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The "Why" Behind Meditation

If you've taken a class with me, I always begin with about 10 minutes of centering which can include pranayama (breathwork) and meditation, and we end with about 10 minutes of savasana, our final meditation. Sooo...what is meditation?

Let's start with what it isn't.

Meditation does not mean you have to have an empty mind. This is a pretty common misconception; that in order to meditate and find peace the mind has to be clear and completely empty.

The goal of meditation is not to empty the mind but to allow thoughts to slow down and be less demanding of our focus. My favorite metaphor is to let your thoughts float across your mind like clouds that float across the sky. You can see them, and you can feel their shadows if they block the sun, but you can't touch them.

When you meditate, you're not clearing the clouds. You're learning to live with them, without letting them be your main focus. You're learning to live with your thoughts, without letting them consume you.

Once you have achieved this state of separation from your thoughts, you can get a little closer to your center. There is a difference between self and Self. The self is your thoughts, your judgments, your awareness of your body. You can think of self as the vessel. The Self is your essence, your center, core,'s the meat and potatoes of your spirit. Meditation can help you not only differentiate between the two, but also nurture the Self to expand further into the self. To be more of who you are, and less of what external influences guide you to be.

In the roots of yoga, practitioners would use asana (physical practice) to strengthen their bodies in order to sit for hours of meditation. Meditation and elevation of the spirit would guide them closer to enlightenment - to be free of this world in spirit if not in body. Today, meditation is less about reaching enlightenment and more about stress relief. Here are some practical benefits of the meditation we practice today:

Meditation can alter the brain's chemistry - with consistent practice the brain can produce more happy brain chemicals (like dopamine) and decrease the stressy brain chemicals (like cortisol).

Your neural pathways can also change. Ever find yourself in a loop of negative thoughts? Going over that same story of that time you said "you too!" to the guy at Subway who told you to enjoy your sandwich? Well, neural pathways can learn to follow negative thought patterns - which means they can also learn to follow positive thoughts with a little re-training! Meditation can help you build these pathways by thickening your pre-frontal cortex - which leads to "higher order" brain function like concentration, awareness, decision-making...etc. It's like weightlifting for your brain!

Here's a breakdown of what meditation can help with:

  • Stress relief

  • Connection to the Self and others

  • Awareness

  • Ability to be more present

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Lower cholesterol

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Patience and tolerance

  • Focus

...and so much more!

How do you feel about your meditation practice?

  • 0%It's hard

  • 0%I don't like it

  • 0%I love it

  • 0%Neutral

You can vote for more than one answer.

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