7 Ways How Meditation Transforms Your Mind

The ultimate reason for meditating is to transform ourselves in order to be better able to transform the world – Matthieu Ricard.

Buddha meditating statue at night

Exercise is to the body what meditation is to the mind. That’s because, just like exercise helps strengthen your body, meditation helps sharpen/strengthen your mind. In addition meditation also helps you get better control over your mind that is required for a powerful transformation to occur.

This is because, when you meditate, you automatically develop your metacognitive abilities, or the ability to watch your thoughts and emotions objectively from a third person’s perspective without getting taken over by the thought/emotion.

When you start to consciously observe your thoughts/emotions in this manner, you start to develop self awareness. With self awareness, comes the power of self regulation and eventually self mastery. Thoughts/emotions no longer control you as they used to, instead you take the control back. You become the master of your own mind.

Let’s look at some powerful benefits that meditation can offer to you and how it can change and transform your mind.

1. Meditation strengthens your focus muscle

You know that mental clarity and the ability to focus, or pay attention without giving into distractions is crucial when it comes to achieving your goals. If your mind is easily prone to distractions, procrastination becomes the norm and you end up wasting precious hours to unproductive activities.

The good news is that paying attention is a skill that you can develop by practicing focused meditation.

The frontal lobe in our brain (more importantly the prefrontal cortex) holds the key to the faculty of attention. It has been studied that the more you meditate, the stronger the neural connections required for attention in your frontal lobes become. And the stronger these connections, the better your ability to focus (stay alert and conscious).

Scientists in Wisconsin studied the minds of monks who had engaged in over 10,000 minutes of focused meditation. When these monks meditated, scientists noticed that the activity in their frontal lobes were enormous. They performed the same experiment on a control group who were just learning to meditate, and found that when this group meditated, the activity in their frontal lobe was relatively minimal.

This goes on to prove that focus is a skill that can be mastered and that meditation is definitely one of the best ways to develop it.

With improved focus also comes mental clarity and the ability to think more consciously.

2. Meditation helps develop your metacognitive abilities

Metacognition is your ability to watch your thoughts and emotions objectively from a third person’s perspective. In other words, you disengage from your thoughts/emotions and watch them as a neutral observer.

On a usual basis, we are one with our thoughts/emotions. A thought/emotion arises and we get caught up in it. For example, you get an emotion of anger and in that moment, you lose track of yourself and act out that anger in ways that you might regret later – like yelling at somebody or saying things that you did not mean to say.

Scientifically, it has been studied that when strong emotions take over, the body goes into flight or fight mode and first thing that gets switched off is your rational brain that has centers in the frontal lobe. In other words, your conscious brain switches off and the more primal/unconscious brain takes over. This is a prime example of the mind controlling you instead of you controlling the mind.

Metacognition helps you disconnect and consciously watch your thoughts/emotions as a neutral observer and hence these thoughts/emotions do not have as much control over you. You now have an ability to respond to the situation rather than merely react.

Mindfulness meditation helps you develop your conscious mind and hence you start to stay more aware of your thoughts/emotions. And as you continue this practice, your metacognitive abilities strengthen.

3. Meditation gives you access to your subconscious programs

Our lives are literally run by programs in our subconscious mind. Everything from our beliefs, personality (how we act, think and feel), behavioral traits and self image is stored in our subconscious mind. And in most cases, how we act, think and feel, pretty much determines how we fare in life. If we are constantly thinking thoughts of lack because of negative programming, we attract lack. And if we think in abundance, we attract abundance.

Carg Jung (well known Swiss psychiatrist) puts it beautifully when he says, “people don’t have ideas, ideas have people”. ‘Ideas’, here stands for your self beliefs.

When you are unconscious of your self beliefs, you become one with these beliefs and these beliefs control you. But when you start to become conscious of these beliefs, and watch them as a neutral observer, you develop the power to start becoming free from their influence. You can consciously analyze these beliefs and discard ones that are no longer serving you.

For example, you might have a belief that you are not good enough. Perhaps this was a belief that got ingrained in your mind when you were young. When you have a belief like this, it becomes really hard to progress in life and reach your true potential.

But once you become aware (through meditation) that you have such a belief, you start to realize that the belief has no basis in reality but was something that your mind accepted as a fact (when you were young) because it came from a person of authority. You now have the power to let go of this belief.

4. Meditation helps you get in touch with your true nature (self awareness)

As we grow into adulthood, our mind continues to get conditioned by all kinds of inputs that we receive from our external environment. Inputs from our parents, teachers, peers, media, government, society and life events in general. Some of these inputs are good while some can be bad or limiting.

And oftentimes, our true nature (true sense of self) gets buried underneath all this conditioning. It’s only by becoming conscious of our mind and our thought patterns can we start to discard limited conditioning and find the truth about ourselves. We can then analyze if we are living true to our nature or living someone else’s narrative.

Giving into peer pressure is a good example of living someone else’s idea of life and not knowing your true strengths and desires. When you know what you truly desire, things that make you happy, your core strengths, your true passions and you have a strong sense of self, you begin to change the course of your life and bring your life back into alignment.

5. Meditation helps you let go of bad habits

All habits originate in the subconscious/unconscious mind. For example, an urge to smoke is an unconscious urge generated in the body when you feel stressed out. When in stress, our body lowers conscious mechanisms (rational thinking) and hence the craving seems so powerful.

But the simple act of remaining mindful/conscious of these urges, loosens their strong grip over us.

According to psychiatrist and mindfulness expert, Judson Brewer, “Instead of forcing ourselves to quit (a bad habit), when we start to become mindful about the habit in terms of noticing the feelings associated with the habit, we begin to become disenchanted. We step out of our old fear based reactive patterns, and begin to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations (like tightness, tension, restlessness), and these sensations come and go. These are bit size experiences that we can manage from moment to moment, rather than getting clobbered by this huge scary craving that we choke on.

Research conducted by Brewer in this regard found that, mindfulness training was twice as effective as gold standard therapy in helping people quit smoking.

Another study by Brewer suggests that a neural network called the posterior cingulate cortex is activated when we get caught up in our cravings. But this region quieted down the moment one became conscious of the craving.

6. Meditation develops emotional intelligence

There are various studies that correlates higher emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) to achieving excellence at work, leadership and living happier lives.

EQ basically consists of having strong intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Broadly speaking, these skills include self awareness, self regulation, empathy and self confidence.

Self awareness: Ability to become conscious of your internal states, your likes, preferences, strengths and intuition. For example, to be able to see the emotion of anger objectively rather than getting swept away by the emotion.

Self regulation: Ability to manage your internal states. Eg, to act rationally even when taken over by anger.

Empathy: Ability to understand others.

Self confidence: Having strong sense of self worth and capabilities.

Meditation can help you achieve all of these skills by helping you transform your mind as has already been discussed in this article.

To reiterate, metacognition allows you to stay conscious of your internal states – feelings, impulses, desires etc. which is what self awareness is all about. And when you are conscious of these states, you are no longer controlled by these states and hence you develop mechanisms to control these states better which leads to self regulation.

As far as empathy goes, when you start to understand your own self, for example, how your mind and emotions work, you automatically develop understanding of other people.

As for self confidence, once you are able to consciously discard all limiting thoughts about the self, you automatically start to develop a strong sense of self worth and confidence.

7. Meditation helps you get in touch with your body’s intelligence

Imagine driving a car for ages and never having looked at the interiors. This is exactly what happens when we live in our minds and never get in touch with our bodies.

There is immense intelligence contained in your body. This is the same intelligence that digests your food, sucks oxygen out of thin air, fights illnesses, eliminates toxins and does over a million other processes every single second to keep you healthy and alive.

When you become conscious of your thoughts through meditation, you no longer live trapped in your mind. You now have the freedom to use your attention/consciousness to get in touch with your body. And this has huge benefits, some of which are as follows:

Stronger intuition: There’s millions of years of evolutionary intelligence contained in your body. When you get in touch with your body, you get to tap into this intelligence which becomes available to you in the form of powerful intuition.

Ability to induce deep relaxation: As you begin to sense bodily sensations you also develop the skills to consciously relax tension areas. Consciously relaxing your body this way, helps clear out stress hormones and bring the body back into the restorative parasympathetic mode. This way you can optimize your body to perform at its best at all times.

Self healing: As the body receives your conscious attention, it begins to heal.

Self motivation: You will be motivated to do things that is good for your body, for example, it becomes a lot easier to give up on junk food because you are so consciously aware of how your body feels on junk food.

Emotional mastery: You become more conscious of how an emotion feels in your body. By feeling an emotion consciously, you can start to release its grip on you. You become deeply aware of your emotional states and the thought-emotion connection, that changes your mind and helps you better deal with emotions when they arise.

2 Main types of meditation

The two types of meditation that can give you all of the benefits mentioned in this article and more are, focused meditation and open focus meditation

1. Focused meditation

In this type of meditation, you stay alert and focus all your attention on an object or sensation for prolonged periods of time. Here’s a simple breath meditation technique that follows this principle.

Sit with your eyes closed and focus all your attention to the sensations associated with breathing. Feel the cool air caressing the tip of your nostrils as you inhale and warm air as you exhale. If thoughts arise and pull your attention (which they definitely will), gently bring your attention back to your breath. This process of bringing your attention back to your breath over and over again is what strengthens your attention over time.

As you do this meditation, you start to become more and more conscious of your ‘attention’ and the fact that you have the ability to control your ‘attention’ and direct it wherever you want to. When you have control over your attention, you have the power to start transforming your mind as you can now see the limiting thoughts that pull your attention in and start to discard them by denying them of your attention.

2. Open focus meditation (Mindfulness meditation)

In open focus meditation, you do not focus on anything – not on your thoughts, not on any sensation. Instead you simply observe everything without getting engaged.

Stay conscious and alert of your attention and where it wanders. Let it wander, but don’t engage. For example, as you meditate, feel the sensations in your body, be conscious of the sounds around you, be conscious of the thoughts arising etc. But do not engage with any of it. In other words, do not lose yourself in a sensation or a thought.

It’s much easier to do mindfulness meditation after you have done focused meditation for a few minutes as focused meditation helps calm down your mind.

Mindfulness meditation is akin to staying in the present moment and can be practiced at any time of the day or formally during a sitting meditation session. The more mindful you are, the stronger the changes your mind experiences.

In conclusion

The advantages that meditation and mindfulness offer are just too many to ignore. What I have mentioned in this article are just few of them, or shall we say the tip of the iceberg. Yes it does seem like a dull thing to do, but once you start understanding the process better and start seeing how it is starting to transform your mind and body, you will be hooked.

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About the Author
Mukesh is the founder of Outofstress.com. He is a writer, author and meditation teacher. Having suffered from anxiety and depression for a good part of his adult life, he used meditation, attention training and self awareness to break free from these limiting mind patterns. You can learn more on his personal blog - ConsciousReset.com
About Outofstress
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