Benefits of meditation

Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.

Dhammapada, verse 35.

Meditation is generally pretty far from what many people who don’t meditate imagine it to be. Forget travelling into some mystical world, levitation, sitting in impossible positions and achieving instant inner peace.

(Inner peace, or at least contentment, is actually possible, but it takes time, discipline and effort.)

For me, the whole point of meditation is that it is a means of disciplining my mind. In other words, it is something that has a positive effect on my day-to-day life when I am not sitting on a meditation cushion with my eyes closed.

After all, if the only function of meditation was to make me feel good for half an hour before going back to my normal chaotic life, what would be the point of it? There are other things I can do with far less effort that will make me feel good for half an hour.

I have found that meditation has definitely had a positive effect on my day-to-day life, both in the way I think and the way I act. For one thing, it has made me more mindful and more aware of the importance of the present moment. That, in turn, has drastically reduced the amount of stress I have to deal with, as I attach less importance to the past (which is gone and can’t be changed, so there’s no point worrying about it) and to the possible problems of the future (which haven’t happened yet, and may never happen, so there’s no point dwelling on them or worrying about them either).

I do have a rather stressful job, as I teach children aged seven to eleven with complex educational needs. I also deal with mental illness, as I have had huge problems with PTSD, anxiety and depression over the last few years. However, meditation and mindfulness have drastically reduced the potency of all these difficulties. Work-induced stress affects me less, and in terms of mental illness I am no longer depressed, my anxiety has drastically reduced and I have gone from having several PTSD flashbacks, panic attacks and nightmares every day to rarely having any of them.

Beyond that, I feel much more aware of the world around me now that I’m more in tune with the present moment rather than looking for something – anything – to distract me from the realities of life. Believe me, that in itself is very refreshing.

Meditation has also made me more aware of myself. I am more aware of what pushes my buttons and makes me angry, stressed etc. This means that I can more often recognise those situations as they arise and avoid the conditioned, unthinking reactions to which I would otherwise automatically revert.

Now before you start thinking that I’m setting myself up as some kind of enlightened being who has total mastery of meditation, I should add that all the things I have mentioned here are works in progress. I don’t always succeed at them; however, I am doing them far more often than I would have done without learning to meditate.

I am aware that I still have a lot to learn. So much, in fact, that I don’t even know how much I don’t yet know! However, the important thing is that I am on the path and actively travelling along it. Arrival at the destination may be a long way off, but I’m a lot nearer to it than I would be if I hadn’t set out along the path in the first place.

tamed mind

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