Why is meditation more important now than ever before?
So despite what I just said about the origins of meditation, the good thing is that you don’t need to change your personal beliefs or your religion in order to take advantage of the tremendous benefits of meditation.
Physically and mentally it works for everyone. From a spiritual perspective your experiences may differ.
Minds don’t get much rest anymore
Over the millennia, our minds have evolved to keep us alive. They are phenomenal problem solvers. We’ll cover this in more detail later, but they allow us to avoid repeating bad experiences by learning from the past.
“Don’t eat that red berry because you got sick the last time you ate one.”
Our minds also allow us to solve problems by exploring solutions without physically having to do the task. Essentially envisioning the future.
“How can I get across this raging river? Well, I could put that log over the river, but I might slip off. I could tie a rope in the tree, but the rope could snap. I could build a raft, but it might sink.”
So you get the idea. Our minds live in the past and future but never the present. Always checking to see if we’ve had a similar experience in the past to decide how to react now, or solving a problem by imagining the future.
Only our true self lives in the present.
But because of those phenomenal problem solving abilities, and how our society has developed, almost everything looks like a problem to the mind, so it’s almost always on.
I’ll give you an example.
So 5000 years ago. If I was hungry. I would look around and see what there was to eat. “Oooo look, it’s a turnip.” Great, that’s what we’ll eat right now, We can eat it raw or we can put it on a stick and roast it.
Boom. Hunger solved. Mind switches off. Go back to being in the moment.
500 years ago. There are no refrigerators, so I need to get fresh food every day. I go to the market and see what’s available. Turnip. Great. That will feed my family. I now have a cooking pot and a knife, so I can eat it raw, roast it on a stick, chop it up and boil it. Boom. Hunger solved. Mind switches off. Go back to whatever else needs doing.
Fast forward to modern life. Which supermarket do I go to? The one closest to home or the one near work? Well that one has more choice, but the prices are higher? That one is more convenient but puts me behind rush hour traffic.
So we finally decide which supermarket. Now we’re faced with millions of choices, but lets keep it simple and go for the turnip option again.
Which variety of turnip? The one imported from Argentina, the organic local one, the pesticide free one, the cheaper one, the one that looks cleaner?
What time are we going to cook dinner? Kids have sports, spouse is coming home on the train.
And finally, how are we going to cook it? Chopped, sliced, diced, shredded, roasted, toasted, boiled, fried? What type of pan to use? What type of oil to use? Turnip garnish, turnip sauces?
So that’s the turnip taken care of, but now we need a bunch of different things to make a meal. Oh, not to mention one child is allergic to turnip and the other one can only eat the purple top part.
Holy crap. No wonder our minds have become so strong.
Everything looks like a problem that needs solving.
500 years ago we went with what was available, what nature provided from the local region and that would have been it. Now, even a simple task like putting nutrients into our body has turned into 1000 problems that need solving.
Our modern lifestyle is pretty sedentary. When you sit in one position for too long, the muscles get tight, causing physical stress in the body.
Meditation can help you adopt good posture as well as improving the overall awareness of your body. You’ll feel the muscle tension much sooner and can do something to alleviate the problem.
Our bodies operate in two modes.
“Thrive” or “Survive”.
THRIVING – When your mind perceives that there is no danger, no problems that need solving, no imminent threats from tigers, your muscles are relaxed, your body releases endorphins, serotonin (happy chemicals), and your body uses its energy to build new cells, heal disease etc.
Your body is growing, maintaining and thriving.
SURVIVING – When your mind perceives a threat, it shuts down that whole process, it reduces blood flow, it tightens muscles and releases small amounts of adrenaline. It shuts down the digestive processes. It directs all your energy in preparation to fight , to solve a problem that may or may not ever happen.
Remember, the mind likes to live in the future. Looking for problems. It’s not relaxed and in a healing or growing mode. It’s in a defensive posture releasing a slow trickle of harmful chemicals.
Take your typical commute. Most of this is very subconscious, but your mind perceives every other car as a threat. As a problem that needs solving. So your body is in subconscious survival mode. Obviously this affects some people more than others, but I think driving analogies are relatable.
Because of the minds uncanny ability to analyze a situation and engineer solutions before they become real problems, it tends to look for problems where there aren’t any.
This need to over analyze everything looking for a problem creates an awful lot of stress on the body and has a huge negative effect on the body.
Somebody cuts you up when you’re driving and your mind will drag you into a whole inner dialog about how rude they were. Or how dangerous. Or how stupid and idiotic they are. And how you would never do that. And why you’re a better driver then they are.
Before you know it, you’ve driven for 10 minutes having a conversation with yourself that nobody else will ever hear. The person that cut you up probably has no idea that they did anything wrong. They simply pulled in front of you. No one got hurt (hopefully). But our egos get bruised.
So all you did was generate a lot of negative energy that puts your body in that “survival” mode. Ruining your inner peace and causing real harm to your physical body.
If you could simply acknowledge that a car just pulled in front of you. Your inner dialog will have no effect on them, only a harmful effect on yourself. Just acknowledge and let it go.
You don’t score any points. So what? 🙂
You live longer. You are happier. No drama.
Restoring Inner Peace
Meditation gives your mind a chance for a break. When the mind shuts down for a while you’ll notice that your whole being is filled with a stillness.
The stillness is always present, but usually it goes unnoticed because the mind is so noisy.
With that stillness, our bodies go back into “thriving” mode. Muscles relax and allow blood to flow more easily. Proper breathing slows down the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Stress hormones are replaced by healthy hormones that build and repair the body.
Your body has the energy to heal itself.
When your mind quits the constant chatter, you spend less time analyzing the world.
Less time judging the past.
Less time wanting to be in the future.
That means more time enjoying where you are right now and enjoying what you are doing. You are more present. More mindful.
You hear a lot about being mindful these days. It’s the latest craze. So we will definitely spend quite a lot of time discussing it.