How Meditation Leads to Self-understanding and Improved Relationships

Students of an internationally renowned meditation teacher would often ask him: “Swami ji how is my meditation practice going?

The swami would respond by saying, “Why do you ask me?  Ask your family, friends and your colleagues how your meditation is going. They can tell you better than I can.”

The swami’s reply suggests that when meditation practice starts deepening it is bound to reflect in your behavior and relationships.  Meditation enhances your capacity for empathy, compassion, communication and stress management which are essential qualities for getting ahead in life and maintaining satisfying relationships.

What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you.  The more you know about yourself the more it can help you prepare with the challenges within and without. Self-understanding made possible by meditation directly impacts your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

So, how come meditation can offer us so much?

The answer lies in the process of meditation itself.  Volumes have been written about the process of meditation but here is a “quick and dirty” overview of the process:

“Typically, meditation requires practitioners to sit in a comfortable position and pay attention to their breathing. The instructions are given in such words as, “Sit and make yourself comfortable.  Pay attention to your breathing.  Don’t try to influence your breathing one way or the other.  Simply observe (or witness) as you breathe in and out.”

“Simply observing the breathing and not making a deliberate effort to breathe in a specific way makes breathing slow and soft.  Diaphragmatic breathing is established.  Abdomen gently moves in and out. The chatter of the “monkey mind” begin to settle down.

“As the whole body is calm and still, and breathing effortless, it becomes easier to observe the thoughts and emotions that arise on the mental screen.   But, you are not supposed to engage with any rising thoughts or emotions.  You simply observe and let them pass.  Teachers often say, “Be a witness; not a participant!”

Gradually, over time, a part of you that is doing observing can separate itself from the part of you that is experiencing these thoughts and emotions.  You are now both the Observer and the Actor, somewhat separated from each other.

You begin to find that the same thoughts and emotions show up on your mental screen again and again and day after day.  Hopefully, you are now ready to take ownership of your own thoughts and emotions, “Nobody is forcing these thoughts onto me. Nobody makes me angry, unhappy or fearful.  It’s me!  I make myself angry, fearful, unhappy or happy.”

Know that this introduction will be honest, frank and fearless.  How so? Because when an outsider watches you, you can raise your shield to defend yourself, give lots of excuses and try lots of ways to hide.  But when you watch yourself you have nowhere to hide.

Whatever you discover about yourself always be kind to yourself.  Don’t be angry or upset.  Forgive and love yourself and use this new understanding to become even better person.

Be aware that I have given you an oversimplified description of how meditation facilitates the introduction of you to yourself.

Additionally, note that continued practice of meditation can facilitate impressive emotional growth.  Your capacity for love and compassion would increase.  Many Buddhistic and Yogic traditions encourage practitioners to meditate on positive emotions such as love and compassion.

Compassion and love are great teachers.  These noble emotions help us discover that in many ways others are like us and we are like them. Same behaviors and attributes you criticize in others are present in you as well.  Same positive qualities you see in yourself, they too have them but perhaps, you hitherto overlooked them

Compassion and love teach us that people hurt, bleed and feel pain the same way we do. They have similar dreams and desires we do.    All of us are wanting and looking for similar things.  They too want to hear deserving compliments about them as you like to hear about yourself.

As our capacity for love, compassion and empathy grow we become more tolerant, understanding and patient of others.

This is a practical and behavioral description of the “veil” discussed in Part I.  When the veil is lifted, relationships become more lasting and satisfying.

Twenty minutes of meditation will save you one hour in everything you do that day.  Trust and verify yourself if it is true.  Observe, introspect and watch your relationship with Time (capitalized T is intentional)

About sharma

Vijai Sharma, PhD, certified Yoga teacher and Yoga therapist from the American Viniyoga Institute (AVI) and retired clinical psychologist with special interest in mind-body medicine. Thanks primarily to Yoga, I have enjoyed great quality of life learning and living with three major illnesses, Emphysema/ Chronic Bronchitis (also called "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease- COPD) since 1994, Quad Bypass Cardiac surgery 2007, Prostate cancer and radical prostate surgery in 2010. My experiences and insights into the illnesses, Yoga, psychology and mind-body medicine provide me a unique opportunity to put them into practice and learn further more. Through this blog I share with you how exactly I manage to have a satisfying and fulfilling life. I do so in the hopes that you will do the same with the challenges you may have. I invite you to join me!
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