Most of us know that meditation is, apparently good for us. We’ve been told oh so many times we should get up half an hour early to find time to meditate, or that we should skip reading that magazine at lunchtime in favour of a few breathing exercises. It used to be only the spiritual, the buddhist or the alternative communities pressing the benefits….. but today everyone seems to be encouraging us to meditate. Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, The New York Times. Prince Charles is even funding mediation for young offenders.
I meditate almost every day – and have done ever since I began my magical journey. It was one of the very first techniques I myself was taught. Some days I miss it, no-one is perfect, but I always come back to it as the foundation of my practice.
Why is meditation so good for us?
Why do I recommend that meditation is one of my three foundations of a magical life?
There are hundreds of good reasons to add meditation into your life, and thousands of scientific studies which are backing up all of these claims. But here are just 10 of the most life changing reasons to include it in your daily routine. Its a bit of a whistle stop tour – but if any peak your interest there is lots of research out there to dig into.
10. Meditation makes you nicer!
Its true! Meditation can make you nicer. How on earth? Because it generates kindness as well as a sense of connection to other people. It can also increase feelings of compassion – to yourself as well as others, which will generally add up to you being at least a tiny bit nicer! (Not that you aren’t already nice obviously, but if you are anything like me you will occasisionally have a slight off day!).
Of course what really matters is how you use this increased compassion – your actions. Meditating won’t solve homelessness or poverty, you have to actually ACT on that. But thats another blog post…..
9. It improves your concentration and Focus
In fact not only can it help you concentrate better, meditation can actually alter the physical make up of your brain (as this study found).
In a world with so many things happening all at once, where we value multi-tasking to the extreme, increasing your concentration can be really difficult. But its also important – from getting jobs done quickly to doing well in exams. And magically you need concentration to make sure your magic goes exactly where you want it to! This study showed meditation helps those things with 47% of participants reported increased levels of attention.
But as an aside this study showed it also increases the ability to multi-task! Meditation really is the ultimate mult-purpose power tool!
8.Meditation Improves Memory
From storing information to recalling it – and forgetting it – we can all relate to this one. Forgetting the name of a colleague, trying desperately to remember what you went to the shops to buy, recalling information in an exam or interview, or the last line of the ritual you spent all last week trying to memorise!
This study found a whole host of benefits to mediation, one of which was increased working memory. The really interesting part was that these results were seen after just 4 sessions. Which means if you start today, you memory could improve before the end of the week!
7. Better Health
Who doesn’t want better health? Many many studies are demonstarting real health improvements in participants who mediate regularly – lower blood pressure, increased immunity, improved pain managment to name but a few.
This study demonstrated that “a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function”. This one showed that experienced meditators perceived the pain as less unpleasant than non-meditators. Whilst this one showed that Meditators required significantly higher temperatures to elicit moderate pain when heat was applied to the half. But frankly that one seemed a little harsh! On kinder ground, this one demonstrated the potential beneficial impact of meditation on blood pressure and heart rate in young people.
And these are just a handful of studes relating to physical health benefits. What is clear is that meditation can be really useful tool in maintaining and improving your general health.
6. Increased Energy
I get it. I REALLY get it. The idea of losing 20 or 30 minutes sleep for a bit of mediataion is a tough one when you are tired, worn out, and already dreading facing the day on broken sleep, a late night, or a really long week at work. But what if it helped with that? What if 20 minutes mediation was better for your energy levels than a few extra minutes asleep?
Acording to this and this study thats exactly what happens when you meditate! So drag yourself out of bed and give it a go. And I know it for myself too – its been proven to me time and time again that I am more lethargic and more in need of coffee on days I don’t mediate. So if I have to choose meditation wins over my bed every time. (But luckily I don’t actually have to choose…. there are lots of ways to fit meditation into your life easily).
5. Reduced Stress
We all face stress of one kind or another in our daily lives – whether its the pace of life generally, the pressures of work, or the expectations we put upon ourselves.I recently read that 85% of adults in the UK experienced stress regulary. And whilst some stress is useful and necessary – it has a biological purpose afterall – 39% of adults felt they were ‘too stressed’.
Stress can inhibit your life in many ways – it can cause headaches, make you sleepy, reduce your libido, make you irritable or make you stop doing the things you enjoy. Ironically the thing that might help reduce or manage the stress.
Meditation can both reduce the level of stress which is felt, and help you manage the stress you cannot avoid. A win-win!
4. Improved Sleep
I’ve already told you that I would swap 20 minutes sleep for 20 minutes meditation any day of the week. But a little bit more good news to make that easier to accept – regular mediation improves the quality of the sleep you do get!
This study showed participants experienced less sleep disturbance, whist this one showed it helped to treat insomnia. And this article covers a number of studies in this area, providing a really good summary.
The short story is more meditation = better sleep.
3. Improves Your Mental Health
So this is a claim I want to be really, really careful about. There are a lot of studies which show that meditation can reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety, that it can improve mood and emotional wellbeing. But I am not a doctor, or a therapist, and I don’t teach meditation claiming to cure or help any of these things.
I believe that if you are struggling with mental health issues that meditation can be a positive addition to your day and can have huge benefits, but Im not going to claim that it will solve the problems, on its own for everyone.
I know this argument could be made for many of the benefits I’ve already talked about – in particular physical health benefits. But my experience has been that mental health issues get diminished in a way physical health ones don’t. For this reason I decided not to share studies on this one – and I hope you understand why. But if you are interested then google scholary will provide lots of information for you to look at the full story.
2. Increases Self Awareness
I’m getting to the big ones now for us magically. Self Awareness is critical for anyone beginning, or already following, a magical path. ‘Know Thyself’ was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and it is the work of a magical lifetime.Not least because we change every single day so the person you knew yesterday is not the person you are today. Luckily daily meditative practice aids us in this deep self-awareness, as well as the general understanding of the term.
As we move deeper into the magical benefits of meditation then scientific studies will become less usefull to us – science cannot yet answer all the questions magic rasies. But its still helps illuminate around the issue (and magic is never anti-science). So this study and discussion may be of interest.
1. Provides a solid foundation for all kinds of magic
The number one reason to meditate in my view – the reason its one of the very first techniques I teach new students, is because it provides a foundation for everything which is to come.
Some of that is from the benefits already mentioned – the improved concentration or the increased self-awareness. But its more than this as well. Meditation creates space.
It reduces the noise within you, and provides you with quiet calmness into which spirtual connections can grow. Often times during your magical training you will want to sit and listen to spirits – to hear messages or seek answers. To listen to the universe. But without first reducing the noise within your mind how can you differentiate between the everyday and the divine?
Mediatation provides a solid way to open up this space, whilst at the same time opening up the pathways to connection with energies beyond yourself.
I don’t need to share any scientific studies for this one – in fact I would doubt the varasitiy of most studies which sought to prove this. I KNOW this one, from the very bottom of my soul. And most magical practicioners who have seriously stuck with a mediatation practice will know this too. Its the foundation on which we can build so much.
So I hope my 10 reasons to include meditation in your life have provided you with a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of encouragement and a little bit of motivation to stop putting it off and start doing it! Hopefully the question you are asking now is – where do I start with it?
Well it just so happens that my ‘where to start’ guide is entirely about mediation in reality! Breathing exercises and body awareness is the simplist first step that I know. If you have already downloaded it then go back and have another read of it – and if not you can get it here.