For thousands of years people have used meditation to move beyond the mind's stress-inducing thoughts and emotional upsets into the peace and clarity of present moment awareness. The variety of meditation techniques, traditions, and technologies is nearly infinite, but the essence of meditation is singular: the cultivation of mindful awareness and expanded consciousness.
These are the ultimate precious gifts of meditation, yet people are initially drawn to meditation for many different reasons. Some begin meditating because of a doctor's recommendation, seeking the health benefits of lowered blood pressure, stress reduction, and restful sleep. Others come to meditation seeking relief from the fearful, angry, or painful thoughts that constantly flood their mind. Still others come to meditation to find greater self-understanding, to increase their intuitive powers, or to improve their ability to concentrate.
It is accurate to say that the purpose of meditation depends on the meditator-- but it is also true that anyone who meditates regularly receives profound benefits on all of these levels-- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Here are just a few of the benefits
- Relief from stress and anxiety (meditation mitigates the effects of the "fight-or-flight" response, decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline).
- Decreased blood pressure and hypertension.
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- More efficient oxygen use by the body.
- Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA.
- Restful sleep.
New research is also showing that meditation restores the brain. A landmark study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.