7 Ways Meditation Can Save Your Life

This title sounds a bit over the top at first glance, but I can report that meditation has played a significant role in saving my life. It has been my lighthouse in the storm and has been my anchor in the rough seas of life when I needed it. And as a nice bonus, meditation has rewired my brain to be more compassionate and operate at higher levels both cognitively and intuitively.

The mind-body connection is real folks!

Without getting too far into my story, let me pose a few simple questions to invoke thought:

Why are there more people who drink alcohol than meditate?

Why do more people eat fast food than exercise?
Why do unhealthy habits seem to come easier to so many of us?

It seems as if we really don’t like ourselves. In a way, this is quite true. Whether it’s because of poor body image, social isolation, or ecological alienation, once the cycle of self-disgust gets started, it takes significant effort to make a change. Meanwhile, the mind is a perfect servant but a terrible master.

It may sound far-fetched, but meditation is a direct way to cut through the chaotic monkey mind constantly making excuses and supporting our neuroses and at times deadly habits. Here are seven ways meditation can save your life.

1. Relaxation

We know that stress instigates a variety of illnesses and that quiet time is the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind. In a stressed state, it’s easy to lose touch with inner peace, compassion, and kindness, whereas a relaxed state allows us to connect with a deeper sense of purpose and altruism. Your breath is your best friend. Whenever you feel stressed or overwhelmed, focus on your breathing and quietly repeat, “Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile.” [1]

2. Release

Denying or disowning negative feelings can cause shame, depression, and rage. Meditation enables us to see how selfishness, aversion, and ignorance create endless drama for ourselves. It’s not going to make all our difficulties go away or suddenly transform our weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable us to release self-centered, angry attitudes and find a deep inner happiness. Own your shadows to see the light. [2]

3. Appreciation

A lack of appreciation easily leads to abuse and exploitation. Start by taking a moment just to appreciate the chair you are sitting on. Consider how the chair was made: the wood, cotton, or other fibers; the trees that were used; the earth that grew those trees; the people who prepared its materials; the factory where the chair was built; the designer, carpenter, and seamstress; the shop that sold it—all so you could be sitting now. Extend that appreciation to every part of yourself and to everyone in your life. Then say, “For this I am grateful.” [3]

4. Compassion

When you feel suffering, whether in yourself or another, when you make a mistake or say something stupid, when you think of someone you are having a hard time with, when you see someone struggling, upset, or irritated—stop and bring compassion to bear. Silently repeat, “May you be well, happy, and filled with loving kindness.” [4]

5. Harmlessness

Simply through the intent to cause less pain can we bring greater dignity to our world, so that harm is replaced with harmlessness and disrespect with respect. Ignoring someone’s feelings, affirming our hopelessness, disliking our appearance, or seeing ourselves as incompetent or unworthy are all causes of personal harm. How much resentment, guilt, or shame are we holding on to, thus perpetuating such harmfulness? Meditation enables us to transform this by recognizing the essential preciousness of life. [5]

6. Sharing

Without sharing we live in an isolated, disconnected, and lonely world. We take meditation “off the cushion” and put it into action as we become more deeply aware of our connectedness with all beings. From being self-centered we become other-centered, concerned about the welfare of all. Reaching beyond ourselves then becomes a spontaneous expression of generosity seen in our capacity to let go of conflicts, forgive mistakes, and help those in need. We are not alone here: we walk the same earth and breathe the same air. The more we participate, the more we are connected and fulfilled. [6]

7. Being with What Is

The very nature of life includes change and unfulfilled desire and a longing for things to be different from how they are, all of which brings discontent and dissatisfaction. Almost everything we do is to achieve something: if we do this, then we will get that; if we do that, then this will happen. But we meditate just to do so. There is no ulterior purpose other than to be here, in the present moment, without trying to get anywhere or achieve anything. No judgment, no right or wrong, simply being aware. [7]

Meditation enables us to see clearly, to witness our thoughts and behavior and reduce our self-involvement and self-induced anxiety.

Without such a practice of self-reflection there is no way of putting a brake on the ego’s demands. Stepping out of the conceptual mind, however, does not mean stepping into nowhere or nothing, nor severing our connection to the world. Rather, it is stepping into sanity and, more importantly, into even greater connectedness.

In fact, meditation is the easiest, laziest good habit one could cultivate: just sit and be with what is.

Then we have no more need to harm ourselves.