Meditation and Healing: Exploring the Relationship

The growth in popularity of mindfulness practices has skyrocketed in the last decade; according to IBISWorld, in 2016, it was a $1 billion-dollar business. There are endless apps you can download on your smartphone to help guide you through the process (Insight is my favorite!). But, for those who don’t meditate or feel they just “can’t do it,” the rise in popularity is no doubt maddening. What’s the big deal, anyway? If it didn’t matter 10 years ago, why does it matter now?

It matters now for the same reason using Aquanet hairspray is not a good idea and drinking plenty of water or purposefully exercising is important — because the world and the people in it are changing at a breakneck pace. We don’t live in the same world that existed in 2005. We are connected to a constant influx of new information and working ever harder to keep up with changing interpersonal and technological dynamics. And, we are becoming ever more conscious. Meditation is an adaptation we can use to help offset the constant stimulation and increased awareness.

If you moved from Miami to Ontario, you would make a plan. You would buy warmer clothes, snow tires, maybe a few dozen extra cans of peas and beans to stow away for the next blizzard. Think of a mindfulness practice like your snow tires. If you know you’ll need help navigating the roads of daily life with a little more traction, find something to help keep you grounded.

As the world becomes more hectic, staying grounded matters more. Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve concentration, lower stress, increase happiness, slow aging, and stimulate the immune system, among many, many other benefits to help offset the chaos we all experience in our daily lives.

The deepening of consciousness requires a change in human behavior. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we are becoming more aware of both our external environment and our internal workings. The evolution of human consciousness is the result of some notable advances. First, as the amount of activity needed for basic survival decreases, the human capacity to reflect on other fundamental truths expands. Most of us are free to ponder the meaning of life and our own role in it. Even if that isn’t something you care to engage in, you do, nevertheless, reflect on them more than your ancestors.

Second, as access to information becomes more effortless, much of the human population is able to come to a deeper understanding of higher truths, of behaviors that have historically contributed to peace and happiness, and begin to answer those existential questions about meaning and truth. Meditation is the only way we know to help process and integrate this information into our awareness. It is the key to finding inner peace and an increased ability to function in the world.

So, how do mindfulness practices, such as meditation, help with forgiveness? Forgiveness begins with acceptance. Meditation is shown to increase acceptance and non-resistance. I’ve always said, “You can’t get any traction unless you’re standing on the truth.” (“truth” with a little “t”) All healing begins with the willingness to accept ourselves and our circumstances as they are in the moment. That doesn’t mean we need to give up wanting to create change. On the contrary, all change begins with acceptance.

The “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” says the only person who can’t heal is the one who is “constitutionally incapable of being honest with himself.” Quite an insight for a book written in 1939! Acceptance simply means we embrace things as they are so we are clear on what we need to do to get where we want to go. Have you ever mapped a route on your smartphone then driven to another location before starting the navigation? The navigation then starts where you were, not where you are. Not an effective way to begin any journey, including the journey to forgiveness.

Meditation is an asset in forgiveness because it increases our present moment awareness. All healing takes place in the heart and in the present moment.The more “in our bodies” we are, the greater our capacity to forgive. This added awareness is also helpful because, as we experience the discomfort associated with forgiveness, we have a greater ability to feel those sensations rather than what many of us have learned to do, which is to deny or repress the feelings leading to generalized agitation or compulsive behaviors to dissipate the sensations subconsciously.

I get it. I thought I “couldn’t meditate” for years before beginning my practice and it was irritating to hear everyone constantly ballyhooing the transformative power of mindfulness. But, it turns out, it does matter. It does something no other human activity does—it increases our consciousness and aligns the mind and body. And, whether we like it or not, it is more important now than ever to find a way to do it.

Now is the time to download one of the many meditation apps or check out one of the millions of videos on YouTube. Buy a book. Visit a meditation center. Or, just set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes in the morning and sit still in bed. It only takes one tiny shift to illuminate the power of meditation and you’ll be motivated to develop a practice that is all your own.