I first began studying and reading about meditation in the late 1970’s. At that time everything I read focused on meditation as a practice rooted in spiritual philosophy and the practice was centered on the attainment of mystical experience. I began practicing and found that it worked.
That was nearly 40 years ago. These days meditation and mindfulness have both been found useful not only for the attainment of enlightenment but also for performance enhancement, stress reduction and managing depression.
Mystical teachings lay out a simple and straightforward plan for using meditation as a pathway to enlightenment. Meditation is also a fast, easy way to clear the clutter of your mind, still your thoughts and reduce stress. It works.
Enlightenment can take a lifetime. Stress reduction can happen in minutes. And even a few sessions of meditation can work wonders.
How Meditation Works
Brain scans done on meditators learning mindfulness have shown that they have decreased activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety) when exposed to negative thoughts. Meditators were better able to notice negative thoughts without responding to them by getting upset or anxious.
Research has shown that adding mindfulness practice to treatment plans can help reduce the recurrence of chronic depression. Mindfulness has also been successfully used to augment treatment of a variety of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, and others.
Depression is the leading cause of disability affecting some 7% of the population. The challenge of calming our minds can be daunting especially when dealing with depression. One of the first steps is acknowledging that we need to start.
Depression in the Workplace
Researchers also have measured far higher incidences of depression among entrepreneurs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley and a highly successful talent pool of entrepreneurs, the 2-Minute Mind Check now encourages employees to take a short, mental health survey that measures where you stand on the depression scale. This initiative, organized by the ADAA, NAMI-SF, WeWork, and Meru Health, also offers free resources to help employees manage those symptoms.
Websites like PYO.yoga offer dozens of meditation exercises with guided visualizations and imagery (on a pay as you wish basis). Meditation apps like InsightTimer and Calm are available which allow you to learn and practice meditation in the comfort of your own home. You can also check online in your local area for meditation classes.
My journey of learning meditation was helped immensely by meeting and practicing with those who knew how to meditate. Seek out local teachers. There are also many books available on the subject. The writings of Jon Kabat Zinn are highly recommended as he was a pioneer in identifying many of the health benefits of meditation.
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.