studies show that "Meditating slows breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure and heart rate. Some evidence suggests that meditation may also aid treatment of anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and a range of other ailments." (Mayo Clinic) Anecdotally and personally I can concur that all of this is true.

8. Daily meditation will make you smarter by growing your brain. A 2005 Harvard Medical School study showed that "Brain regions associated with attention, sensory awareness and emotional processing -- the cortex -- were thicker in meditators. In fact, meditators' brains grew thicker in direct correlation with how much they meditated".

9. Meditation is a great to deal with your psychological "junk", offering a great option on its own or in combination with any form of therapy. By noticing your thoughts arise, and recognizing that they are just thoughts, you slowly peel away the layers that cover your true self.

10. Meditation is an excellent adjunct to any spiritual or religious practice, and can be a gateway to deeper spiritual revelations and the essential meaning of interdependence. Combined with my study of Buddhist philosophy, my experience of daily sitting practice is that it offers a complete spiritual path that integrates seamlessly with my daily life.

Bonus benefits: Meditating makes you sexier, brings you new spiritually aware and cool friends if you join a group (or visit the IDP podcasts online), and can save you money through the side effect of reduced consumption.

All this and more for just ten to twenty minutes a day. I can honestly say that beginning a daily meditation practice has been one of the most positively life-effecting decisions I've ever made. If my ten reasons for why you should start a daily practice gets you meditating even for one, two, or five minutes today, I will be deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of your decision. (Written by Jerry Kolberg and posted by him July 29, 2009, on beliefnet.com.)

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