Unwatchfulness is the path of death.
Those who are watchful never die:
Those who do not watch are already as dead.Those who with a clear mind have seen this truth,
Those who are wise and ever watchful,
They feel the joy of watchfulness,
The joy of the path of the great.And those who in high thought and in deep contemplation
With ever living power advance on the path,
They in the end reach NIRVANA,
The peace supreme and infinite joy.~ Buddha, The Dhammapada
One of the main practices that we explore on The Heart Of Awakening Blog is meditation. I have found this to be one of the most essential practices for living as a human being. I began my personal exploration with meditation when I was 14 years old and have been a practitioner and spiritual seeker ever since. I have explored meditative and contemplative practices from a variety of spiritual traditions and cultures. I have certain foundational practices that I continue to work with and I am always open to exploring new ones. What I have found in my own journey and in working with others is that it is important to find a practice that supports where you are and where you would like to be and that is resonant with who you are today.
Overall, meditation is a process of focusing, calming and observing the movement of the mind. It is an important tool to achieve mental clarity, well-being and spiritual awareness. Almost all spiritual traditions have some form of meditation or contemplation as a way to practice and deepen our sense of connection with self, others, the world and spirit. Metta meditation is a Buddhist practice that cultivates loving-kindness and compassion. It begins with self, as creating a foundation of compassion for self is seen as necessary to be able to offer this energy to others. I find this practice to be highly beneficial for both beginning and experienced meditators; that is why I offer the annual May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kidness practice during the month of May each year. (Note: The practice is available to start anytime)
Regardless of what type of meditation practice you are working with, it is fascinating to consider how science is really beginning to identify many of the benefits of meditation, which spiritual practitioners have known for so long. Many institutions including Harvard Medical School and NIH have now shown that meditation can have positive effects on an individual’s health and overall well-being. Research shows that this is accomplished as meditation brings the brainwave patterns into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes a healing state. There is even scientific evidence that meditation can reduce blood pressure and relieve pain and stress.
As I was writing the post, I came across an article by David DeSteno on the Daily Good, entitled, “The Morality Of Meditation”. DeSteno heads up the Social Emotions Group at Northeastern University; as stated on their website, the group’s goal is “to illuminate the complex and reciprocal relations binding emotion and social behavior. In short, we’re most interested in how emotions shape decisions and actions underlying many of the most important facets of social living.” Aware of many of the positive benefits of meditation, the group wanted to actually explore Buddha’s original teaching that meditation is the path to ending suffering.
What they found was it took only a short period of time for people who just began meditating to become more compassionate than a control group. There has been other research on the aspect of the development of compassion through meditation, whether we are using a compassion practice, such as Metta, or another type of practice. Meditation makes us more compassionate – as we become more connected to ourselves, others and the world, that is a natural response. There are many benefits that have come to light through recent research and that support what meditation practitioners have long known, so at this point, there is really no reason not to meditate and every reason to practice. Meditation practice makes us healthier, more balanced and more loving and compassionate.
Here is a list of some of the ways that meditation can benefit us on the level of body, mind, emotion and spirit:
- Decreased high blood pressure.
- Lowered cholesterol levels.
- Deep rest measured by decreased metabolic rate and lower heart rate.
- Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate, two chemicals associated with stress.
- Reduction of free radicals – unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage.
- Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
- Decreases the aging process.
- Greater creativity.
- Decreased anxiety.
- Decreased depression
- Decreased irritability and moodiness
- Improved learning ability and memory.
- Increased self-actualization.
- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
- Increased happiness.
- Increased emotional stability.
- Increased brain wave coherence
- Experiencing a sense of oneness and connection
- Deeper understanding and fulfillment of purpose
- A sense of completion
- Strengthening intuition and insight
- Deepening our sense of empathy and compassion for ourselves, others & the world.
- An overall experience of well-being
Here are a few other posts on HOA related to meditation that you might like to explore: