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Why bother with meditation?


On World Meditation Day (21 May), I paused to consider my own meditation practice, and why I bother.

It takes effort – and it’s worth it.

It’s a commitment to myself and my own wellbeing that ripples into how I experience the world every day. What I have learned along the way is that I am more relaxed, more grounded, more resilient when meditation is a regular practice in my life, which means daily. More or less. There are occasions when I miss a day or so, usually due to a change in my start to the day. Ironically, today has been one of those days! After waking at 4.40am and deciding that was too early to get started (in summer I often start around 5.30am – it suits my body’s natural rhythm) I then slept in till 7am. Today is a birthday – my fiancé’s twin daughters are 10 years old, so there was a flurry of presents and cards to attend to in place of my usual morning: a cup of hot water and quiet time for meditation. I may find space for it later today, and definitely tomorrow morning.

It took time for me to fully commit to meditation. I see it now as a commitment to self-care and maintaining my personal well-being. Having read about the benefits over the several years, I started with a short online programme in 2014 and noticed how I benefitted from creating space for myself in the hustle and bustle of life. I felt less frazzled. Yet when the programme ended I dipped in and out without fully establishing a regular practice. If only I had known then what I know now!

I finally committed fully about a year later after a one-day training course in Effortless Meditation. And I downloaded the Insight Timer app (available free of charge), which enabled me to fully embed a regular practice by tracking my daily activity. As well as using the app’s timer I have dipped into the 1000’s of guided meditations (15,000 when I first began, now c.95,000) which can be selected by duration and topics such as learning to meditate, coping with anxiety, improving sleep and many more.

Rippling into daily life

The benefits that ripple into my daily life are many and varied

  • An increased sense of calm from giving my brain a rest! Daily life is filled with stimuli and meditation creates a pocket of space that allows life to slow down for a while
  • A more balanced perspective. My days are still full and busy, and “stuff happens” but most of the time I remember to pause rather than jumping into reactive mode. It’s as though actively creating quiet space during the meditation enables me to reconnect with more of myself when challenges arise. (Neuroscience tells us that the amygdala, the reactive part of the brain responsible for fight-freeze-flight is reduced over time through meditation, so we are more able to respond through choices considered in the brain’s thinking zone, the pre-frontal cortex)
  • I’ve also noticed how my creativity and problem-solving increase without any “efforting” when meditation is a regular practice. It feels like giving my mind a rest creates space for ideas and solutions to emerge with more ease, not usually during the meditation itself, but afterwards – often in the shower!
  • Relationships feel richer and more manageable even when challenging because I feel more present in the moment, more alert to what is happening and my own responses as well as those of the other person

If you would like to find out more about mindfulness meditation I recommend The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard. It includes many mindfulness exercises that can be done in 10 minutes a day, or less, as well as teachings on mindfulness and its impact.

You can also access 7 Days of Finding Your Balance – a series of easy-to-follow mindfulness exercises to try out each day, designed to help you take a breath and find some space.

Jane Bytheway