Honestly, it’s difficult to address this question and not come across as a snake oil salesman. Many studies show that a regular mindfulness meditation practice leads to so many benefits: lower blood pressure, better sleep, increase gray matter in the brain, increased general levels of happiness, dealing more skillfully with depression or addiction, more fruitful and fulfilling social interactions, and perhaps even a desire to stop sabotaging your body with unwholesome consumption.
Contrary to what many believe, stress does not disappear from your life when you start practicing mindfulness. But your relationship to it certainly changes. Instead of being yanked around by stress, you harness its power. You feel its energy, and have the ability to be more skillful when it arises. Your concentration increases. You experience prolonged periods of focus and clarity. You see through situations more clearly. And I’m saying this not just from readings, but from personal experience.
However, it is on an emotional level that I see the most benefits from living a mindful life. It is also the area where students tell me they experience the greatest and most noticeable changes. Specifically, long sits have provided the most insight into my emotions. For many years as I grew up, and even as an adult, I’ve ignored my emotions almost entirely. In fact, I was very clumsy with them. I was ashamed of even feeling emotions unless they matched what others thought I should be feeling. Now, I am so much more in tune with my emotions that I find them totally fascinating. Seeing a lot of subtlety and nuances where I saw none before.
Understanding our emotions better leads to a clearer understanding of the hidden landscape of any life situation. It also leads to a deeper understanding of others’ emotional landscapes and to recognizing how your own humanity is in fact so connected to that of other beings everywhere. This in turn makes us more skillful at relationships, and more valuable to our family and community.
Photo credit: Ray Jolicoeur