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Meditation: what is it and how can it help you?


Investment Banking is a stressful industry. Long hours filled with busy schedules dealing with important clients leaves little downtime to relax, which can lead to increased anxiety and depression.

Whilst it may not be possible to find a day for some self-care, mindful meditation can make a great and easy alternative.

Meditation is a relatively easy practice to get into, however it does take some adjusting. Once you learn how to quiet your mind and focus, this becomes a quick and simple way to relax and reset before, during or after a busy day at the office.

Practices can be five minutes or an hour – whatever you have time for to slot into your day.

Where did meditation originate?

It is believed that the practices started in India, with statues being found in the traditional cross-legged position dating back to 5000 BCE, and the oldest written mention in Vedas in 1500 BCE.

Meditation was used to transcend past human limitations and connect with the forces of the universe, who became the Hindu deities.

Photo: Julie Ricard

From this, came Buddhism – Siddhartha Gautama abandoned royal life, found meditation and became the Buddha, starting a new wave of religion surrounding a new method of meditation which focussed on spiritual awakening. Buddhist styles of meditation have become the methods most widely used in Western culture, initially influencing the Ancient Greeks.

Meditation goes West

As different forms of meditation popped up across Asia, the Greek philosophers picked them up to help concentrate as they wrote their discoveries. Once Catholicism took over Europe, meditation disappeared, only to come back in the 20th century once relations between Asia and Europe grew again.

As meditation moved to the West, and was picked up by several Transcendentalists, scientists began to research the benefits of mediation outside of spiritual connection.

Whilst the first study on meditation was published in 1936, the first collection was published in 1977, after doing a range of tests on Swami Rama, a leading yogi at that time.

Rama showed scientists how meditation meant he could control bodily functions that, until this point, had been considered involuntary: heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and brain waves.

These findings led to a wide range of experiments over the next five decades which showed how meditation could be used for healthcare purposes.

Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to give practitioners better focus, motivation and concentration, improvements in self-esteem and self-awareness, improve tolerance for pain, and even help fight substance addictions.

Regular meditation decreases stress, lowers blood pressure and helps fight off symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Meditation in modern times

Now, meditation has become greatly secularised. Although many still use meditation for religious purposes, the mainstream benefits surround mental health, becoming a cultural movement.

Photo: kike vega

Meditation has been adapted to many different experiences:

  • Yoga, which comes from the Hindu Yogic tradition of meditation which focuses on wisdom and spiritual development. Originally practiced in a traditional seated position, it now includes stretches which were added to use a flowing movement as a base to control breathing around and create a workout.
  • Meditation is being weaved into workouts – Equinox has a programme called HeadStrong which combines meditation with high-intensity interval training.
  • It has become part of a rest-and-relaxation experience, with companies such as Headspace creating meditation pods which create a private area for meditation that can be installed at home, in office buildings or in gyms.
  • Meditation has even made its way into technology with apps like Headspace, Calm, OMG. I Can Meditate! and Breethe. Some of these companies have also signed deals with airlines, meaning passengers can get a free meditation experience on long plane journeys.

Whilst meditation teachers have been around for a long time, teaching people the practice in schools and retreats (the best including Wat Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage in Thailand, and the Tushita Meditation Centre in India), and yoga and meditation has become a mainstream movement it has created a new job – the meditation influencer.

Photo: Ksenia Makagonova

People across Instagram and YouTube have created spaces on social media to teach the practice of meditation and yoga to global audiences.

These influencers are from all over the world and practice and preach different types of meditation and positive thinking to help people become master meditators themselves:

  • Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (@rebel_buddha) shares sayings on his Instagram to teach his followers how to process negative emotions and feel more empowered.
  • Meditation teacher Sara Auster (@saraauster) posts sound baths on Mondays creating a quiet space for people to meditate to.
  • Mindful Me (@mindfulme_dubai) promotes mindfulness and works to destigmatise mental health problems in UAE.
  • Alex Mansi (@iamalexmanzi) runs a podcast called “In the Moment” where he speaks to people about mental health and how mindfulness and meditation helps mental health in different ways. He also runs meditation sessions on Instagram Live.

Just five minutes of your day spent meditating can have a great positive impact on your life and will improve your mental and physical health dramatically. This simple practice has such a wide range of benefits that it’s always worth a try!

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