Updated: Sep 20, 2020
The Essence And Benefits Of Meditation
When it comes to body and mind, we are all differently capable; no two bodies are equally capable, no two minds are equally capable. But when it comes to this being, every being is capable of containing the very existence within himself. — (Sadhguru: a yogi, mystic and visionary, 2011)
I was tossing around in bed. This is the wake-up alarm from my body clock. I always rely on it to wake me up instead of setting up an alarm clock before sleep. Knowing and utilising my body clock to wake me up at any desired times I wanted has always been with me for many years.
But this morning, it was rather unusual that it was twenty past five. I was twenty minutes late before I started my meditation and yoga routines. But I don’t think you should blame me for this because apparently, it was 13 degrees celsius outside (55.4 Fahrenheit). Though the temperatures will likely rise around twenty degrees Celcius later midday, I lied if I didn’t miss the gentle morning air of summer.
I missed sitting on my yoga mat as the tropical morning sun gently glazed my skin and breezes whispered low. I missed walking on a narrow footpath in the middle of rice paddy fields along with the shades of waving coconut trees. I missed Ubud, an agricultural village in Central Bali because here in Western Sydney suburb, Australia, the urban space surrounds me with concrete walls. Smells of burning wood logs from house chimneys whiffed in the air. It was still dark outside. Winter is clawing the blanket of dawn firmly.
I have been doing meditation for 30 minutes before the sunrise for a couple of months. Having a thirty-minute space for myself to sit and breathe in and out quietly has given me many benefits. One of them is the ability to think with such clarity.
From Hindus mysticism to science: the connection between body and mind
Body and mind undeniably interconnect one another. While in Hindus, mysticism believes that your body grows from the accumulative consumption of food and water, it also recognises the four realities; body, mind, energy, and emotion (Sadguru, 2011). Science proves that nutrients provide the body with energy. It is the foundation for repair and growth, as well as regulate chemical processes. The six primary nutrients are essential to our body: Carbohydrates (CHO), Lipids (fats), Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, Water (Department of Health, 2013).
Hinduism believes that our physical body is an accumulative growth of consumed food and water, and our mind’s development is collective experiences and impressions. Henriques defines the mind as the seat of human consciousness, the thinking-feeling ‘I’ that seems to be an agentic causal force that is somehow related but is also seemingly separable from the body (Henriques G, 2011).
During the unprecedented times, travelling is banned and even going outside is restricted, keeping the mind sane has never been as relevant as before. The fact that, in Australia, in any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. The staggering 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime (Source: beyondblue).
It is with no doubt that mental health is as essential as physical health. The fact that our society mainly focuses on physical health than mental health contributes to the growth of gyms and health clubs. Most of them primarily focus on physical health. Unfortunately, mental illness often slips through under the radar.
But going to the gym isn’t enough while exercising at home is rather difficult due to the tiny space — for those of you who live in a small apartment like me, you know what I am talking about. Meditation and yoga, on the other hand, doesn’t require a large space. You only need to sit down when you meditate and a tiny space for your whole body when you do yoga.
But is meditation just sitting firm and doing nothing? And how does the meditation benefit you? These questions often rise to surface.
A simplistic form of meditative activity
Remember the times when we lived with family? — and for those who live with other family members, it might not be a distant memory. When conflicts arise, and all you wanted to do is to get away to get fresh air. You need a space for yourself to settle down your world. You walk out of the pressured environment to another environment to calm down your mind. Whether you realise it or not, this sort of action is a simplistic form of meditative activity.
In Japan, the term forest bathing, shinrin-yoku, is gaining a connection with nature by utilising our nativity sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch (Li Q, 2018). Being one with something else, in this case, being with nature, is filling up the gap in between you and nature.
The essence of meditation
Now looking at a similar principle, meditation creates a space between you and your mind. The mind, after all, is responsible for all aspects of suffering — borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism terms, such as stress, depression, affliction, and grief. So meditation is some forms of training to distance yourself from your mind. It has become the essence of meditation.
But how do we do it? Do we need to sit on the floor and cross legs? Do we need to lit on incense sticks? Do we need to chant mantras?
The answers to those questions are possible — if you see meditation from spiritual and religious perspectives, but they are not the essence of meditation. The origin of yoga and meditation is to build a temple from within your body.
So you only need to sit in a comfortable position as you pay attention to your breath — while breathing in and out slowly at your phase. In Hinduism, the belief that there is a space between inner you and what you have accumulated, it is your physical body. So meditation is a way of placing oneself in this particular space. Meditation helps with bringing an absolute clarity of perception that understanding and accepting life as the way it is.
Bernstein, writing for Touro University Worldwide, argued that when the brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. The high content of cortisol can affect the brain to function correctly (Bernstein R, 2016). Taking a deep breath relaxes the heart rates. So more oxygens are entering the bloodstream. Meditation allows a meditator to exercise different types of breathing to increase oxygen in the bloodstream on various levels.
The benefits of meditation
Meditation benefits the ability to think with clarity, increase focus on my daily activities, such as writing and works, ability to express, control and fully aware of emotions which lead to the growth of emotional intelligence. Oppland, writing for positive psychology, (as cited in Charoensukmongkol P, 2015), reported that mindfulness meditation helps manifest emotional intelligence in three significant ways:
Improving the ability to comprehend emotions,
Learning to identify other people’s emotion, strengthening the ability to govern and control emotions.
And here I was on my yoga mat, I was sitting quietly, both legs crossed and palms facing upward resting on both of my knees. As I closed my eyes, focusing on in-between the two eyebrows, slowly I paid attention to my breath; inhales and exhales. Thoughts were wondering, and I ignored. Each inch of the unintentional body movement I made, I ignored until there was only a space between me and my mind.
Bernstein, Rebecca 2016, The Mind and Mental Health: How stress affects the brain, Touro University World Wide, viewed 7 September 2020.
Department of Health 2013, Australian Government, Nutrients, viewed 7 September 2020.
Henriques, Gregg 2011, What is the mind?, Psychology Today, viewed 7 September 2020.
Li, Qing 2018, ‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It, Time, viewed 7 September 2020.
Oppland, Mike 2020, How mindfulness can grow emotional intelligence, positive psychology, viewed 7 September 2020.
Peerayuth, Charoensukmongkol, 2015, Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress.
Sadhguru, 2011, Life and death in one breath, Isha Foundation, p. 19 & p. 101, Velliangiri Foothills.