The tough, powerful protectors and the adorable, little five year olds are learning the same skill. You wouldn’t expect it, but both groups are learning how to meditate. Meditation develops their natural capacity for quieting their minds and focusing their attention with life-long benefits.
The Department of Defense may describe meditation as a way to promote peak performance and as an effective tool used to build resilience under the duress of war. School teachers might describe meditation as a way to reduce kids’ disruptive behavior while improving their social skills and attention levels. Both are correct.
They are learning how to be mindful; mindful of their breathing, their senses, their thoughts and feelings. Whether they reduce anxiety by focusing on the present moment or reduce stress levels by bringing compassion to whatever they are experiencing; both groups are learning self-care activities that can help stabilize and elevate their mood.
Meditating creates a shift from active thinking to a state of inner quietness.
As children discover their natural capacity for quieting their mind and focusing their attention, it builds their self-control which can enhance their ability to learn and achieve their highest potential – in school and in life. Studies show improvements in their reports of happiness, well-being and mindfulness.
For soldiers, resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, is the key to peak performance over time. Studies show reductions in depression, anxiety and stress in meditating platoons and significant increases in resilience, constructive thinking and behavioral coping.
Meditation works as an effective therapy for healing the stress-related conditions of wounded warriors too. Learning how to meditate should be part of basic training the way learning how to fire a weapon and doing multiple sets of push-ups are. It’s a newer kind of survival skill.
There are many ways the average person can meditate and the physical, emotional and psychological benefits of meditation are numerous too. But quieting the critical voice in your head, stopping the busy thoughts that create stress, may be the most popular reason people give meditation a try.
Becoming aware of your thinking and bringing your attention to the present moment when your mind wanders off, helps you to recognize your mental habits – including that of giving yourself a hard time.
Meditation develops your awareness and concentration skills. With practice, you begin to identify as the observer of your thoughts, the observer of your emotions. It becomes easier to be less reactive to them and more mindful in your everyday life – choosing to treat a particular thought or feeling like a passing cloud in the sky as you would while meditating.
A study at Harvard found that beginners who meditated for just eight weeks literally grew their gray matter in the areas of the brain associated with self-awareness and compassion. Meanwhile, the area of the brain associated with stress shrank. When your mind is clear and focused, and your body is relaxed and calm, you make better decisions.
It takes practice but over time, your skills deepen. Meditation teaches you how to better recognize the subtle impulses from within as your intuition, sensitivity, creativity and vitality become easier to access. You can meditate for stress reduction or you can meditate to develop certain qualities such as love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. Even if you just want to feel more relaxed and content in your daily life, learning how to meditate is well worth the effort.