What can meditation really do for us? Mindfulness has become a buzz word in Western culture. But what does it mean? And how can is practicing meditation altering you?
A Tool + Tradition
Meditation has been a tool towards enlightenment and self-liberation for thousands of years. Most religions and spiritual practices include meditative rituals, though Buddhism is most often tied to the practice of meditation. And the ways in which we can practice meditation are limitless: pointed attention, loving kindness, sounds, breath focus. There are a multitude of ways to practice, showcasing meditation as both art and science.
Meditation has morphed into mindfulness in the pop-culture, which has promises for productivity, business success, and improved test scores. While a mindfulness practice can bring these results, it is a narrow window of what is possible. Through following the traditions of meditation, we find detailed approaches to meditation that yield uncanny results in mind, spirit, and body.
In his book Altered Traits, Daniel Goleman explores the curation of positive traits through meditation. He refers to attention training and increased emotional resilience. This is like what Michelle Deane and I spoke about last Friday; Michelle called it the ‘window of tolerance’. Such traits were previously assumed to be set ways of operating; a person, be it child or adult, either coped well with changed or they did not. Now we know this is not true, we can indeed expand and grow these mental capacities of the mind. Meditation is not just a tool for productivity, it is a tool for liberation. Liberation from stresses, freedom from our own mental demons.
Goleman looked at over 6,000 research papers in meditation, narrowing his sites on the most credible papers and explaining the findings from this pool of research. He cites that in clinical trials, meditation worked as effectively as meditation for treating anxiety and depression, a fact not promoted by pharmaceutical companies. He also goes into the benefits of information retention and learning; citing meditation’s extreme benefits for these faculties as well.
And finally, he speaks of love and connection, one of my favorite meditation practices that is best harnessed through loving-kindness meditation. Any practice of meditation can enhance our mind’s functions, but practices like loving-kindness harness the potent power of love and feed it to the brain. Goleman explains how the brain seems to light up in these practices, more powerfully and quickly than in any other practice, as though the brain was craving love. Indeed, I believe we do crave love; it is an essential ingredient to the human experience. And a personalized dose can be given each day, with just a few minutes of daily meditation practice.
Towards The Future
I think the implications of such research is only beginning to be recognized. We need to step away from our compulsive values of productivity and focus on the grander picture. In reshaping the way we see meditation, we can use the traditions powerful methods for enhancing the human condition.
Why do you meditate? And if you do not, what prevents you from meditating? Please let me know in the comment below.
Food for Thought
To delve deeper into this topic, check out Goleman’s talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKF8NE42RZ0