If you are into self-improvement, meditate. If you want to personally grow, meditate. If you want to become a better person, meditate. As a meditation teacher, I am always sharing with students the ongoing benefits that come with a steady practice. When you sit on a daily basis, noticeable differences gradually appear in your everyday habits, interactions, and attitude. You cannot help but be changed in the process. Reflecting back on this year, I found that I could actually come up with 10 ways meditation has improved my life in 2014 alone.
- Not pointing out others mistakes.
Do the following statements sound familiar? I told you so. You should have listened to me. I told you that wouldn’t work. I keep telling you the same thing. This past year I learned to pause when I felt tempted to tell someone how right I thought I was about a decision they made that turned out unanticipated. I realized that making a conscious choice to point out someone else’s mistakes not only made that other person feel bad, but it also didn’t help me feel any better. After all, I truly believe that in life we don’t make mistakes, we learn lessons, and everyone has their own set of challenges they need to overcome in order to evolve.
- Emotional balance.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sensitive person. I cry when I am happy, watching a touching commercial, or when I am deeply moved by a speech. This is not to say that I have been able to stop the tears from falling completely, but in this past year I came to accept who I am and for some reason that made me stronger. I no longer let my emotions overtake me, completely guiding my actions, but instead am able to keep a balance between my heart and mind. Often times we let one lead more than the other, but when we can work on finding that steadiness in ourselves, it helps us to make better decisions in our overall growth.
- Detachment to things.
This has been one of the most surprising, yet welcome outcomes of my meditation practice this year. Less and less I am feeling a false identification with and attachment to material items. I noticed myself losing an interest in not only accumulating things like books, jewelry, furniture, or clothes, but also wanting to clean my home of all unnecessary things. I also found that of the items I currently own, only a handful or two would really upset me if they got lost, due to sentimental value. I am finding happiness in appreciating the things I have without finding security in these items.
- Not taking things personally.
Usually when someone says or does something that comes off insulting, derogatory, or rude, it has more to do with what is going on with them, than with you. Although most of us may know this in theory, how many of us practice it? In this past year I had many opportunities to react to someone else’s negativity, but I honestly believe that because of my meditation practice I was able to stay calm and collected. There were times when readers would leave demoralizing comments on an article I wrote, or when someone grilled me about what meditation is and if it really works, and when I was asked by a friend, why I am always happy. I was able to put into practice what we all know on an intellectual level, that others’ comments and reactions are symptoms of their own experiences, upbringing, and current life circumstances.
- Limited/Eliminated Social Media.
This year I deleted my personal Twitter & Instagram accounts, as well as deactivated my personal Facebook page. If you don’t know how I feel about social media, this article may give you an idea (10 Ways To Be Happy Everyday). These acts in and of themselves have created monumental changes in my life. My mind feels lifted and more at peace. I have been more creative, learned how to manage my time better, and I started reading a lot more again. I feel more engaged with friends, meditate for longer periods of time, cook more, and overall feel happier. I am not advocating that you also do this, especially if your mind will always be on what you are missing out on or it would prevent you from communicating with close friends and family. However, for me, I was able to organically come to this point and it felt like the natural next step in becoming more mindful and self-realized. Meditation helped me do this for the right reasons, not because I thought certain people would miss me or because I was trying to make a statement, rather I wanted to do it for my own well-being and personal growth.
- More confidence.
This past year, I started compromising myself less. That is to say, not being afraid to show who I am, all of me, the vulnerable, flaw-full, strong, independent, still learning about life, me. This has enabled me to be more authentic. It has let me connect with others in a genuine way. It has let me allow myself to let go of who I think I should be in this world. We all know the ongoing patience and process this requires, but it has begun. Meditation helped expose me, to me. It has made me more confident in who I am, helped me to set boundaries, and understand my self-worth. We first have to get real with ourselves in order to see any real progress in life. Meditation helps us to do just that.
- More accepting of others.
When we can see others as expressions of their own histories, experiences, challenges, triumphs, and goals, it becomes easier to accept who they are and how they are reacting to us. Meditation helps us to become more mindful and take every moment as it comes, without imposing our own restrictions and judgments. Imagine being able to interact with someone without having preconceived ideas, not feeling guarded, and being completely open to what they are saying and feeling. It takes a lot of reflection and patience on our part. For me, it has been an ongoing process that I am at least aware of, so that when I find myself regressing I can take the necessary steps to keep from moving downward.
- Feeling the need to not share everything.
Wanting to be recognized has to be one of the most common emotions in the world. The needs for appreciation and acknowledgment are part of human nature. Social media has done a great job of speaking to this vulnerability within us and given us an easy access pass to reassurance and self-esteem. When I removed myself from certain social media platforms (see #5 above), not only was I no longer consumed by all the noise on there and able to re-focus on what I really want from myself, but I no longer felt any desire to share my personal life with others. When positive things started to manifest this past year, I realized that it was just a part of life. The ups and downs all have a place in our journeys, no need to announce all of it. In this way, I started becoming content with whatever evolved, whether it made its way into the public sphere or not. This also started becoming relevant outside of my Internet life and into my ‘real’ life. Live a life that makes YOU happy and feel peaceful and it will no longer matter who knows about it. Be a living example of your highest self.
- Believing in myself.
Most everyone has a vision for their lives, where they see themselves 10 years from now, and what they need to do now to get there in the future. Sometimes you share it with others and they get it, they may even have those same goals for themselves! Other times, people just don’t understand. They try to be supportive using the familiar lens of seeing things from where they stand, based on their experiences. How else would they see it? Maybe they don’t see what you see and the potential you have, and that’s okay. Not everyone will know how to be supportive and completely on board, but that’s not because they don’t care for you, rather they have a limited understanding based on what they have found to be true for themselves. Meditation has helped me to keep faith in myself and reminded me that I am on the right path.
- Less television.
Every year since 2007 I have been making a New Year’s Resolutions list. Every year I put on that list, watch less television. What started out as an intention in 2007, finally manifested at the end of 2014. So, do not become discouraged, as personal evolution takes time! This has been one of the most exciting things to have occurred for me this year. It naturally evolved from a feeling of wanting to do more with my life. That strong desire helped me gradually move away from using television to fill time, to reading, writing, and connecting with others. This isn’t to say I have completely eliminated it, but I have definitely limited my television viewing to 1-2 hours a day. Yes, sometimes I feel a little lost when friends and family are talking about new shows or what happened on the latest episode of a popular series, but it’s insignificant compared to what I have gained.
Your meditation practice may lead you to other realizations and breakthroughs, ones that are necessary for you in your life. Making time each day to withdraw your senses from outside stimulation has long term effects that can help you work through barriers that are preventing you from reaching your highest potential. Try it for yourself this year. Leave a couple of minutes aside each day to close your eyes, sit quietly, and observe the breath. Be open to the possibilities of the practice. For me, I am excited to see what changes my daily meditation practice will bring me this next year. Blessings for a peaceful 2015!