Give Your Mind a Break: Meditate (Part I)

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Hello, I’m Sven Paunovic Babic!

I grew up in several different countries and am currently based in Geneva, Switzerland. I attained a BSc Honors degree in Biochemistry from Imperial College London in 2020. My other interests include creative expression, holistic health, yoga, and Vipassana Meditation. I began a deep self-healing journey around August 2020, which moved me to write about the very Mindfulness Meditation technique I have been using to improve my life!

I hope you enjoy!

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A broad range of meditation techniques are available as self healing tools in the 21st century. More ancient ones such as Vipassana and Zen meditation contrast with modern techniques, which were modified for more specific medical or therapeutic purposes, namely Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)1.

Daily meditation practice has enormous benefits: increased attention and focus on the present moment, better self-awareness and therefore greater confidence, incredible discipline, and provides us with tools we can use to effectively improve all our relationships. It increases one’s capacity to love unconditionally, boosts empathy levels, reduces the desire to hold onto grudges, and facilitates the installation of emotional boundaries.

Source: “Ten reasons why meditation is so beneficial”, Ecole Globale (2021).

How often do you find yourself distracted from the activity you are trying to focus on by either overthinking events from the past or by stressing about things that are yet to happen? This may be in the form of procrastination (from working or studying) or unwanted ‘mind wandering’ resulting in missing key information during a conversation with a friend, work meeting, or a lecture.

The aim of Mindfulness Meditation (MM) is to train the mind to be consistently ‘anchored’ in every present moment, instead of getting lost in thought2. This skill, when developed through daily MM practices, significantly decreases the temptations of procrastination and distractions.

This leads to living in a heightened state of awareness. According to Dr. Nicole LePera, we normally spend around 95% of our day relying on our subconscious, walking through life in some sort of ‘autopilot mode’3. Thus, many of our decisions tend to be automatic responses from the subconscious with the aim of conserving chemical energy.

MM practices lead to progressively greater use of the conscious mind which allows us to break free from our subconscious programming. This subconscious programming is our ‘default’ response pattern in stressful, uncomfortable, or novel situations. It is engrained in our daily lives as a result of the way we have been conditioned through our childhood3. Raising our awareness in every present moment provides us greater freedom to ‘escape’ this programming which, paired with fear, is responsible for holding us back in situations where we are stepping out of our ‘comfort zone’.

Consistent meditation practices have been shown to trigger neuroplasticity (a process by which the brain forms new or reorganises synaptic connections). Functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans have shown increased thickness in the fraction of the brain where conscious awareness resides, the prefrontal cortex. Metacognition (thinking about thoughts) is strengthened as MM is practiced, allowing us to ‘think before we act’ much more consistently, rapidly, and with a more objective view of the situation3.

Source: “Know your brain: prefrontal cortex”, Neuroscientifically Challenged (2014).

Consistent regular practice substantially trains our discipline, facilitating prioritisation of ‘positive habits’ over unhealthier ones. Once our day to day life awareness increases, we begin to notice what thoughts or feelings we have right before indulging in a ‘bad habit’. With continuous MM practices, we become more likely to resist those temptations and are much better equipped to begin substituting them with healthier habits. This skill is a key foundation of holistic health.

Gradual detachment from our ego begins in later stages of MM practices. This provides us with tools useful for avoiding egotistically-fuelled discussions where neither side is listening to learn, but is instead listening to respond and win the argument. When we mindfully notice such a discussion developing, we are more likely to consciously choose whether or not to continue with the argument4.

Moreover, we become empowered by the choice of taking a mindful breath, allowing us to ‘re-anchor’ ourselves in the present moment, instead of reactively mirroring another person’s anger.

Further MM benefits include, but are not limited to: greater (or regained) access to intuition and self-trust, improved ability to set and maintain emotional and energetic boundaries with others, and helps us more consistently seek internal validation (instead of external validation).

*It is important to note that MM techniques build and strengthen the tools necessary for improving our lives, but it is imperative to actively train and apply those new skills in real life!*

With the skills attained through MM practices, we are better able to cope with stress in our daily lives. Additionally, in particularly stressful parts of our day we can do a quick 20 second mindful breath-work exercise and return to the present moment with greater objectivity! We are able to let a stressful or negative feeling come, be felt without judgement, and choose whether it will trigger us into doing something we may later regret.

References:
1. Chiesa, A. and Malinowski, P., 2011. Mindfulness‐based approaches: Are they all the same?. Journal of clinical psychology67(4), pp.404-424.
2. “How to do the Work”, by Dr. Nicole LePera, 2021. Harper Wave.
3. “The Bhagavad Gita For Daily Living Volume III- To Love is to Know Me”, By Eknath Easwaran, 2017. Jaico Books.

Featured Image Source: Karan Bajaj, at Karanbajaj.com

4 thoughts on “Give Your Mind a Break: Meditate (Part I)

  1. Really important information. I hope it will encourage many more to take up meditation not just for their own health and well-being but also for people around them. The world would indeed be a better place if we all m’éditâtes every day!

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