Benefits of Meditation

Written by Amanda Whittal.

I sat on the subway the other day and felt, to my surprise, a spontaneous emotion of light-heartedness and laughter bubble up and sweep through my being. I could not contain the wide smile that spread across my face (though I did manage to stifle any giggles) and wondered, amused, what the thoughts were behind the puzzled looks of surrounding passengers. What's she so happy about? Weirdo, Poor girl probably doesn't have a brain in her head.

power of meditation

My response to any of their internal dialogue would have been that no, I was not taking anything to induce such a pleasant state, and actually, what I was experiencing was a clear and worthy benefit of practicing the principles of yoga and holistic health. In this particular situation, I had the meditative aspect of yoga, and meditation itself to thank.

The sense rushing through me was, as I said, light-hearted, in that it carried with it the realization (or reminder, since to many of us this information is not necessarily new) that nothing has meaning besides that which we give it, and we have the ability to actively choose not to take things so seriously. Reflecting on the flow of the world; the waves of emotion, experiences and thoughts that rise so intensely, yet inevitably fade away sooner or later, highlights that perhaps our struggles to shape something largely out of our control into the exact ideal image we hold in our minds is rather...well...silly.

What does this have to do with yoga and meditation? Meditation invites us to step back and view the fleeting nature of everything in our world. To recognize that everything impacts us, but at the same time, is not a reflection of who we are. Identifying with external circumstances brings only misery and tension, as by nature, they will never last.

Take for instance, a common form of identity in our country: one's job. If someone holds a prestigious position, and due to some unforeseen circumstances loses it, a deep loss will likely be felt. This part is normal. Meditation does not suggest denying feelings. On the contrary, it asks us to feel everything fully, without resistance or judgment. Allow your passion to flow, your heart to soar, your sadness to sculpt your character, your anger to shine light on things to be changed. It all serves its purpose. The only stipulation is: allow these to flow from the point of view that they are not who you are, but simply what's going on around you.

When this is mastered, the true benefits of meditation reveal themselves. As you learn to live from this peaceful place, in the eye of the storm, so to speak, stress in general begins to decrease. Your body functions with more health and energy, your mind becomes clearer, and your emotional state more stable, thus improving your overall vitality and experience of life. You open yourself up to higher states of joy and happiness that originate from within, regardless of your surrounding environment.

Essentially, you return home to your heart by being quiet enough to hear its wisdom.

If you would like to experience or explore meditation, below is a list of places in Toronto worth a visit:

  1. Shambala Meditation Centre of Toronto - shambhala.org/ - a Buddhist based center.
  2. Sivananda Yoga Centre - sivananda.org - offers first introductory yoga class free, and free group meditations on weekday mornings and Friday and Sunday evenings.
  3. Friends of the Heart - friendsoftheheart.com - open meditation classes Wednesday evenings.
  4. Yoga Space - yogaspace.net - offers excellent introduction to both yoga and meditation.

Tips for meditating on your own:

Everyone gravitates towards a different form of meditation. Experiment with any of the following and see what works for you:

  1. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on you breath. Allow all of your attention to become absorbed by it.
  2. Sit comfortably, focus on your breath, and count to keep you mind busy. Breathe in for a count of 1; breathe out for a count of 2.
  3. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing, but keep your eyes open and find a visual point to direct your attention to.
  4. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and repeat a mantra over and over. Normally these are in Sanskrit. Ie. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. If you prefer English, a nice one is May All Beings be Happy and Free.

Remember that meditation does not mean stopping your mind from thinking. It will continue to be active, that's its job. The idea is to step back and observe the thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. Go easy on yourself and allow your experience to be whatever it is. People can meditate for minutes or hours. Even as little as 2 minutes to begin will be beneficial.


Seated Meditation by the Sea Video
Studies have shown that it doesn't matter much how you meditate, just as long as you do it regularly. This seated yoga meditation by the ocean in Tel Aviv, Israel will surely relax you and increase your patience and endurance.
Candle Gazing Meditation Video
Candle Gazing Meditation (known as Tratak) strengthens your physical eyes and the nerve centres in your forehead. It's also a powerful psychic cleanser of the ajna chakra, the 'third eye', and promotes intense concentration.
Breathing Meditation Video
Here is a breathing meditation exercise that uses your breath to calm your mind. Try to sit for at least 20-30 minutes a day, keeping your mind completely focused on your breath.
OM Meditation Video
The chanting of 'OM' has a positive effect on your nervous system. Here is an OM Meditation to help awaken latent physical and mental powers. OM is the original mantra, all other mantras exist in OM - which is the most abstract, highest mantra.
Letting Go Meditation Video
This meditation will help you to let go of negative tendencies and tensions. Take in joy. Experience the grace that arises in your mind after it has been purified through concentrated effort. Steady and consistent practice is important - so practise daily.
Chakra Meditation Video
Here is a chakra meditation exercise to bring awareness to your higher energy centres. This meditation is most helpful when you reinforce it with a regular yoga asana practice, self-analysis and positive activities throughout the day.

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