Updated: Feb 17, 2022
As meditation comes more into the mainstream, it brings along with it stereotypes and preconceived notions. The new-age, soft-spoken yogi archetype that is for many people synonymous with meditation is often times a turn-off to those who could benefit the most from it. Sure, it can have a spiritual element to it, and it often does...but it doesn’t have to. So in the interest of dispelling outdated meditative concepts, allow me to address the following: -You don’t need to wear a robe. -It won’t turn you vegan. -You can meditate regularly without ever having to talk to someone about chakras. -You won’t be forced to do yoga. (And yes, meditation is generally aligned with yoga, for various reasons...but the overwhelming majority of people who utilize meditative practices do not practice yoga). I write this in the hopes that it may open people’s eyes that would not otherwise consider meditation as an option. Here is a stripped-down version of what meditation has done for me. These are the four most notable (and easily explainable) benefits I have received from my practice. 1. I hated waking up. Literally hated it. On a visceral level. “Not a morning person” does not even begin to explain the distain I felt when my alarm went off. Think less grumpy, and more depressive. I was not an enjoyable person to be around. Even when I was functioning at a relatively high level, I would stay in bed until the last possible minute. 9am session? Get in the shower at 8:15, in car by 8:35, at house by 8:59. 10am session? Same thing; just an hour later. Day off? You could bet I’d be in my bed until noon. After only one week of daily meditation, a crazy thing started to happen. I began waking up before my alarm. And it wasn’t a ‘I need to get back to sleep’ wake-up either. It was a ‘ok I’m awake let’s get this day started’ wake-up. And then I started waking up earlier. And earlier. In 2-weeks time, I was waking up at 7 o’clock every morning. With no alarm. For no reason. Awake and ready to start the day and happy and what the fuck is going on right now. Over time, it became earlier. Nowadays, I’m usually up around 6:30. I’ve been alarm clock-free for years. I tend to get less sleep than I used to yet feel more alert and energetic throughout the day. 2. I had always been a 'procrastinator', or what you could call 'lazy', but on a viscerally debilitating level. Anxiety permeated every facet of my life, both personal and professional. Whenever I had to do something, no matter how trivial, I always felt like I had a huge rubber band pulling me back to doing nothing. Everything was a struggle in my mind: Seemingly trivial tasks like taking out the trash or cleaning the litter box would turn into hours, and sometimes days, of mental anguish. Silly as it may seem, it was crippling. I was an incredibly low-functioning individual. After a few weeks of regular meditation, I found myself doing ‘things’ with a vigor never previously experienced. It’s almost like I replaced my old batteries...the ones that I had been using my whole life. I’d stop at the gas station to fill up before my low-gas light came on. I’d take the trash out when it was full instead of piling shit next to the can for another few days. I started folding my laundry instead of taking it out of the dryer and just leaving it in the basket. I’d get the mail. Make my bed. I began thinking of things I needed to do instead of dreading thinking about things I was supposed to have done. For many, the issues described above may seem insignificant, or even childish, and the results silly; however, those that suffer from similar anxieties and emotional obstacles will understand that the changes were nothing short of incredible. 3. Anger is the most destructive of all emotional states. It’s both the hardest to hide, and the most debilitating. Those who have similar issues know what a horrible effect it can have on your life. Broken friendships, shattered relationships. You don’t garner much sympathy either. It’s hard to empathize with an asshole. I had a lot of emotional issues growing up. And as an adult. Any type of hurt, disappointment, sadness, frustration, and pain was inevitably funneled down the path of expression via anger. Anger was my only truth. If I felt angry, I was angry. There was no distance, or difference, between the two. I did work on my temper by various means: I combined sobriety with a few years of therapy, and it worked wonders. Although I learned to (mostly) control my temper externally, it was still what I felt internally. I rarely acted, but I still often felt, angry. Meditation did something that those others couldn’t. In effect, it allowed me to distance myself from my anger. It was still there, just…quieter. Almost like it was someone else. I’m pretty sure that from 15-33 years of age, anyone who knew me (even those I was closest to) would have described me as an angry person. I know that word would probably never be used by those who get to know me now. That’s a pretty incredible thing. And as much as I would love to take all the credit, and say it’s from hundreds of hours of therapy, sobriety, and soul-searching, I know that much of it is simply due to the fact that I sit quietly with my eyes closed for 20 minutes twice a day. And that doesn’t make much sense. But that doesn’t make it any less true. 4. As I have discussed in previous writings, I battle with substance issues. Simply put, meditation helps me win that battle. I know when I am practicing regularly, I don’t have an urge to party. I go to the gym. I eat healthier. I treat myself with more care. I just like myself better. I focus on the good, not the bad. My attention shifts from self-destruction to self-respect. I can’t truly articulate how much of apositive impact this has on my life. It’s nothing short of incredible. In Conclusion Any of these benefits taken individually could be considered substantial. Taken together, it’s nothing short of remarkable. Taking my specific examples and putting them aside for a moment, the scientific literature shows meditation to have an incredible amount of positive effects. Here are just a few: -Improved breathing & heart rates* -Improved mental focus/clarity* -Decreased blood pressure* -Decreased levels of anxiety* -Increased memory retention* -Reduced food and nicotine cravings* In addition to the above, a study done by the University of California showed meditation may effectively treat depression “to a similar degree as antidepressant drug therapy.” That alone is remarkable; and when combined with all the other effects listed above, you simply have to ask yourself... How much would you pay for a pill that did all that? These are merely some of the benefits of meditation that decades of research had shown. Don’t just take my word for it; do your own inquiry, and come to your own conclusion. If nothing else, it may turn out to be a tool to help you unwind after a long day. And it doesn’t take much either; if you can get yourself to put in two 10-minute sessions daily for one week, I’m pretty sure you too will begin to start to see notable effects. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go sit with my eyes closed for a bit.
Steve Aneiro *side effects include waking up earlier and being in a better mood.