Sitting with your thoughts and attempting to empty your mind, is often met with a strong resistance. But a dedication to this practise, can lead to a myriad of powerful benefits. Welcome to the world of meditation. Scientifically backed to make you a better, stronger, calmer and happier person; but not enough of us are doing it. For something so incredibly simple, we find it exceedingly hard, and all it requires is a minimum of ten minutes a day.
If meditation came in a pill form, we would be popping them on a daily basis. Addicted, high and incredibly zen. We would find smug yogis lurking outside office spaces, to give over-worked rats in the rodent race a hit of serenity. Alas, there is no such thing as a little Dalai Lama pill. Although we do have something else, enter ‘Headspace’, an app that will take your inner inferno and melt it down to a cooling, calm liquid of tranquility.
The creator of Headspace is former buddhist monk and Bristol born Andy Puddicombe. He has created a guided meditation app that allows users to work their meditation muscles calling it a ‘gym membership for the mind’. Short animation videos provide an insightful and welcome prelude to your zen time.
There is a free sample of 10 days worth of meditation and if you like it then you can subscribe to unlock more specific content aimed honing in on stress, creativity, pregnancy and more. And with more than one million active users across the globe in 150 countries, Andy seems to be doing something right. If you have never tried meditation before or have tried and failed then this could be the app for you.
So why meditate? This is akin to asking why bother drinking water? You don’t need to drink lots of water throughout the day but you will undoubtedly feel a hell of a lot better if you do. Meditation is a tool which leaders in business as well as successful sportsmen/women are using to give them an edge over their competition.
Mediation helps to calm your irrational mind that bounces from thought to thought, creating imaginary scenarios which catapult your fear into overdrive. Whether you’re in a high pressure job or just an anxious person by nature, meditation re-wires the brain.
There are two main parts to the brain; the first is the lateral prefrontal cortex which is the rational and logical side. The second is the media prefrontal cortex which is often referred to as the ‘Me Centre’ as it reels in your thoughts and creates a personal connection between what is happening around you.
When studying people’s brains pre-meditation, you will notice strong neural links within the ‘Me Centre’ and also between the ‘Fear and bodily sensations’ part of the brain. So if you are feeling tense, afraid or anxiety ridden, your mind will wander into a state of hypochondria as you worry that there is a problem with your wellbeing. This is what happens when the ‘Me Centre’ is in charge! And furthermore, this leads to obsessive thoughts that are like a broken record player in your mind playing tracks such as ‘I shouldn’t have turned down that job offer 15 years ago’ or ‘I sabotaged that relationship’ and ‘I need to get in shape, I hate this body’.
BUT, if you meditate regularly for at least 15 minutes a day then that’s when the magic can happen! The tightly bound neural connections between the ‘Me Centre’ and ‘Fear Centre’ begins to erode. This in turn eliminates thoughts of inadequacy or thinking that you are the problem and that there is something seriously wrong with you. Naturally, anxiety melts away and creativity begins to wade in as you feel calmer, happier and more balanced.
So the next time you are met with an obstacle or a tricky situation, your ‘Assessment Centre’ in the mind is able to deal with it in a rational manner. So if you for example, accidentally cut yourself with a knife and it really doesn’t look good; instead of hyperventilating and freaking out, you observe the pain and logically decide the course of action you should take. Or if you receive some very bad news; instead of bursting into tears your mind will assess the information and then start proactively looking at possible solutions and even perhaps drawing on positives that could come out of the supposedly bad situation. Isn’t that a hell of a lot better?
Last but certainly not least is; empathy. Our compassion becomes stronger as the ‘Me Centre’ and the pain and bodily sensations centre connect in a way which allows us to relate to people who we look at as being not like us. This grows our capacity to understand where people are coming from. Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan has developed a course within Google which focuses on compassion and emotional intelligence which links he directly links compassion to happiness. And aren’t we all searching for happiness?
Chade-Meng Tan’s TED talk: Everyday compassion at Google.
So are you ready to start meditating? Simply download the app here and begin your free trial. Why not? It’s only ten minutes our of your day. Don’t have time to meditate? Well there’s a famous Zen proverb that says “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”