I happily find myself writing a blog for Singita Wellness on the benefits of meditation as my weekly guided meditations receive a regular place on the Online Club schedule.
I didn’t have teaching or guiding in mind when I committed to a daily meditation practice, I had my health in mind. I needed to maintain balance and happiness within a life that had memories of traumas and despair. I already knew that energy based practices were the most likely way I would achieve this due to my decade long experience as a Reiki practitioner. The difference this time was that I was committed to continuity and focus; I was going to make sure that every day began sitting in stillness, calming my breath, connecting to myself as an energetic being on the most fundamental level, and making sure that I gave blockages and imbalances fair chance to alert me before life became out of control.
Meditation restored my health and balance, gave me relief from PTSD, gave me a tool to let go of the past and exist in the present, which truly is a much happier place; meditation made me a better friend, daughter, sister and eventually, partner. It has given me a wellness practice for my own benefit and as a business for the benefit of others. Through meditation I live in abundance and even when things go awry, I am never far away from centre. As with all things that give so much, we must take the first step; the first step is a commitment to come to your practice, your silent seat, every day. We commit to holding our health with the highest regard and prioritising that which serves us. With this commitment other healthy choices fall into place with ease, once the system is in balance it would be mania to damage it and meditation enables us to confidently stride away from mania.
Meditation is an ancient practice, its use can be found in writings from all the religions and philosophies throughout time, the practice of meditation is often assimilated to worship and its nature is most often thought of as spiritual.
As I cultivated a teaching style for meditation that I felt would appeal to the majority of my students, I weaved in emphasis on the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices. I wanted to show that meditation, if committed to, would change the lives of all and any people, regardless of belief. I will turn some lines to that same emphasis in this blog post but as my own reading, learning, experience and practice has continued to develop so has my understanding of what I am actually attempting to convey.
In the most obvious of realisations, it’s all about unifying the spiritual and the scientific, not holding them separately, they are two sides of the same coin, not a gold piece and crypto currency.
It has been said that the practice of meditation began when people first gazed into the flames of the fire they had newly created and, mesmerised, found a stillness and calm take over their beings. A flame focused meditation, or Trataka Sadhana, is a meditation practice that indeed still exists today; the benefits of which include improved mental focus and memory, improvements to eye health, relief from anxiety and depression and balancing of the nervous system and cerebral cortex. All that is needed for this practice is a candle and the decision to sit quietly and gaze with soft focus into the flame. The light stimulates the pineal gland, regulating our biorhythms which gives us the gift of ideal sleep and waking patterns. The pineal gland is associated with the third eye and if we now cross over into discussion with a more energetic or spiritual emphasis, we learn that the third eye is connected to our intuition, our ability to see beyond the physical realm, to an openness of mind which helps us to accept ourselves as connected to the natural world, the spiritual world, that which is not easily recognised by our five readily accepted senses.
The third eye is the place of imagination and in imagination we can find the key to acceptance of that which we are generally encouraged to turn away from; a child playing out a game of imagination has no concept that the place of their imagining is not real, it is as real as anything in that moment and just as valid and as adults we can allow ourselves to return to that understanding. If we imagine we are sat on a deserted beach with the warm air brushing our skin and the blue sky above us, cloudless and vast, our system begins to naturally calm in the same way as if we were ‘actually’ there. If we then imagine that a loved one begins to walk towards us across the sand we look forward to them being close in the same way as when we ‘actually’ see a loved one coming to be with us, in our mind as they reach us and we look into their smiling face our body releases the same chemicals and we receive the same benefit, we can speak to them and say the things we wish to say, we can express love or forgiveness and as if by magic we feel love and peace. This isn’t really magic, it’s so obvious, so simple that we overlook it.
The ability to imagine is one of the things that makes us intrinsically human.
We come up against a problem, we imagine a solution and then we manifest the solution in the physical world by using our memory of experiences to choose the elements needed. We use our memory of sensory experience to create, we know how things feel and combine, we know how they smell or taste, we understand their solidity or fluidity. The sense that begins this process is imagining, third eye sense. In meditation we learn to be with our third eye sense so much that we learn to stop discounting it. Which leads to more acceptance of every part of ourselves, which leads to more equilibrium, more balance within our system and we feel more at peace.
In extensive peer reviewed scientific studies researchers have consistently found that regular meditators experience:
- Improved sleep
- Relief from anxiety and depression
- Improved cognitive function in areas such as memory, attention span and problem solving
- Lowered risk of serious disease including heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure disorders and cancer
- Improved relationships and interactions
- Increased immune system functioning
- Improvements in digestion
- Relief from conditions such as ADHD
- Hormone balance
- Lowered levels of stress
- Pain reduction
- Increases in energy and vitality
- Reduction in medical intervention
- Reduction in detrimental addiction behaviour
There is also much written on more experiential benefits such as the ability to cope with challenging situations and a reduction in reactionary outbursts under stress or imagined stressors.
Further analysis finds that regular mediators exhibit more ideal levels of the chemicals we understand to affect the above list of benefits. Regular meditators experience:
- Lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
- Higher levels of chemicals including DHEA, Oxytocin, Dopamine, Serotonin, Melatonin and Endorphins.
I have said in mediation classes that if you don’t wish to align with the spiritual aspect of meditation that you can read the above and have more than enough reasons to factor meditation into your daily routine.
With the weight of scientific findings there is available to us, meditation is as valid as any other healthy lifestyle choice for improving our wellbeing and extending our life and enjoyment of life.
However, as I mentioned in my opening, I have now, with the most obvious epiphany of my journey so far, recognised that there is no need to separate the scientific reasons from the spiritual reasons for meditation. It’s excruciatingly obvious because unity, inclusion, oneness is at the very centre of meditation and mindful teachings; I can’t believe it took me this long to see.
In meditation we begin to drop the veil between what we experience in the ‘real world’ and the truth of our entire selves, intricately entwined with all things.
We experience ourselves as energy and we go to places far away from our physical seat. We become so at rest that our brain waves alter and we enter incredibly creative states, we realise things that no amount of intellectual thought has realised. We enter flow, we enter ease. Imagine how you feel when you meet someone who fully accepts you and understands you just as you are, the relief. Now imagine that that person is you. How obvious is it that in that acceptance of all parts of yourself; physical, energetic, spiritual, vast and minute, your system relaxes into bliss, into equilibrium and everything that you are on every level just works.
The spiritual and scientific benefits of meditation are two sides of the same coin, in full acceptance of yourself as an energetic, conscious being as well as a physical being, you find balance and your system does exactly what your human self was always made to do; it manifests the solutions you need and brings them into creation. Health.
Join me on Wednesday mornings at 10:30am for Guided Meditations and On Demand on the Online Club, log on or join today. In the coming weeks we hope to welcome you back in Studio at Singita Barbados, follow us on our social media for updates!
With Loving Kindness, from Sarah xo