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What is meditation?
The origin of the word meditation comes from the Latin word Meditari which means to contemplate or to think. Contrary to what many people think meditation doesn’t require you to empty your head of all thought, rather to focus on one thought or process e.g. breathing or listening, to the exclusion of all else. Meditation exists in most spiritual and religious traditions in one form or another and can be exercised to facilitate spiritual awakening. Meditation can take many forms including chanting or toning, prayer, breathing practices, singing or even movement like Yoga or Tai Chi. Sometimes we may experience the complete absence of thought and the blissful state of peace that flow from that but the practice of meditation is what’s most important rather than the goal of enlightenment per se. Meditation can facilitate a deep sense of peace in addition to enhancing our creative potential through the enhancement of our conscious creativity. When we meditate, we often enter a state of heightened awareness and creativity that occurs when our brainwaves go from beta through alpha to theta frequencies.
How does meditation differ from mindfulness?
Mindfulness can occur without meditation, but meditation cannot occur without mindfulness. As I mentioned meditation can take many forms and exists in many spiritual traditions. Although mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism it has most recently evolved into a form of non-secular practice for those who wish to benefit from meditation without any form of religious or spiritual attachment. Mindfulness is essentially the practice of being mindful of ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings both physical and emotional, the world around us, the tasks we are performing. It is about focus and concentration. Mindfulness can still facilitate the brain’s journey into Theta frequencies and the deeper sense of relaxation and creativity, and it can still be an essentially meditative practice, but one can be mindful while walking, running, making a cup of tea. It is the art of being truly present in what you do.
What are the benefits of meditation and mindfulness?
There has been a lot of research into the effects of meditation, mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) over the years and we have seen many profound and surprising benefits including but not limited to
- An increase in brain size
- Reduced stress
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduction in symptoms of depression
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased creativity and focus
- Improved memory
- Decreased pain sensation
Meditation and mindfulness practice certainly improves creativity and lateral thinking improving our ability to problem solve. It improves concentration and focus which enhances our discrimination, this allows us to focus on important tasks over less important tasks and improves our productivity. To paraphrase Michael Gerber (author of the e-myth): a leader who can’t concentrate can’t discriminate and a leader who can’t discriminate can’t differentiate between important and unimportant tasks and wastes valuable time on the latter.