If you’re striving for improvement, self-development and growth there are three fundamental areas you must consider. Constantly. That’s your Mind, your Body and your Soul. That’s not to say you’re not good enough at this present moment in time; but the expression ‘there’s always room for improvement’ comes to mind. It’s quite liberating and rewarding to edge closer and closer to a desired goal every day. Whatever that goal is, it gives you purpose.
I mentioned striving for improvement is constant. It never stops. You’re always required to develop your mind to adapt to the forever changing conditions at work; or to become slightly better in your trade. Your soul relates to maintaining the relationships you have with people, ranging from your partner (or your soul-mate as the case may be), to your family and friends. And not to mention the hardest relationship of all – relating to you! Maintaining your confidence, self-esteem, direction and purpose is no easy task. It’s easy to see how developing and maintaining your body is a constant endeavour. Whether its improving your athletic capabilities, adjusting certain aesthetic aspects of yourself, reducing the risk of developing certain diseases or even fighting them. Whatever it is, it’s certainly a constant battle.
Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was a daily habit you could adopt that improves, develops and provides growth in all fundamental areas – Mind, Body and Soul? Well there is. It’s been around for centuries. It’s the ancient practice of Meditation.
It’s hard to say what meditation is exactly as there are many types of meditation originating from various countries all over the world. Generally speaking, meditation is a relaxed state of mind involving very little or the complete absence of internal monologue. Internal monologue meaning the chattering that goes on inside your mind. This is not to say during meditation your mind is completely vacant, senseless and empty. It’s quite the opposite. Whilst meditating you are completely immersed within the moment. In tune with all 5 senses without rationalising the sensations you feel. For example, imagine meditating in the garden on a summers day. Senses are being stimulated left, right and centre. As you breathe in, you feel your chest and stomach expand slowly. The pleasant smell of cut grass lingers in the air. You feel the heat of the sun hitting and leaving your skin as the clouds pass over, with the prevailing wind adjusting your fringe. Breathing out you hear the soft noise of air flowing through your nose, as well as bees humming nearby. You have noticed all of this happen within one inhale and exhale of breath. How eventful! Whereas if you were not mediating. Perhaps sitting outside with a coffee. You would sit ignorant to most of these pleasant sensations occurring around you. You’d be lost in thought thinking about the day’s activities. I don’t intend to denounce general thought as it serves a rather important function in life; but thinking too much will cause negative effects on your psychology and physiology.
Meditation provides your mind with a respite from general thoughts, concerns and excitements of the day’s events. Having this respite has been shown to have a considerable effect on your mental health which in turn will positively affect your physiology. In a study with cancer patients, mood disturbances and signs of stress were reduced with a daily meditation programme performed over a period of six months (Carlson et al, 2001). Remember, these are cancer patients facing potential fatality. I can’t comprehend a situation more stressful. Yet meditation has benefitted their psyche. Imagine what it could do for you with your general day to day problems. Road rage would be a thing of the past. You would rarely feel the need to vent to your friend or partner. Little changes like that make a big difference.
With my personal experience in meditation I wouldn’t say I have felt the effects of reduced stress or anxiety. Probably because I exercise way too much to get overly stressed or feel much anxiety. Exercise is wonderful for that, but that’s a whole new article in itself. The reason why I meditate is for the pure enjoyment and for the positive affects it has on my Personal Training career. Back in the UK when I worked for Virgin Active, in-between clients I would nip down to the pool area to meditate for 20-40 minutes. Doing so gave me the opportunity to completely disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the gym floor. Stopping those nagging thoughts of ‘‘Dave, you need to get 2 more clients this month to hit your personal target’’. After I would feel completely revitalised. Feeling as if it was the start of the day and I hadn’t been in the gym for 6 hours already. Walking up the stairs to the gym I would have a smile on my face that reached my ears. Saying good afternoon to everyone with genuine enthusiasm and meaning. On the gym floor, I wouldn’t hesitate to say hello to strangers. Asking them if they were happy with their workout plans and if they needed any help or assistance. This reimbursement of energy helped me to acquire new clients when I needed them and most importantly; it infected my current clients with energy during their workouts. The benefits of meditation go far beyond reduced anxiety and stress. And even further than stimulating your business to grow and develop.
Meditating, being completely immersed with the happenings of your garden on a summers day is only the beginning. Once you induce your mind into that state of being there are many directions you can take it. As I said, there are many different types of meditation. Some people direct their focus on different parts of their body. For example, pin pointing their attention on certain parts of their skin. Or feeling the rhythm of their heart-beat and even intentionally slowing their heart rate down. Some people focus on the flow of their chakras. I’ll talk about chakras in another article giving my account on Reike meditation. All I have to say for now is, something profound and interesting is going on there for sure. Where I prefer to take my focus during meditation is more involved within visual sensations. It would be wrong to say I visualize things during mediation. That would imply I assert conscience effort behind what I see. It’s better described as passively observing images that randomly pop into my head. Before long these images seem to connect together forming a dream-like scenario. No longer am I aware of the happenings of the garden or the noises of the swimming pool behind me. I’m completely immersed within the dream-like scenario I’m witnessing. These scenarios can range from all types of imaginable experiences. Sometimes thrilling experiences. Sometimes very intimate and compassionate experiences. Sometimes experiences stimulating enormous amounts of curiosity. Wondering if there was meaning behind what I saw. But most of the time, completely random and bizarre occurrences that are entertaining.
This mediation habit led me to have a series of consecutive lucid dreams which has opened my mind to new possibilities and new perspectives. It’s safe to say over time meditation has sculpted a whole new outlook for me. An outlook I’m incredibly happy to have. It has altered my perspective on self-definition and how I relate to people and the world around me. Causing me to be in complete awe and wonder of the unconscious mind. Making me inherently curious of all things metaphysical; and helping me to understand my full potential. Knowing that all limitations are self-imposed.
My intentions behind writing this article where to inspire you to incorporate meditation into your lifestyle. No matter how busy or hectic it is. Hoping that in time you would gain the same or similar insights I have had which has affected my life in a very positive way. Along with experiencing the physical and psychological benefits it carries.
My next article on meditation will be a ‘how to’ guide, giving you the last piece to the jigsaw you’ll need to get started on meditation.
Carlson, L., Ursuliak, Z., Goodey, E., Angen, M. and Speca, M. (2001). The effects of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients: 6-month follow-up. Supportive Care in Cancer, 9(2), pp.112-123.