Why is Meditation Important? - NoScheduleMan.com

Why is Meditation Important?

Why is Meditation ImportantAt the time of this writing, I am reading my way through the book “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. I’m quite enjoying it. Near the beginning, he suggests, “Meditation has a towering PR problem.”

I could not agree more.

Years ago, in the midst of a time of paralyzing anxiety, I first started to trying figure that out. I bought a book called “8 Minute Meditation” (I suppose I was looking for the fast-food version) and remember feeling embarrassed that I had turned to it, as if it were some sort of failure to be considering a turn toward something I regarded as “airy-fairy” as meditation. I didn’t even feel comfortable talking about it with my wife of the time.

Why?

Reading, Writing, Racing Mind …

Amid the countless hours I was required to spend absorbing, memorizing, and regurgitating a variety of “facts” throughout my school years, I sure wish someone had sat me down to suggest any of the reasons why meditation, and building some space between my mind and my mouth or my thoughts and my actions, could be so beneficial. Less calculus, more mindfulness. Perhaps I wouldn’t have listened anyway. But I might have at least noted the suggestion.

Alas, it didn’t happen. I’m betting that, for the most part, it still doesn’t. We’d better know all our state or provincial capitals, but as for understanding our emotions or having any basic sense of how to effectively communicate with other human beings … that, apparently, is a job for us to attend to on our own, later in life.

Drunk

Cool?

It seems far more common for us to hit an emotional or mental snag and immediately look for a pill or a drink or some distraction like parties or sports or television or… pretty much anything other than actually exploring and learning how to deal with and process what’s actually going on. Haven’t you ever wondered where that leads? Some of us, myself included, discovered the answer the hard way.

I lived most of the first part of my life thinking that meditation was for “weird people” who were not ambitious, driven, or contributing much more than just being zenned-out and generally pleasant to be around (although that in itself would be a nice enough thing to encounter). “Cool” people, on other other hand, worked hard and played hard. They drove relentlessly toward their goals. They’d throw a few back with the boys, make jokes at the expense of others, toss around rumors and gossip and stay up-to-date on current events.

My definition of “cool” has since undergone a significant overhaul.

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Perhaps, to Harris’s point, words like “meditation” still recall a certain stigma that says “uncool,” “spaced out” or “unimportant.” It’s ironic how so much of what’s considered “cool” in the first part of our lives often has extremely dire long-term consequences. Conversely, a great many things previously viewed as “uncool” have a knack for becoming the subject of great desire by so many at mid-life and beyond. I’d like to see meditation taken out of that column and put at the front of the “cool” line. Here’s why:

According to “Psychology Today” (in an article you can read here), the many scientifically-proven benefits of meditation include:

  • Increasing positive emotion and immune system function
  • Decreasing pain & inflammation at the cellular level
  • Decreasing depression & stress
  • Helping you to feel more compassionate and less alone
  • Improves your ability to regulate your emotions
  • Improves focus & attention, memory and your ability to be creative

Need I go on? I could. We’re just scratching the surface (For more, read the rest of the article). So why isn’t this just a commonly accepted part of daily life?

When You Can’t Sit Still

Up until June of 2015, I drank beer most evenings. I didn’t think I could get to sleep without it. I treated the act of reaching for and glugging back that first can of beer at the end of the day like a fighter jet snagging the brake cable when it lands on an aircraft carrier: an immediate jolt back down to zero-speed, separating motion from rest. A few years prior, I had been taking at least two different kinds of anti-depressant medications: one to help me cope with my emotions on a day-to-day basis, and one to help me sleep. But I didn’t sleep very well anyway. And it didn’t stop random patches of hair falling off my head beginning in the fall of 2013.

MeditationOne of the things I got back to trying around that time was very basic meditation. I found that short, guided meditations were very helpful to me (Jason Stephenson and Jennifer Farmer, both of whom have since joined me for in depth conversations on my podcast, were among my favourite voices at the time. they remain so). Bit by bit, I worked my way off of the medications and, eventually, away from alcohol completely.

Despite that, years later, I still find that when I try to sit quietly for even a few moments, I become acutely aware of how quickly and urgently the need to act or move comes across me. Everything suddenly feels important, like a symphony of lightning bolts that all must be extinguished immediately. While it can be uncomfortable, building that awareness alone has helped illustrate how unhelpfully fast a thought can go from mind to mouth or into action without having even a nano-moment’s consideration for whether it will actually contribute something positive, or just dump fuel upon the fire.

Beware the Not-So-Smartphone

iPhone

If mindfulness is Batman, this thing is its Joker

It’s also helpful, albeit a little bit shocking, to be confronted with the reality of just how easily I become distracted. For instance, I will think of an item that needs to go on my grocery list, which I keep in a notepad on my smartphone. I’ll then reach for the phone to add the item to the list and see that I have a new email, or social media notification and will suddenly be off checking that without ever having completed the task that I  had me pick up the phone in the first place. Most often, the original task remains undone until the next time I realize it still needs doing, in which case the same dance of incompletion often happens all over again. Now imagine magnifying this process upon most things with life: all the little daily decisions we have to make and actions we need to take. It interferes with the organization and execution of priorities at home and at work every single day.

This all illustrates to me that I have been living and working wildly ineffectively for much of my life. I only think I’m doing a lot because I’m always exhausted. No wonder I’m tired! I’m doing three or four things (or more) for every one thing that I actually want or need to complete! And I know I’m not alone in this.

So What Happens When You Try It?

Meditation Masters Jason StephensonBack to meditation. Even at these beginning stages of the practice, which is where I consider myself to be, I can see how building the first seeds of awareness of an issue equipped me with the ability to then proactively choose to do something about it. After all, it’s an awfully tall task to think that you could come up with a solution to a challenge you don’t even know you even have.

Beyond that, I’ve seen glimpses of experiencing more presence and gratitude in very normal, everyday moments and occurrences. And I have had fleeting experiences of what a quiet mind feels like. It’s bliss.

I can well remember in my regular beer-drinking days, having my mind quieted (bludgeoned) down for a very short time, only to have all the voices come back with a vengeance, along with headaches, dry mouth, poor sleep, and a sense of dread and drudgery to begin most mornings. What a way to live. And I don’t ever recall feeling a natural sense of gratitude for just being alive in the days when I was drinking regularly. And yet our society supports and celebrates this kind of behavior. Madness.

Priorities

I’m glad I can read and write, and I suppose I’m grateful that I know the city of St. John (with no ‘s’) is in New Brunswick while St. John’s (with an ‘s’) is in Newfoundland. That makes me a good, educated Canadian citizen. But why didn’t anybody tell me about meditation? How come no one ever suggested a method of understanding and processing very common human emotions before sending me off to gym class? And more importantly … why are we still perpetuating the same old script that clearly isn’t working?

Why is meditation important? Because life is important. And once any single moment is gone, it’s gone for good. We may as well learn how to be fully engaged in it while we have it.

I just wish I’d known that before I got this far into it.

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Resources

Jason Stephenson is known all over the world for the quality of his guided meditations that he offers online. He’s a wonderful person with a kind and giving heart and he joined me to share his story in Episode 12 of the No Schedule Man Podcast. Give it a listen. I’ll be surprised if you don’t relate to much of it. You can hear it here ==>Episode 12 | Jason Stephenson

Jennifer Farmer is another kind soul whose work I found when I initially set out to explore meditation. She, too, joined me for a podcast conversation, which you may enjoy. You can hear it and read more about Jennifer and also get links to the two guided meditations of hers that I use at this link ==> Episode 26 | Jennifer Farmer

Meditation Masters.tv is a service you may wish to consider, if you’re looking to get started but would like some guidance. This is Jason Stephenson’s membership program, and I could not recommend him more highly. If you’re curious, try a 7-day free trial. If you find it helpful, it’s only $7 a month after that, an incredible value for what meditation will give back to you. To visit Meditation Masters.tv, click here ==> Meditation Masters with Jason Stephenson

Comments?

Do you have a story or experience about meditation? Please share in the comment section, below!

 

20 Responses to “Why is Meditation Important?

  • Stina Pettersson
    4 years ago

    Hi Kevin,
    I’m impressed by this great article and truly glad I wrote it! I had the exact same mindset that people who meditate were a bit weird and spaced out only until about some months ago, when I got the message that I was soon about to crash from a constantly hyper-active brain with hardly no deep sleep to recover, if I didn’t start to meditate!

    I got scared since I had some months earlier got diagnosed with hyperthyroidism partly because of stress and lack of sleep, so I took it seriously and started to learn how to meditate. Honestly, it’s the best and most awakening experience this far!! When I get into that state of total peace and calmness, I don’t want to stop meditating. I truly feel how good this has been for my body and my soul. I now sleep much better without waking up 5-8 times a night and I don’t get bothered with stressful things so much anymore. I’m living more in the moment and I’m also connecting to higher sources or powers, which is really cool.

    Once again, thanks for this well written article! You can count on me to be back for more:-)
    All the best to you,
    Stina

    • HI Stina,
      Thank you for your kind and encouraging thoughts. I’m grateful, and really glad you got something from the article.
      I can relate to what you said about sleeping better. I sleep better now than I can ever remember. I made it a priority. But I really had to decided to do that rather than leaving it to chance. It required a handful of lifestyle changes but they’ve been more than worth it. It sounds like you feel the same way.
      Thanks again for your visit and comments.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • I find that when I meditate I am more creative and better able to focus. There’s nothing as effective as stilling the mind and clearing out all of the mental clutter. You won’t imagine how negative emotions can really hold you back from success and real happiness. Meditation somehow helps me to come back into alignment with a positive mindset.

    I agree with you, often we look for solutions outside of ourselves – drugs, pills, alcohol, sex or whatever. But the real answers are hidden deep inside. A technique such as meditation really helps to bring those answers to the surface.

    I think that we have so many distractions around us – TV, computer, smartphones, people, thoughts, memories, etc. What I find helpful is thinking of something minimal such as the sound of my A/c or focusing on my breathing or simple meditation music or chanting. These really help.

    Nice post and thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Kevon. That’s all really well said. I appreciate the visits, comments and your encouragement. Thank you!
      Wishing you well,
      Kevin

  • I have never tried meditation and am not sure that I exactly understand what it is. Is it clearing your mind? I’m not sure 🙂 I like the sound of removing distractions etc. So that I can get my work done! That would be fantastic! It sounds like you have been through quite a journey.

    • Hi Emma,
      I felt exactly as you described and had the same questions. I’d say meditation is a practice, an exercise, that you can use to build awareness & mindfulness, lower stress and just generally help most things in life to feel as if they’re not racing by and piling up quite so fast. It will most definitely help improve your focus and effectiveness over time.
      Thanks for visiting!
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • Excellent article. You and I gave up the drink at the same time (July ’15 for me.) Aside from the clearer mind I am amazed at how preoccupied I was with alcohol and the prospect of it. Even the simplest and shortest meditation period enhances the lack of ‘fogginess’ even more. I can go for a walk while concentrating on the breath and the aliveness and energy I feel at the end of it has huge benefits for the rest of my day. Everything, not just work, goes better.

    I can also identify with the small preoccupation like the cellphone. The priorities of our day become severely muddled if we give in to it perpetually. There is certainly nothing wrong with organizing our day so that we can concentrate on each aspect of our day fully and not half-heartedly.

    However, in the end, it is the glimpse of something greater than ourselves through meditation that carries the greatest weight for me. The infinite possibilities for our lives are presented to us along with a sense of connectedness.

    Thankyou for the post.

    • Hi Ken,
      That’s wonderfully, beautifully said. Thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts and perspective. I love everything you just shared. Thank you.
      Congratulations also on your sobriety. It’s not that I’m a flag-waving “anti-alcohol” guy, but I get excited when I see anyone make a decision to reclaim their own power and take responsibility for their choices and their health. Good for you!
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • I really need to try meditation because since I started my own blog I can’t get to sleep, lol. I can totally relate to grocery shopping, checking my phone all the time it’s just brutal. Great site Kevin very informative.
    Cheers, Peter

    • Thanks Peter! I can relate. One of the key reasons I decided to try meditation was sleep, or lack of it. I now sleep better than I ever have, wake earlier and get far more done each day. Still fighting off those distractions, though!
      Have fun with the blog. Race like a turtle: slow and steady. It’ll come.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • Elektra
    4 years ago

    Hi Kevin, great article!
    I think the problem is that people don’t want to “waste time” for meditation. The idea of sitting without movement for a period of time and not to be able to check their Facebook at the time is scary for some. They want quick and effortless solutions
    But the thing is that you don’t really need to spend hours sitting like a monk to be able to meditate. There are so many different ways to meditate, they just need to find the way that is best suited for their personality- guided meditation, entrainment music etc.

    • Hi Elektra,
      Agreed! And I still feel that way even though I’ve experienced the benefits! I’ll sit down (not for an hour, but even just for a few minutes) to focus on my breath and try to be still for a very short amount of time, and my mind and body will start screaming at me: do this, do that, do this, gotta do that, GET UP! No wonder we have issues with stress and anxiety in our society.
      I agree with Dan Harris, as I mentioned in the article: the word and thought of “meditation” scares many people off. It did to me, until I felt like I’d exhausted all other options. What a shame to get that far without feeling open or “normal” for reaching for what is a very healthy and natural solution.
      Thanks for your visit and comments!
      All the best,
      Kevin

  • Hey there Kevin!

    Wow, you are putting a lot of hard work into your posts – respect for that! The approach you’re using to reach out to people with over-stressed minds is sensible and personal experiences from your own life add real credibility!

    I enjoyed your story about always chugging down a beer at night in order to relieve yourself from stress. Personally I believe in different way of meditating so to speak – by praying and spending time alone, but since we’re never alone it’s time spent with our Lord Jesus Christ.

    So yeah, in my opinion meditation is important for our spiritual well-being from a bible-believing standpoint.

    Keep up the good work mate!

    May god bless you, cheers.
    Simon

    • Hey Simon,
      Thank you for your very kind words. That’s nice of you to say and I’m grateful. I appreciate the feedback too.
      Prayer, meditation … I don’t think they’re all that different, are they? Getting quiet, letting go and tapping into something much larger than yourself is a great thing all around. If you find that in your faith, that’s wonderful to hear.
      Thank you again for your kind words, and many blessings back your way as well.
      Best wishes,
      Kevin

  • Hi Kevin!
    I usually have a huge problem turning off my mind and sitting in silence and just being in the present. I’m still a complete beginner at Mindfulness meditation but you really do notice the difference in yourself if you stick to it for awhile. I’ve read a few books and followed along with some guided body scans, which work great. My problem is I will stick to it for a few weeks then I get busy or make up some excuse and then slowly stop doing it. I need to figure out a way to make it a part of my life all the time. Thanks for this article.

    • Hi Erin,
      I understand exactly what you mean. I’ve been like that with several different things, including practicing mindfulness and meditation. I’ve recently made a renewed commitment to it now that I feel pretty solid with some other daily habits that I’ve acquired.
      I wish you all the very best, and thanks for taking the time to visit and leave a comment.
      Be well,
      Kevin

  • It is funny that we need to meditate when we have problems. I tend to do just like your alcohol example. When I need to get rid of something or habit I started meditating. With that, I seem to forget meditating when I don’t have problems. What can I do to make meditation a habit?

    • Hi Furkan,
      Thanks for your visit and your comments. It’s just like any other habit you’re trying to build. Take your boxing training as an example. Why do you do it every day? Why not just do it one day a week for a long time? Well, because it doesn’t work that way, right? If you want to build skill, stamina, strength and endurance, you do that by practicing over and over again. If you only do it once in a while, it won’t have anywhere near the same effect.
      Meditation is the same. Think of the skills you’re building: better focus, higher productivity, less stress, better sleep, better mental and physical health, etc. I find that if I focus on acquiring and nurturing these things, I WANT to build the habit.
      I hope that helps!
      Keep swinging 🙂
      KB

  • John Smith
    3 years ago

    Meditation is very beneficial for stress and depression situations. It is a simple way to reduce stress, anxiety, anger and depression. According to Lama Surya Das it makes your mind peaceful and gives us positive energy. Actually it is my personal experience that while people are busy meditating the negative thoughts never come in our mind. I think everyone should do meditation.

    • Hi John!
      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts. I can only say I wish I’d started to explore meditation much, MUCH sooner. At least I’m on it now.
      Wishing you well!
      Kevin

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