The benefits of meditation are profound and far-reaching. It is a tool like any other that helps us get control of our reactions and reduces our anxiety, anger or the feeling of vulnerability.
Meditation helps to reduce stress and anxiety by calming the mind and promoting relaxation. Regular practice allows you to develop greater emotional resilience and more effectively cope with life's challenges.
However, there are many barriers we need to overcome when it comes to our meditation journey. As a meditation teacher, I have personally encountered them and continue guiding my students through them.
One of the core ones is "I don't have time", but as they say in meditation practice...
If you can't find 10 minutes to meditate a day, you need 20
If you can't find 20 minutes to meditate a day, you need an hour
If you can't find an hour to meditate a day, you need two hours
...and so on and so on
The theory is that if you cannot find time for yourself and time to commit to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, you need even more meditation to find balance in your day.
Meditation is merely sitting still in silence.
Physical | Sitting still in silence allows you to identify twinges in your body and potential physical manifestations of stress.
Mental | Sitting still in silence allows you to identify thoughts and not get caught up in your thoughts to achieve clarity.
Emotional | Sitting still in silence allows you to identify destructive thoughts and separate your self-belief from limiting beliefs.
Spiritual | Sitting still in silence allows you to connect to the present and the universe by realising how infinite possibilities exist.
If you can overcome the barriers, you can influence success and achieve true happiness through consistent mindful meditation practice.
Six Common Barriers
The best way to eliminate or overcome barriers is to recognise and acknowledge them so you can let them go.
1. Lack of Time
Finding time for meditation can be a significant barrier in our fast-paced lives. You may feel overwhelmed by your daily responsibilities and struggle to carve out dedicated time for meditation. However, it's important to remember that even a few minutes of meditation each day can make an exponential difference in your life.
Start with small increments, like 10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the duration.
2. Restless Mind
A restless mind is another common obstacle. Sitting still and quieting the incessant flow of thoughts can be challenging. It's natural for the mind to wander, especially when starting a meditation practice. However, observing thoughts without getting caught up in them becomes easier with patience and perseverance.
Guided meditations, using mantras or focusing on the breath, can help anchor the mind and cultivate focus.
3. Expectations and Judgment
You may struggle with expectations and self-judgment during meditation, as in life. You may anticipate immediate results or feel frustrated when you don't experience instant tranquillity. It's important to approach meditation with an open mind and without judgment. If you are sitting still and being silent, you are halfway there.
Accept that each meditation session is unique, and progress may unfold gradually over time.
4. Physical Discomfort
Physical discomfort, such as back pain or discomfort in the legs or the feet becoming numb when you sit crosslegged, can hinder meditation practice. Finding a comfortable and supportive posture that works for you is important. Experiment with different positions, such as sitting on a cushion or using a chair, but I promise that eventually, you won’t even notice the discomfort over time.
Gentle stretching or yoga before and after meditation can help alleviate physical tension.
5. Lack of Discipline and Consistency
Maintaining a consistent meditation practice can be challenging, especially when motivation wanes, or life gets busy. Overcoming this barrier requires discipline and commitment. Set realistic goals, create a routine and connect it to an existing habit, or find accountability measures that work for you, such as joining a meditation group or using meditation apps that provide reminders and tracking.
Create accountability with a teacher or an app/tool to help you create and sustain the habit.
6. Resistance to Stillness and Inner Exploration
You may resist stillness and the introspective nature of meditation. You may find it uncomfortable to face your thoughts, emotions, or unresolved issues that arise during the practice. It's important to approach these experiences with compassion and non-judgment. This is your trauma and stress leaving your body; embrace it.
Meditation provides an opportunity for growth and healing, but it's essential to honour your pace and seek support when needed.
Now you know the barriers you might face, you are better prepared to deal with them head-on, navigate your meditation journey with greater ease and reap the transformative benefits it offers.
Six Undeniable Benefits
Meditation enhances focus, concentration, and mental clarity. It allows you to cultivate a heightened sense of awareness and improve your ability to sustain attention and engage in tasks with greater efficiency.
Research yields compelling evidence of its positive impact on mental, emotional, and physical well-being. As someone who values the transformative power of meditation but also likes statistics and studies, let me share some of that research with you.
1. Reduction of Stress and Anxiety
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 found that mindfulness meditation programs had a moderate effect in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain. (Reference: Goyal et al., 2014)
2. Emotional Well-being and Resilience
Research by Richard J. Davidson and colleagues demonstrated that long-term meditators exhibited increased activation in brain areas associated with positive emotions and improved emotional regulation. (Reference: Davidson et al., 2003)
3. Improved Attention and Concentration
A study published in PLOS Biology in 2011 reported that participants who underwent meditation training for several weeks showed significant improvements in their ability to sustain attention and ignore distractions. (Reference: Slagter et al., 2011)
4. Structural and Functional Changes in the Brain
Neuroimaging studies have indicated that meditation can increase cortical thickness in regions associated with attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex. These structural changes may underlie the cognitive improvements observed in meditators. (Reference: Hölzel et al., 2011)
5. Enhanced Overall Well-being and Quality of Life
Longitudinal studies have shown that regular meditation practice can enhance life satisfaction, increase self-compassion, and improve interpersonal relationships. It can also contribute to a sense of purpose and meaning in life. (Reference: Brown et al., 2016; Condon et al., 2013)
6. Physical Health Benefits
Research has found that long-term meditation practice can lead to reduced markers of inflammation, improved immune system functioning, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, and overall physical health benefits. (References: Tang et al., 2015; Innes et al., 2017; Schneider et al., 2012)
These studies show that research consistently supports the wide-ranging benefits of meditation over time.
The accumulated evidence through these studies and research highlights the wide-ranging benefits of meditation over time. From reducing stress and anxiety to enhancing emotional well-being, attention, and overall quality of life, meditation offers profound and lasting effects.
Meditation is a journey.
Each step contributes to personal growth and inner well-being regardless of the challenges encountered.
Consistent meditation practice positively impacts mental, emotional, and physical well-being and contributes to a more fulfilling and balanced life.
As you continue meditation practice over the long term, you can experience these transformative benefits and cultivate a greater sense of well-being and inner peace.
References & Sources
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848.
Condon, P., Desbordes, G., Miller, W. B., & DeSteno, D. (2013). Meditation increases compassionate responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2125–2127.
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., ... & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564–570.
Goyal, M., et al. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(3), 357–368.
Hölzel, B. K., et al. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43.
Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., & Brown, C. J. (2017). Meditation as a therapeutic intervention for adults at risk for Alzheimer