What has meditation done for you?
October 15, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Do you meditate? What are some specific effects/benefits that you notice?

I read a blog post the other day, about a person that included meditation as one of requirements for staying healthy. Up till now I've never seriously considered meditation even though wikipedia says it's a real thing. So what does meditation do for you?
posted by aeighty to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
It makes me feel more rested, more alert, more energetic. It makes colours seem brighter, nice people seem nicer, and cranky people seem less cranky. Seriously. It does work.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

It allows for me to view my emotions and experience them without acting out or repressing them.

I suggest simple Shamata and Vipashyana meditation, where you sit in a quite room by yourself and place 25% of your concentration on watching yourself breathe in and out. When you notice that you are having a thought (and you will, many, many, many times), merely note that thought, say to yourself silently ("thinking") and then return your concentration to your breath. Start with 15 minutes a day and work up to 30 or 45 minutes over a period of some months.

So simple, so effective. For details of the effects, I would refer to Mindsight, by Dr. Dan Siegel. He's a psychiatrist and brain scientist who has all the details on how the processes all work.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am a fan of meditation, but it kind of takes a while for some to get comfortable with the act. We are always so busy and preoccupied its odd to just focus on the now and nothing.
There are many different ways and forms to meditate. One I do more often is more of a form of depersonalization. I've been doing it since I was a little kid (learned from some therapist).
I feel extremely relaxed and feel more centered after doing it.Finding language to describe it is rather difficult. Kind of an altered state really is the closest I could describe. Not similar as to a runner high or drugs, but in the same category of an altered state.
Just be open and find some good material on it. A great book to look into from a more Buddhist Prospective (has great insight on form, breathing and positions) is escaping me right now as I'm at work (pm me if interested in title).
posted by handbanana at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2010

Perspective. It gives me a proper perspective from which to view my life, which can sometimes lead to less anxiety or stress. It has a wonderful ability to give me clarity as to what is Really Important In Life (the startling answer - very little)...and actually, really, internally BELIEVE that most of what I worry about isn't worth worrying about. It allows me to remain more calm, more measured and more relaxed.

Most of all it allows me to get to know the fickle nature of my own mind, if not change it. It helps me to cultivate a heightened awareness regarding the present moment.

It allows me to find grandure and dignity in simply being. It is, in effect, the antidote to the ego.

It is all of this...and it is also incredibly boring and mundane. That duality is worth looking at and stewing in.
posted by jnnla at 11:03 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Creates an enormous inner space that wasn't there before, gives the mind a chance to take a backseat to simply being present, increases awareness of tensions and posture when not meditating, quieter and deeper breathing (without manipulation), relaxation during stressful situations, renders drugs/alcohol unnecessary, etc etc.

If there is a downside to meditation it would be that you become much more sensitive to other people. You'll be able to tell who doesn't have a regular practice by the way they carry tension around their shoulders and by the way they have trouble attenuating emotions in daily situations.

The trick is to find someone who actually knows how to meditate and meditate with them. I know that people like to think you can just read a book and know everything about something, but the atmosphere of a room of proper meditation can not be read about. Your local zen temple might have something for beginners. I'm not a Buddhist but have had no problems sitting with them--they don't require belief in anything to practice.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2010

Meditation can be relaxing, and it can also be terrifying, thrilling (it turns out that prolonged concentration on air going in and out of your nose can produce rapturous joy - who knew?), depressing, and boring. It's got some pleasant temporary effects and some important long-term ones, like emotional stability, a sense of control over your mind that you couldn't imagine you lived without, and an extremely high tolerance for having to sit somewhere for a while with nothing to do (handy at the airport!).

If you're looking for a guide, this one (which teaches vipassana-style meditation) is my favorite - it's extremely down to earth and avoids the kumbaya Oneness With the Universe schlock that shows up a lot in this area (especially among Western authors). Skip to chapters 5-7 if you're short on time.
posted by theodolite at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2010 [15 favorites]

It allowed me when I was doing it to feel like I was full of endorphins only in my body! Seriously, the perspectives that one can gain involve being calm in tense situations, be more action oriented and take life more easier. There's nothing quite like it. Also, I used to do 20 minutes of guided meditation and 20 minutes of silent meditation in a group setting.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2010

When I meditate regularly, I don't get mad. Crazy drivers don't piss me off, my housemates not taking out the garbage again doesn't annoy me, unexpected obstacles to my daily plans don't faze me. It's not just that I'm not upset about these things while I'm meditating; my mood is just way more stable throughout the entire day if I spend 10 minutes each morning paying attention to my breathing.

To get at the health benefits: stress is a major detractor to your health, so finding ways to live with more equanimity is a benefit to your health. People evolved to handle short-term bursts of stress (e.g. attacked by a lion), and the body's coping mechanisms that work great for those kinds of things are actually damaging to the body when they're engaged long-term, all the time (e.g. deadlines at work and fighting with teenage kid and car needs repairs and what the heck am I going to make for dinner?). Stress hormones raise your blood pressure, which is damaging in the long term to your heart and vessels, and makes it more likely that you could have a heart attack or stroke. Stress increases your insulin resistance, which makes it harder to lose weight and also makes you more prone to type II diabetes. In addition to these negative physiological effects of consistent stress, it can also encourage unhealthy coping mechanisms, like eating more junk food, smoking more cigarettes, drinking more alcohol, or even just engaging in risky behaviors like super-aggressive driving, all of which are bad for your health. Meditation is the opposite -- it's a healthy coping mechanism that can help limit all of these negative consequences of stress on your body.
posted by vytae at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find it just gives me patience throughout the day, somehow. Weird, right? Can't explain it well. I guess it feels like an inner resource. Like the day is a marathon, and I trained and ate well for it by spending a few minutes emptying my mind. Dunno about any supposed physical benefits--and don't really care.

For me, it's not super-mystical or anything. Though when I've done it every day for long stretches, it sometimes does get a little emotionally trippy! I guess I would say that's because I've had enough quiet time to really root down past whatever's bugging me at a very low and background noise level. And I'll walk away and think, I HAD NO IDEA I was worried about that. And now I don't have to.

(PS there's absolutely no way to do meditation wrong.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:10 PM on October 15, 2010

I am not a meditator. But I took a yoga class once upon a time, & learned just enough to be able to get into a meditative state. In a sleep-emergency (eg: Exhausted, but no place/time to actually sleep), I have found that going into a meditative state, even if it is only for 10 minutes, leaves me sufficiently "rested" to be able to carry on in a reasonable state of alertness until the next opportunity to sleep rolls around.
posted by Ys at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My take on it is that it gives me no escape from my thoughts, and therefore I have to acknowledge them. I reacted to my thoughts very negatively for the first year or so of (daily)meditation & then finally came to terms and naturally developed techniques for dealing with, depersonalizing my negative thoughts. I can sit still & sometimes even focus on one thing for more then five minutes. When I watch a movie I sit and WATCH a movie.
posted by Dmenet at 12:46 PM on October 15, 2010

It definitely helps me concentrate. On mornings when i meditate before working, I'm more focused with my team members, and more open to suggestions and ideas. I'm calmer, and better able to absorb "bad" news.

On the other hand, while I am a strong proponent, I also recognize that it softens an edge i don't always want softened. If I have work i need to do where the product is of my own making - writing, or designing - meditation removes a bit of the drive i use to do my best work. I'm in control of my own work plan, so, it's not hard to know when meditating is appropriate and beneficial, and when it's best left undone.

On balance, it's absolutely worth trying, particularly since your interest is in the general healthy properties of meditation, not as some chemical-free replacement for mental health treatments (for which it can be quite an unpleasant and even damaging shock). For someone in reasonably good mental health, meditation is completely harmless.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2010

meditation for me, creates a space between stimulus and response. I seem more "aware" of myself and my immediate situation. It also helps me to fall asleep, and "center" myself when starting my day. i'll agree with most of what's been said above

there seem to be some downsides - i believe others perceive my "mindfulness" as a trait of being soft, detached, or apathetic. which is strange because I feel less reactionary and less prone to freak out or over-emot. it also seems to make me more quiet - i'm less prone to "pipe in" or make my needs/wants known, which can make for challenging situations sometimes w/ relationships and work.

for me, the more i meditate, the more residual effect it has -- and the opposite.

personally, though, i feel the progressive states of "wakefulness/awareness" that can be gained from meditation is a primary purpose of the human experience...
posted by mrmarley at 1:37 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

It has greatly improved my anxiety-related serious stomach pain.

I used to be unable to watch movies that contain any serious violence or awkwardness; now I can appreciate them (or not) for their value without forgetting that I'm watching little lights on a screen.

In difficult moments- conflicts especially- I'm waaaaay better to be aware of my physical and emotional tensions/conditions; this is enormously helpful.

I feel better equipped to respond rationally to cravings or other irrational and potentially unhelpful desires.

It's made me much more aware of ugly thought processes I have that I would really like to leave behind-and over time, they are lessening.

In most crises I feel better able than I used to be to be calm and help others.

More philosophically it's made me less afraid that I'm a "bad person" at the core and better able to trust myself, and more confident that people really are doing their best pretty much all the time.

Message me if you have any questions or would like more examples!!
posted by Cygnet at 2:29 PM on October 15, 2010

I started meditating about 3 months ago. I've noticed a subtle-- but very important change.

Since I've been meditating I deal with emotional situations much better. There have been many occasions in the last month in which I easily could have had an angry reaction, been resentful, defensive, lashed out, etc. But I feel much calmer and more relaxed. My feelings don't get hurt so easily and I don't have that knee-jerk negative reaction to bad situations. I didn't even notice it at first, but a couple times I've really surprised myself. I realize, "Wow, how come I'm not really mad right now?"

Like other people said, I feel a space between myself and negative energy. There's a protective layer. In short, things that used to upset me much more, now are rolling off my back. I'm still attentive and thoughtful, but I don't find myself fixating or stressing out.

It was pretty hard for me at first to meditate. I had some help and guidance and a lot of support. But I'm a big believer in it, and it's part of my routine now.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 6:56 PM on October 15, 2010

I believe that mrmarley has it mostly nailed down with his last sentence...

You've asked "what does meditation do for you", and so people are listing their results. But knowing the potential results of meditation will hardly help, unless you know why those results are attained... The goal of meditation is to gain a state of absolute presence in part by clearing your head of all thoughts. Doing this -- providing yourself with internal space, will allow you to later on not identify yourself with your thoughts, and will in turn keep you from reacting to non-present people, or situations that don't even involve other people. Most of the benefits that people have listed are a direct result of having experienced that presence.

Once you truly know the peace -- even just once -- it will be impossible to forget.
posted by Glendale at 8:11 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

For me, my brain is always flying around, I've got 100 tasks on the go at any one time at work, a toddler to chase around after, piles of incoming snail mail to go through, my mind is like a shaken snow globe most of the time.
What meditation has done is given me a tool to stop the snow globe being shaken and for a short while have stillness. It's like a reboot without having a sleep.
In addition to this, it is also teaching me control of my own mind! Naturally though the day our minds are getting attached to things, especially worries. Meditation brings another tool. As you become more aware of where your thoughts are, you can choose consciously whether to explore these thoughts constructively or simply go back to focussing on the matter at hand or whatever else.
Before meditation my mind would impulsively latch onto various streams of thought. I mean, it still does to an extent, but that awareness brings a level of autonomy over my own thoughts that I never had before.
I've never been one to follow rules particularly but for me my meditation is light but effective; it can be concentrating on the breath for 5 minutes. Or focussing on the noises on a bus journey (each one has a different vibe going on!). Or even concentrating on the feeling in my feet and knees as I walk to work.
Many people think the aim of meditation is to stop thinking. Getting away from the tyranny of thought is great, but learning the art of gently and compassionately bringing your focus back, to the breath or whatever is where I think the true mileage is.
posted by razzman at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2010

Nothing! Hahahahaha sorry, a little meditation humour for you there. I once talked to a woman who meditated for twenty years to get rid of a feeling of yawning, aching emptiness inside her; and of course eventually she figured out that getting that feeling of emptiness is what people meditate for.

But I do meditate to get to nothing. I am a very very thinky, hyperverbal, hyperliterate person. I kid you not, I was 37 years old before I realized that the set of experiences that can't be put into words includes most of the experiences. So I meditate to shut up the unceasing wiseass Mystery Science Theatre 3000 inside my head, so that I will be able to feel the way the air touches my skin, and how my body is oriented in space. And from there on into the rest of the universe.
posted by rdc at 11:09 PM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I started "meditating" or doing biofeedback when I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation since I read that it helped to control it.

I never thought I could do it as I am very restless and always "thinking." I cannot meditate by myself, I need to do guided meditation and I have to vary the meditations because I get bored very easily. Along the way I have found some favorites such as Yoga Nidra Meditations and Bodhipaksa's recordings. There are many different ones and you cannot go wrong.

And YES relaxing or meditating 15 minutes a day has helped with my AF and, as I explain in my blog (www.sisterbetrayal.com), to withstand the tremendous amount of stress caused by my sister's fraud.
posted by dupedyestafada at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2010

I do qi gong. When I do it daily, I need less sleep, I have more energy, and I'm more focused. Even if I get lazy and only do it once a month (when I'm stressed because I can't get my mind off of the mental hamster wheel, say), it gets me to detach from the stress and refocus. Partway through, I can feel muscles relax that I didn't notice had been tense. I can feel a sort of...flowing and letting go, around and behind my eyes and through my head especially.

It was invaluable during a time in my life when I was experiencing a steeeeeep learning curve. I'd come home feeling like shit every day because I'd fucked yet another thing up and my mind would be teeming with cringe-worthy moments from earlier in the day. I'd do qi gong for twenty minutes or half an hour depending on how bad my mental state was, and it gave me distance from feeling like a complete fuckup. It let me leave "Christ, that was horrible. I was horrible. Oh, my God, I suck at this" in the past, where it belonged, and let me focus on "I'm learning, this is good, I'll keep on doing better. I'll get through this. It'll get better."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:14 PM on October 17, 2010

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