23 November 2013

Why mindfulness meditation is good

This summer I decided to read books more regularly and write a blog post about each book that I have read.
Now I just finished reading the book "Mindfulness in Plain English" and I liked it a lot. It is written by a monk (H. Gunaratama) who has a lot of experience in meditating and in teaching meditation, and it is written in a very secular way with almost no mention of anything religious. The book is just right for someone like me who has regular meditation experience and wants to deepen his practice. I suppose that it would also be good for a beginner who really wants to have a solid basis for their practice.
Since the book already has tens or even hundreds of reviews on-line, I don't want to write another one and instead write about what all this meditation is good for. And indeed there's a lot to say about the benefits of meditation. In fact, I think that there are so many benefits to meditation that I want to describe them in two categories. The first one is very practical. Those are benefits for each person who meditates. And they have been scientifically researched and confirmed. In that sense, meditation is basically a workout for your brain just as sports like running or doing weights are workouts for your body. The other category is harder to describe, it's about finding meaning in one's life, finding connection with nature and society, finding true peace and happiness. I think that this category is more subjective, simply because those words might not mean much to some people. To other people, however, especially to many who like to meditate in a group, those are much more powerful benefits than what can be objectively measured.

Here are the scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness meditation:
  • it boosts concentration
  • it reduces stress
  • it helps to sort out one's priorities towards more long-term goals
  • it's an approved therapy against depression and anxiety
  • it boosts the immune system has other beneficial effects on physical health which combine reduce the average number of days that people with regular meditation practice are sick.
Googling the term "benefits of meditation" brings up even more things, but for me the ones mentioned are the key benefits int that first, pragmatic, group.

Now the second group of benefits is where things really get spiritual. I think that some readers might not believe this and are rather convinced by the first group only. But this second group also matters to me and therefore I want to share it, too, even though it is somewhat fuzzy and subjective. One phrase that comes to my mind is: "meditation makes life more enjoyable". Another: "meditation makes us really human because we can let go of our impulses and act according to our deeper aspirations and goals". It is actually a proven benefit of mindfulness meditation that it makes people behave more nicely and empathically. I did not list this in group one, however, because some people might be afraid that such a simple practice might change something so profound about their personality. I think the wish to be nicer towards others is stronger in some people than in others and it is probably that sort of person who is attracted by the spiritual aspect of meditation. Meditation reduces violence, both physical and verbal. Meditation creates peace and sharing. It is the way to world peace and world brotherhood. The way to a world where no one suffers from hunger, curable illness, or loneliness. 

If you want to join that world or if you just want to taste the more pragmatic benefits of meditation then you can start meditating right now. And if you want to learn about the subject in a deep, but written-for-beginners, way, then Gunaratana's Mindfulness in plain English will be a good book for you.


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