What Are the True Benefits of Meditation?
Meditation nowadays is a welcome practice even among people who do not have clear spiritual aims. Research has proven time and again its positive physiological and psychological effects. The reported benefits of meditation by those who practice include relaxation, disconnecting from daily problems, and finding relief from stress.
What if I told you these states were only the prerequisites for true meditation?
Meditation as a spiritual discipline
Meditative practices have been observed throughout history in various traditions and parts of the world. One of the profound texts of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, has identified meditation (when a meditative state is achieved) as a very high spiritual achievement – in fact, as the step before one reaches enlightenment. This is far beyond relaxation and stress reduction.
Why would we quote a Yoga book when discussing meditation? It is important to understand that Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. In truth, these are not practices that can be separated from one another – Yoga IS meditation and meditation IS Yoga!
In brief, Patanjali laid down eight steps toward enlightenment within the path of Yoga – eight stages of practice. Meditation is near the pinnacle:
Step 8 – Samadhi or realization of self – in other words, enlightenment
Step 7 – Dhyana or true meditation, control of the mind, detachment from all but the act itself
Step 6 – Dharana or concentration of the mind; much of what is known as “relaxation” and “disconnection” happens in this stage or the previous ones.
As you can see, these are the last steps in a progressively more profound and very noble journey along the yogic path. Reaching these final steps requires a strong dedication to one’s personal practice as well as an authentic understanding of what real meditation is. Unfortunately, many modern-day classes and courses are devoid of this crucial knowledge and, as a result, spiritual aspirants only learn about the tip of a very large iceberg.
You might say that feeling relaxed is enough for you, so why bother with some obscure benefits of meditation that require all these steps and effort?
The benefits of meditation are available to all
Whether your path springs forth from a spiritual calling or from the simple wish to reduce stress in your life, the effort a practitioner of Yoga and meditation puts into it is directly related to the benefits and effects he or she will experience. One might ask, what are these wondrous effects? A few of the most notable benefits of meditation are:
Controlling your mind – Imagine not being defined by your thoughts and emotions but rather defining them yourself
Expansion of your mind – Seeing the patterns that make up reality with perfect clarity
Detachment in your mind – Reaching a state in which external stimuli do not affect you and you can act as you will
As the saying goes, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”