There has been a lot of research lately about the benefits of meditation. Among other things, scientists have shown that regular prayer and meditation reduce the body’s stress response, change the structure of the brain for the better, decreases anxiety and depression, and reduces loneliness. Amazing results, right?
Well, we at Kadampa Meditation Center South Carolina have lots of respect for science, but the majority of us aren’t scientists ourselves. Instead of double-blind studies and drawing blood samples, we decided to simply ASK some of our students what kinds of differences they’ve seen in their lives thanks to regular meditation. Here are 7 of their stories.
“I remember one of the first times I really noticed how much my meditation practice was improving my daily life. I’d been meditating regularly for a few months (this was back around 2002 or 2003), and I got into a big disagreement with one of my co-workers. Harsh words were spoken. My normal reaction would have been to get very angry and say something cutting or hurtful in response, but then I remembered my meditation practice from that morning, when I’d meditated on treating everyone with equal loving-kindness, even if they were unkind to us. So I stopped myself from saying anything mean. It wasn’t easy, but I remember being so grateful for my meditation practice. Otherwise I would have said something that I regret.” — Anonymous
2. “Meditation decreases my anxiety levels.”
“One of the biggest benefits I’ve gotten from regular meditation is a lessening of anxious minds. Moments of mind that come up and belittle, compare, expose, negatively narrate, agitate and continue to scratch at a raw, unconfident self. The longer I continue to meditate on minds like acceptance, love, compassion and emptiness and become familiar with these minds out of formal meditation, the more I catch the negativity come up and the stronger my resolve is to end these minds because they lead me to further unhappiness.
“The more I meditate, the more calm my mind remains, even when anxious minds get triggered by things like having to stand up and run a meeting at work or lead a conference call with all your bosses three tiers up the ladder. Anxiety still arises, but it doesn’t grip and render me speechless. Daily meditation allows me to learn how to take every single appearance, thought, and feeling and transform it into something purely meaningful.” — Devon S.
“For me, the main benefit of regular meditation practice is strengthening my familiarity with beneficial ways of viewing whatever circumstances show up in my daily life. It’s almost as if there is at most times a tension between my habitual responses to types of situations and the new, more beneficial responses I’m trying to cultivate. The more I can saturate my mind with meditation and Dharma, the more regularly I’m able to side step my old crappy self-interested reaction-driven self.
“The particular thing I find myself doing at work the most is playing devil’s advocate for beneficial views. Like most workplaces, complaining and resentment are pretty rampant. I try to undercut complaining minds as often as possible (rather than feeding or encouraging them) by pointing out all the benefits of our jobs and workplace. When someone complains about the job in general, I usually respond,’Dude, I’m just happy to have a job!’ Or if there is some kind of ill-feeling bubbling up between coworkers I usually try to undercut the emotion either with playfulness, or by redirecting one person’s ill will by mentioning the struggles of the other person. The more I meditate, the more I remember to do this.” — Sean G.
4. “Short meditations during the day get me out of my bad mood.”
“Often I’ll find myself in a ‘mood’, either overly concerned about something trivial at work, or realizing that Dharma is very far from my heart in general as the day has progressed. In these moments, I usually try to go to the bathroom, take a few minutes, begin with breathing meditation, and then go for refuge. I recall what it is that I am actually trying to accomplish and emulate within my mind, and I remind myself what compassion and wisdom and reliance look and feel like.
“One time many years ago, I was making copies of something in the office and I was again in ‘mood’, and I stopped immediately and realized, ‘I have choice.’ I was then able to drop whatever negative mental state was creeping in, and throughout the day I tried to remember this. The day wasn’t perfect after that, but it was a whole lot better.” — Kris D.
5. “Meditation has increased my compassion.”
“The biggest gift I have gotten from meditation is from meditating on universal compassion. These meditations hands-down have deeply changed how I view every difficulty or challenge I encounter in my life.
“When my son had a particular illness that was not easily treatable, I now understood how powerless parents can feel when their child is ill and they unable to help them. When our financial situation changed and our income stopped, I tasted the sense of loss and insecurity that people can feel when they loose their jobs, savings and stability. When I struggled physically this year with chronic asthma, every time I had trouble breathing I thought about the millions of people worldwide who also have breathing trouble but who have no access to medical care.
“Every difficulty or challenge I encounter is no longer ‘my problem;’ instead it is ‘my window’ which I can look through and feel connected to the struggles of others.” — Sharon L.
6. “Meditation helps me be patient with difficult people.”
“There is this guy at work who is the most arrogant person I’ve ever known. Seriously. But not in an evil way. Just a way that really gets on peoples nerves. I use my meditation practice to try to generate patience and compassion for him. In actuality, I know he has low self-esteem and goes through a lot of hard life stuff. Through holding compassion, I am able to really accept him and keep my own mind peaceful at the same time.” — Anonymous
“For me, my daily meditation practice is the life-force of my spiritual life. It re-energizes me and makes it easier to keep a happy mind throughout the day. I always look forward to my meditation sessions because I know how much it impacts my life and my relationships with others. There have been so many times when I have been able to work out problems in my life on my meditation cushion. I never want to go back to life without a meditation practice.” — K. Tabkay
What’s Your Story About Meditation Benefits?
Are you a meditator? What’s your story about how meditation has positively impacted your life? Share your story in the comments section below.