IT TAKES A REGULAR investment of time to
meditate and time is one thing most of us feel we don't
have enough of. So why would anyone meditate? Are meditators
just rebellious freaks? Or is there something to it? There are,
surprisingly, several good reasons to spend the time:
1. Meditation produces a rare combination
of increased alertness and profound relaxation. You become alert
and deeply relaxed at the same time. You become more alert than
your normal waking state and more deeply relaxed then you are
when you're asleep. This is a different state of mind and body
than you get doing anything else. After meditating, you feel
2. An important side-effect of meditation
is a dramatic drop in blood lactate level. Lactate is related
to anxiety. When people feel anxious and their blood is measured,
they have high levels of lactate in their blood. And when researchers
inject pure lactate into an otherwise calm person, the person
becomes anxious. Sometimes it even gives them panic attacks.
The experience of low blood-lactate is a wonderful sense of peace.
3. Using a machine that measures the amount
of sweat on the surface of the skin (a measurement of stress
of all kinds: nervousness, anxiety, anger, etc. because when
human beings experience even the slightest amount of stress,
their skin sweats), the skin is four hundred percent drier during
meditation than it is before meditating. The amount of sweat
on the surface of your skin while you are meditating is less
than it is when you're sleeping.
4. Meditation also lowers the cortisol
level in your blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone. It is known
as the stress hormone, although there are others. Too
much cortisol is bad for your health. And most of us living in
the modern, industrial world have too much of it in our system
every single day. Lowering your cortisol level regularly is measurably
and positively good for your health.
5. Almost all self-help techniques require
a certain presence of mind, an ability to be calm and concentrate.
For example, if you want to listen well, alter a habit, change
the way you think, deal with conflict, and so on, you need to
be here and remember to do it. So the calm you cultivate
in meditation helps greatly in making other changes in your life.
6. It is like fasting from your normal
state of daydreaming. It is, in a sense, waking up from the daydream
and becoming aware that you were daydreaming and didn't know
it. The ongoing stream of thoughts and interpretations you have
in the process of making sense of your world is a kind of daydream.
You interpret the world, you don't just perceive it. The technical
term for this effect of meditation is deautomatization.
The way you interpret your world is automatic. It is well worth
making it less automatic. It makes you more capable of seeing
things freshly and changing your mind about things you never
would have even noticed before.
For these and many other good reasons,
millions of people make the time every day to meditate. They
don't generally go around trying to get others to do it or even
tell others they meditate. They simply do it for their own personal
benefit. And you can too.
Books for further study:
The Physical and Psychological
Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research With
a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1931-1996
by M. Murphy and S. Donovan
The Book of Meditation: The
Complete Guide to Modern Meditation
by Patricia Carrington
The Fine Arts of Relaxation,
Concentration and Meditation, Revised: Ancient Skills for Modern
by Joel and Michelle Levey