Karl: This book is the first book I’d choose to recommend to someone interested to start meditating.
Most successful people talk about meditation these days. Many would love to meditate but few do. The problem is that many of us think that meditation is somehow complicated, or we think we don’t have time.
What is meditation? Meditation is a personal practice of quieting your mind. It involves focusing on the present moment while relaxing the muscles of your body.
Anyone can meditate
Let your worries go, meditation is so adaptable that anyone can do it successfully. You can completely customize meditation the way it works best for you.
Meditation does not need any kind of physical ability, nor does it cost something to learn it, nor takes it a lot of time. A few minutes per day is all you need.
And even if you invest 20 minutes, these 20 minutes will actually yield you more useful time. The 20 minutes invested in meditation will make you more productive throughout the day. Especially if you keep a regular practice.
What meditation can do for you
For thousands of years, meditation was more an activity for yogis and spiritual gurus. Nowadays more than 20 millions people in the US alone meditate every day. So what exactly do people get from this practice?
Since the 1960’s there have been more than 1000 published studies about meditation. The list of proved benefits is too long to list here, but let’s check out some of them.
- Provides a method to manage life-threatening chronic diseases
- Lowers blood pressure and decreases heart rate
- Helps in the physical healing process
- Boosts the immune system
- Increases production of hormones which make you feel good
- Improves mood & happiness
- Improves vitality
- Increases power of concentration
- Reduces anxiety
- Builds self-confidence
- Increases creativity
- Improves depression
- Boosts learning ability
- Stabilizes your emotions
The proven benefits of meditation
A lot of people try to improve their life by changing external circumstances like getting more money, moving to a different city, job etc. But as long as we don’t change the way we think we are unlikely to have a lot of long-term success. Meditation is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get an exciting lifestyle consistently.
In the mid-1970s Herbert Benson of Harvard showed in his book The Relaxation Response, how meditation can positively affect the heart by lowering blood pressure.
Within the last 20 years the scientific community became more interested in meditation and since, tons of studies have shown benefits like a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, lowered blood pressure, solving sleep problems, and even weight loss.
There is even some incredible anecdotal evidence about cancer and meditation. It’s not uncommon that individuals reduced the size of their cancer tumors or made them disappear with mediation.
Meditation helps the Creative Business Professional
An increasing number of executives use meditation to increase their productivity and creativity.
Meditation helps them make decisions at a high speed and create more innovative solutions or solve problems through improved creativity and intuition.
Meditation got so much popularity among businessmen that many take a break to attend extended meditative sessions.
How meditation changes the brain
“The profound improvements that we found after just four days of meditation training show that the mind is, in fact, easily changeable and highly influenced, especially by meditation” — Fadel Zeidan
Fadel is a post-doctrinal researcher at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The study showed how quickly meditation starts to change the mind.
Karl’s note: I personally read the study so this part is not explained as thoroughly in the book itself.
The study involved 63 student volunteers, 49 of whom completed the experiment. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received meditation training while the other group listened for equivalent periods of tiem to a book (J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit) being read aloud.
Both groups were put to a broad set of tests before the experiment began and performed equally well.
After the four days, both groups improved mood but the meditation group also improved significantly in the cognitive measures. The mediation group scored consistently higher than the reading/listening group and in a test which involved sustaining the ability to focus while holding other information in mind, they scored ten times better.
“Findings like these suggest that meditation’s benefits may not require extensive training to be realized, and that meditation’s first benefits may be associated with increasing the ability to sustain attention,” Zeidan said
The basic practice of meditation
There are many different types of meditation, but you only need to learn the basics. Once you’ve learned these you can easily explore other kinds of meditations to further achieve your meditation goals.
To get the fullest possible effectiveness your meditation practice needs to be performed on a daily basis. Your goal should be to meditate at least 20 minutes per day, but you can start with as little as 5 minutes.
To start, just set your phone’s timer to 5 minutes or whatever length you plan to meditate. Then follow these steps:
- Sit in a chair or on the floor, the position doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable.
- Close your eyes
- Place your hands on your lap with your palms facing up
- Place your focus on your breath, observe the rising and falling of your breath.
- Stay aware of the present moment.
- If thoughts or feelings arise, just label them without judgment and go back to your concentration on the breath.
I hope you liked this little summary. What I especially liked about this book is that it is down to earth, with no mysticism, just easy science facts.
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Also published on Medium.