Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been studied extensively in the science laboratory. Studies have demonstrated that meditation can be used to reduce anxiety, manage depression, lower pain intensity, and improve immune function (Ledesma & Kumano, 2009; Teasdale et al., 2000; Zeidan et al., 2011). Long-term meditators also show less brain atrophy and stronger neural connections than non-meditators (Luders et al., 2012). While physical and psychological benefits are important, they are marginal compared to the ultimate realization of God. The spiritual process initiated with meditation can lead us into several areas of self-discovery and growth.
One of the natural results of a meditation practice for many individuals is the arrival in the consciousness of the question, “Who am I?” The answer, initially, comes in many forms. We become more authentic and aware of our needs and wants. Often we find a connection to the world and the people around us. Feelings of a divine or transcendent presence along with a sense of mutual non-verbal communication arise. We can feel a sense of well-being that goes beyond physical health or psychological health. Our being and our source of being seem to merge. All of these things lead us toward an understanding of our own identity and purpose, both of which have a spiritual foundation in our relationship to God.
Suffering and Illusion
Meditation helps us to see the real causes of suffering and illusion in the world, and we begin to see our role in producing those cycles of suffering. Over time we begin to withdraw our mental images and projections into or onto the world and we see ourselves and the world in a different light. We realize that much of our mental anguish and suffering is the result of emotional attachments, a false sense of who we are, and illusions about our needs.
Meditation helps us develop our intuition, our ability to see into things, beyond things; it helps us understand the interconnectedness of different realities. We develop a non-verbal, non-intellectual form of discernment that helps guide us and lead us toward the wholeness found in God.
We learn our effect on others and we sense when another person’s anger or fear originates from us or from them. We develop boundaries that help protect us as well as providing us with an ability to speak the truth with compassion to others. We learn how the expression of true freedom does not limit the freedom of others.
Meditation helps us learn how our will functions. It helps us learn what is voluntary and what is involuntary in our lives. Our ability to use our will for good improves. We develop physical as well as mental and spiritual discipline—the ability to apply concentrated effort to overcome or transcend obstacles in our path.
Consciousness and Awareness
Our actions become less compulsive or obsessive, and less reactive. Our higher values and principles begin to inform and influence our decisions and behavior because we can see from different perspectives. Our awareness grows. Our consciousness and our ability to function intellectually increase. We become aware of the connection between our heart and mind, and we understand the relationship between our ego and higher states of awareness. Our highest state of awareness is a very natural condition. We learn about the voluntary parts of our being (what we initiate through our own conscious effort)—and involuntary parts of our being (like breathing or the response of our nervous system that we cannot control). We learn how they shape our interactions with others and with the world.
Meditation brings about an awareness of the higher powers that are functioning in our lives. There is a universal presence that comes to us—sometimes visually, sometimes through sound, sometimes through other people, sometimes through our understanding of Christ—and this presence engages us in a mutual dance of love. We become aware of the ways that our relationships reflect the higher powers at work in our lives. We increase our awareness of our purpose in relating to God and other human beings on the same journey to oneness.
As we work through each developmental stage of growth, our growth experiences are accelerated; they come faster and more frequently because we are able to work through them quickly. Our negative experiences become less repetitive as we identify and understand how certain experiences have made “impressions” on our being. We see the relationship between our patterns of behavior and the unconscious scripts (our internal dialog that is an almost automatic response to people or experiences) we follow or use that are the result of ego-centered behavior. As we grow, our experiences become more synchronistic. Helpful people and beneficial events consistently appear in our lives. We learn to observe and experience life without evaluation or judgment.
The end result of this practice is what has been called Christ consciousness, putting on the mind of Christ, self-realization, illumination, enlightenment, or oneness with God. Proper spiritual development through meditation and practice is a long process, even for those who early in the process experience the “flash” of enlightenment. Most ecstatic or blissful experiences are the beginning of the journey, not the end. During the journey you will feel deep humility at the awesomeness and compassion of God’s presence. Meditation becomes like a facilitator or accelerator that generates the experiences we need to grow in awareness, in love, and in God’s spirit.
Meditation is deceptively simple. The process is not hard to understand, but the practice and integration of the results are complex. Progress is made with consistent and regular effort.