Old sages from ancient traditions both in the East and the West have known since thousands of years what is now scientifically proven. The practice of meditation is more relevant than ever to ease the challenges of stress in our modern times.
We face hectic schedules, pressure, tension, ongoing stress and live in an ego-centered and consumer-driven society in which the extensive use of social media leads more to isolation rather than connection. We grow up in a culture where we believe that accumulating material goods and climbing up the corporate ladder brings us happiness and freedom. But do these social values and conditions bring us true happiness and freedom?
The burdening effects of stress
It is sad to realize that many of us find themselves in an ongoing high-level stress mode, which does not allow the much-needed time for rest and relaxation of our whole system required to calm the nervous system, to regenerate the body and find mental clarity. In our hectic and challenging lives in the Western world each of us is called to take responsibility for our internal balance and to discover what it needs to be truly in harmony with ourselves and our surroundings.
As long as we are in stress mode, our internal bodily functions for relaxation, digestion and regeneration are inhibited and our whole system is occupied with the primordial instinct of “fight and flight” (the sympathetic nervous system is active). A regular meditation practice can help to change our brainwaves in such a way that the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest mode”) becomes active again whenever it is needed.
Our ancestors were facing life-threatening situations such as confronting a sabretooth tiger. Nowadays we need to deal with different stress factors such as pressure at work, tensions in relationships, and a feeling of not being fulfilled in our lives. Our nervous system is designed in a way that we react instinctively on stressors with the release of adrenaline, more blood flow to the extremities and the ability to take quick decisions. Nature designed our bodies in a perfect way, as we need do not need to think how best to react in dangerous situations. Our nervous system does that for us within split seconds.
But as stress is ongoing over a longer period of time, this can lead to exhaustion, nervous tension, restlessness, digestive issues and sleep disorders. Besides calming the nervous system, studies have shown that the frontal areas of our brain (the cortex) are enlarged in seasoned meditators. This frontal part of the brain is responsible for conscious thinking and the ability to take appropriate decisions and actions.
Learning to deal with challenges
Challenges are a part of our lives and we cannot avoid them completely. We can only change our perspective. Instead of ruminating over problems and complaining, seeking blame in other people and outer circumstances or worrying about things we cannot change, we can become more conscious about where we get out of balance and get triggered, we can start seeking creative solutions, unearth and transform the thinking patterns, beliefs and behaviors that cause self-sabotage and prevent us from reaching our full potential.
Mediation can serve as an important tool to find more relaxation, clarity and mindfulness in our daily lives. We learn to create more space around our thoughts and emotions instead of being reactive and entangled in them. Over time we find out what it needs for us on an individual level to feel fulfilled, happy and in harmony. As a natural progression, we cultivate a healthy set of values that not only helps us feeling at ease with ourselves but also with other people and our environment.
When meditation becomes a spiritual practice, we eventually embody the realization that we are part of something much vaster than our individual selves, connected to the creator of all that is. I invite you to go on this quest to find happiness and peace within you.
If you like personal guidance and support with your meditation practice, please reach out and send me an email. I am looking forward to share my knowledge and experience with you.