Updated: May 5, 2022
Why meditation leads to a happier and more peaceful life
There are many different forms of meditation but they all have one thing in common: calming the mind. To meditate is to go within and experience who we are beyond the thoughts racing through our minds and the distractions of the external world. Meditation is the act of slowing down to stillness, with that stillness being the gateway to our fullest potential.
What does it really mean to be still? Many people never try meditation or give up because it seems impossible that their minds would stop chattering for even 10 minutes. But stillness is not necessarily the elimination of all the thoughts in your head or complete control over your mind. Stillness is simply the act of shifting your focus from the external world to your internal world. It is slowing your breathing and tuning into your heart, where you become more aware of the present moment and connect with who you really are. Stillness is where we discover ourselves.
From a brain science perspective, what happens when you detach from the outside world and the thoughts that go along with it is you take your brain from the active beta brainwave state characteristic of alertness and attention (but also worry) to the slower brainwave states of alpha and theta. Whether you get there through mantras, music, breathing, or brainwave entrainment devices, coming into those slower brainwave states calms and resets the sympathetic nervous system, relaxes the body, and makes us more receptive to and perceptive of our inner wisdom and the larger consciousness we are a part of. In our inner world, we touch the infinite.
What stillness allows us to see
Stillness can be thought of as our zero point. It is where all is neutral and available to us as pure potential. Stillness is a place of broader perspective where we put distance between the stories and meanings we rush to give events in our lives and allow space for self-realization. From the zero point, we can observe our thoughts, behaviors, and actions, as well as the situations in our life, from a place of curiosity and acceptance, and use them as opportunities to get to know ourselves better. That is the process of awakening.
We come to understand the machinations of our human mind and see the programs we've been unconsciously running. With that knowledge, not only can we short-circuit the patterns that keep us stuck and playing small, but we can more deliberately direct our energy and attention toward what we want more of. In this way, stillness is our point of conscious creation, where we learn to focus our thoughts on our preferred experiences and release conflicting beliefs. It is also where we may find our greatest inspiration, as we let our imagination freely flow.
Particularly in the theta brainwave state, which is associated with dreaming and deep trance and flow states, we can access higher levels of intuition and connect with the power and wisdom of our subconscious mind. Theta is a favorite of many explorers of consciousness as it opens us up to long forgotten memories, including potentially those of another lifetime, opens a channel to our guides and higher self, and taps us into the quantum field. In deep theta meditations, we can detach from the physical body and experience ourselves as pure energy, free of the constraints of our rational mind. For some, this can include astral travel, communications across the veil, or other multidimensional experiences.
At the same time that we are detaching from the body, stillness can support physical healing. Theta brainwaves prompt the body and mind to repair, rejuvenate, and grow. Similarly, boosting your theta helps optimize immune system function through eliminating stress and releasing chemicals and neurotransmitters that help keep your immune system strong. More studies are showing that having a healthy dose of theta in our brains sets us up to thrive.
Coming into stillness can also be a form of silent protest. Our world overloads us with stimuli in order to keep us in a frenzy and in lower states of consciousness where we won't question those in power. By turning within and giving ourselves space to reflect, probe, and receive answers, we start to wake up and see the world in a new way. Stillness can be subversive because it empowers us to find comfort, peace, and fulfillment from our own deep well, as opposed to depending on the material world. This is in part why meditation is said to increase a person's resilience to stress.
Changing your brain changes your life
As we train our brain into stillness, we will naturally become less reactive to the daily triggers. Instead of rushing into judgment, we learn to slow down and take a broader view. We create space for questions like: What is this bringing up for me? Is there another interpretation of what is going on? How can I bring compassion and consciousness to this situation? What do I really want? When we pause to answer such questions and defuse negative thoughts, we will respond differently or perhaps not at all. Stillness becomes the great moderator, helping us use our emotions to alert us to growth opportunities instead of acting out our anger and hurt.
Several studies have shown that regular meditation or mindfulness practice literally changes the brain. For example, one Harvard research study found that just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation resulted in increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus, signifying improved learning and memory, as well as increases in areas associated with better emotional regulation. The amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress, shrunk. This is why many of these studies conclude that regular meditators are happier.
But not everyone has time to be a monk. Thankfully, coming into stillness for just a few moments a day can begin to acclimate the brain to greater peace and calm. Every time we disrupt our habitual patterns we strengthen the blueprint for how we would like to move through the world. For those wanting to go deeper, assisted meditation technologies like brainwave entrainment lamps used in light therapy sessions, offer powerful new ways to accelerate the brain's natural processes and quickly and easily calm the mind. Over time, instead of viewing meditation as a chore, we crave the stillness that it provides for how good it makes us feel. As we say yes to feeling good, we transform our lives for the better.
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