The top 5 misconceptions about meditation

Meditation Myth-Busters

The top 5 misconceptions about meditation

There is no doubt that ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ have entered the mainstream mindset along with reams of research into the physical, mental and emotional benefits they offer. In much of the commentary, these terms are used interchangeably. 

But despite the buzz and the daily posts on social media sites, there remains a lot of misconceptions about meditation and what it actually entails. Like any popularised practice, sometimes the smarts behind the actions can fall away. Yoga would be a good case in point. Many students are surprised to learn that the original purpose of yoga asana is to prepare the body and mind for meditation and inner work. The fact that regular practice gives you lean limbs, core strength and a tight yoga butt, is a happy side effect of aligning the energetic systems of the body. However, it’s not the main game.

The approach to meditation is the same. Many come to it to relieve stress or improve sleep for example, which of course it does, and relatively quickly with regular practice. But settling the central nervous system is simply the first turn of the key to unlocking the potential of meditation practice. Once you are able to settle the nervous system and alter brainwave patterning at will, you can enter this inner space consciously and really get to work. The physiological changes – yes, structural changes, that take place in the mind/body system through regular meditation, enable the practitioner to alter their state of consciousness, and therefore, their experience of life. 

There are five commonly held misconceptions about meditation that I have encountered through my years of teaching. Sadly, they appear to be the main reasons why many try it once or twice and then let it go. To dispel them, I find it useful to understand what meditation is not. 

Busting meditation Myth 1: Meditation is emptying the mind of all thought

Meditation is not about clearing the mind of all thought. If you have ever tried to clear the mind of thought, you soon realize that you’re on a hiding to nothing. The mind is thought. So, I find, a better way to view it is that meditation combines the use of the breath, the posture and a single point of focus, to draw in a dissipated mind. When we do this, we experience the revelation that there’s a difference between our awareness and our thought-field. They’re not the same thing. By regularly practicing meditation techniques we are able to lengthen and smooth out the brainwave patterning. This in turn calms the frenetic thought activity of the mind and weakens the tugging action that our thoughts have on our awareness.

Meditation is a way to gather our awareness into the present, the here and now, the only living reality. Our past has happened and our future is yet to be. Our only reality is the here and now, this moment. When our awareness is gathered into the deep now, and our mind and body align and calm into stillness, the immensely powerful heart and energy centres activate and align with the still mind. Your spiritual engine starts up!

Busting Meditation Myth 2: Meditation requires denying the body

Another thing I see quite a bit in meditation circles are keen practitioners forcing their legs and hips into a stiff, unsustainable lotus pose, or holding their arms and hands aloft in some sort of flashy mudra, and often both. There is a common misconception that we must hold the posture of an ancient yogi and then muscle our way through numbed limbs into stillness. It’s pretty hard to achieve inner calm when circulation to your lower body has come to a grinding halt. 

The idea that we have to somehow deny our physical aspect as a trade-off for higher awareness is both erroneous and damaging. The idea that Spirit and body are diametrically opposed couldn’t be further from reality. The body is integral to the process of meditation and the body and Spirit are inextricably linked. I see them as one total system, with aspects simply vibrating at different rates. And when I say ‘the body’ I mean all physical aspects – the physical form, the brain, the central nervous system, heart, chemistry, the cells and the space that holds them, the breath and the senses. 

It is true that certain meditation techniques allow a temporarily loosening of our association with the physicality of the body, but to enter those deep states we must work with the body and its energy systems. Diet and hydration also have an impact on meditation practice and are wonderful elements to experiment with when getting started. The main postural consideration is a long, supported spine and felt connection with the Earth. 

Our bodies are already present. They occupy a physical space and they are in the moment. Our bodies are here and now. The body is the perfect anchor to draw in the mind. 

Busting Meditation Myth 3: Meditation is a religion or opposes religion

Sometimes when I am commissioned for corporate workshops and talks, the HR team will make the point that they have a number of employees of different faiths in the office, and while they’re keen to bring meditation into the workplace, could I please keep it one hundred percent secular. The fact that I am asked this tells me that there’s a very close association made by some, that meditation is some form of religion or may be offensive to the religious.

Meditation is not a religion, even though nearly all major world religions and spiritual frameworks acknowledge meditation as a vehicle for prayer, ritual/ceremony and spiritual evolution. As meditation enables deep self-enquiry, it makes sense that it is a practice used in spiritual enquiry. And while some of the best-known meditation techniques are from the Eastern Traditions, they are not exclusively the source of this practice. Meditation is a human practice and very beautiful meditation practices are offered by all world religions and spiritual frameworks, right back to our most ancient Earth-based Shamanic roots. 

The changes in brain activity when we meditate enable feelings of deep connection, slipping out of time, acute awareness and bliss. For example, in deep states of meditation, sections of the pre-frontal cortex go into what’s called ‘temporary hypofrontality’ which is a super impressive term that I throw around occasionally to appear, well, super impressive.

It just means that they temporarily deactivate – in particular, the part of the brain that clocks the past, present and future and places self-awareness somewhere in that context. When this happens, you have the sensation that you have deeply penetrated the present moment. It brings an acute sense of awareness and self, and many equate this with a religious experience.

I would define this experience as connecting with Spirit, but it’s not the doing of some strange god that might or might not agree with other gods, or worse still, the effects of the devil…yes I do get that sometimes as well. This is an inner neurological effect of changing brainwave patterning into deeper and longer waves and it’s very, very, good for you to experience it on many levels, regularly. 

Busting Meditation Myth 4: Meditation is a selective skill that not everyone can do

It surprises lots of people to learn how mainstream meditation has been for quite some time in the western world. And it surprises me that many still hold the view that meditation is a hippy woo-woo activity practiced exclusively by new agers and the holy men of India. Thankfully, due to meditation’s renewed trendiness, this misconception is slowly fading. However, I find I do need to address it in my talks and courses.

Meditation and mindfulness practices are used extensively in the medical and psychological arena for treatment of chronic pain, depression and addiction and have been for decades. It is used in trauma and cardiac wards as a recovery process, with amazing results. It is used effectively in palliative care and the support of the elderly.

Meditation is a critical enabler in underprivileged schools and for troubled students around the world and is now accepted as a key practice in building resilience in children and teens. It is common practice in law enforcement in some progressive countries like Canada and in the sports psychology practices of the professional sports arena. A few years ago, Singapore hosted the Rugby Sevens players and I was thrilled to see the South African Rugby team meditate together before training and games. I have to admit that I find this enormously attractive! 

I also offer prenatal meditation guidance and it is a beautiful, natural way to enhance body chemistry during pregnancy and conscious connection with the baby as it forms within and during the birth process.

There is a plethora of empirical evidence, studies and research now that has followed the different applications of meditation and the effects that regular practice yields in all sorts of settings for all sorts of people living busy modern lives. 

Meditation doesn’t require a specific space or method; it just requires intent, choice and action. There are a couple of very useful things you can do to help establish a regular practice easily by working with your meditation space, starting-ritual and regularity. In any case, everyone can meditate, because we are naturally designed to do so.

Busting Meditation Myth 5: Meditation is the end game

I find it fascinating that the more we meditate, the more our system changes to enable deeper and better meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle that evidences the fact that we are designed to meditate. 

With regular meditation, we change our default perspective for viewing life. We start to observe ourselves and we start to see the cause and effect of our thoughts, feelings and actions. We start to see the thought and emotional patterns we are bound to and therefore open up a field of choice as to whether these are serving us or not. This is the realisation that mindfulness brings. It triggers us to reach for ways to feel again, to choose different lifeward responses and to connect with the flow of life.

If we continue to nourish this ability, to witness ourselves and our lives, and therefore mellow our reactive responses to events, positivity and calm ensue, which then ripples into our relationships and exchanges. We feel a connectedness with our life field and more importantly, with our self. We can also then perceive our energy bodies and a broader realm of energy that this aspect operates in. We start to perceive information and patterns beyond the physical senses. We start to read situations better. We start to feel spontaneous gratitude, loving-kindness, generosity and love. These beautiful higher feelings are harmonising, soothing, restorative and blissful, and they gently change our behaviours. 

We start to work with the flow of life. We give of ourselves more. We smile more. We want the best for others and we try to help them. We forgive more and jettison our past hurts, grievances and regrets more readily. We choose our friends differently. We choose to expose ourselves to life-supporting, positive content. This beautiful shift is where we heal and where we start to connect much more palpably with the energetic nature of the self and life.

Our meditation sits take on a new aspect as we become very aware of the energy moving through the body, thought-field, feelings and of the connection with Spirit. We become enabled and with that comes an ability to engage in dialogue with Spirit, to read the patterns, to sense the movement and to participate energetically as an active co-creator of ourselves, and our life experiences. We become creative. We cross the bridge into experiencing a Spirit-led life, into living within our divine design and power. We upload spiritual living. And this is the end game of meditating.

You can begin your transformative journey through my online meditation course, or sign up for my fortnightly meditation sessions and guided practice

If you have any questions about meditation or wish to dispel your misconceptions about meditation, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you on your path to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same. 

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What happens when we meditate regularly?

What happens when we meditate regularly?

Regular meditation allows us to shift from a ‘reactive’ to ‘responsive’ mode in life and establish mindfulness, because it shifts the physiology of the body, and in particular, the physiological stress responses that are triggered through reactive patterns. Prolonged stress or ‘high vigilance’ can establish when we are not present to ourselves, and the truth of what we are experiencing. It has hugely detrimental effects on our chemistry, cellular regeneration capabilities, cognitive function and mood. Regular meditators have markedly less stress hormone levels in their bloodstreams generally. This evidences a calmer, more measured approach to stimuli.

Regular meditation generates a pause point between our state of awareness and our interface with life. This carved inner space allows for mindful choices, which in turn, reduces reactive stress responses. This furthermore deepens our capacity to make lifeward choices. A beautiful virtuous cycle establishes when we meditate regularly.

There is a large body of credible research today, into the many benefits of regular meditation and mindfulness. Below is a summary of the more interesting findings. This fascinating area is covered more extensively in my courses and programs, along with tools and support to help you establish your pause point and a default state of presence.

Changes in the brain and nervous system of regular meditators

  1. Slowing and synchronisation of brain waves that correlate with relaxed wakefulness, creativity and intuition.
  2. Integration of the left and right hemispheres representing a synchronisation of the logical with the intuitive.
  3. Decreased limbic arousal in the brain, resulting in reduced stress and increased stability to stress.
  4. Synchronisation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system occurs during meditation and allows the natural bio-rhythm of the body to reestablish.
  5. Better memory and recall functions, mental clarity and concentration for mental and physical tasks.
  6. Increased activity in the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing, memory and learning.

Changes in the body

  1. Lower blood pressure, better heart health, oxygenated blood and lower levels of stress-related chemicals in the blood.
  2. Stemming of the ageing process and an increase in immune-cell longevity.
  3. Relief from insomnia, chronic pain, migraines and headaches.
  4. Assisted healing after injury or trauma.

Emotional benefits

  1. We know that meditation helps overcome depression and calms anxiety.
  2. It engenders greater compassion, a sense of interconnectedness, self-esteem and resilience.
  3. It strengthens interpersonal communication and emotional growth.
  4. Psychological research shows decreased anger arousal in high-anger situations.
  5. It reduces feelings of loneliness in older adults.
  6. Meditation is used successfully in overcoming addictions.

Now that you know about the benefits of meditating regularly, why don’t you get started today! For the same daily commitment of time that it takes to make a pot of coffee because you haven’t slept, or tail-spin over a thoughtless statement someone made, or work out an apology for an angry outburst, or medicate a persistent health issue, or remember the name of your child’s teacher, or calm yourself down from a panic attack…you could be establishing the pathway to a healthy, purpose-led and empowered life!

If you wish to start meditation and understand the benefits of meditating regularly do get in touch and take our introduction to meditation course – Return. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 


If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

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Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know

Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know 

‘Meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ are now accepted mainstream terms and are backed by a large body of research into the physical, mental and emotional benefits they offer. In much of the commentary, these two terms are used interchangeably. 

Confusion around the terminology and unclear context sees a lot of people swerve around the exploration of meditation and mindfulness entirely. In doing so, they are denying themselves the cultivation of powerful natural techniques to heal and live an empowered life. 

So, here’s the low-down on meditation and mindfulness for those starting-up their meditation practice.

What is meditation and what is mindfulness?

Simply put, meditation is an enabler for transformation. 

It is largely understood to be a way to find the still eye at the centre of the hurricane of modern life, moving us from a reactive to responsive engagement with life, into mindful living. This, in itself, is a worthy shift, yet the practice of meditation takes us well beyond it. 

Corporations are introducing meditation and mindfulness programs into their employee wellbeing menus. Schools are offering meditation as an extracurricular activity and home group teachers are bringing short practices into the classroom as part of their positive education initiatives. Meditation centres are popping up in neighbourhoods and yoga centres and religious centres are starting to emphasize their approaches to meditation more overtly and a myriad of wonderful, clever apps have flooded the Internet space.

On the big stage too, we are seeing celebrities, business leaders, opinion formers and politicians all coming out as avid meditators as if it’s the latest solution to emerge on the wellbeing scene. Despite many of us quietly meditating for years, and ancient spiritual frameworks offering deep, profound wisdom in the art of meditation for thousands and thousands of years, you could say that the ‘old school’ has well and truly become the ‘new cool’. 

Yet, despite the buzz and the daily posts on social media sites, there remains a lot of misconception around what meditation actually is, and why to engage. Like any popularised practice, sometimes the smarts behind the actions fall away and while many take up the practice, the deeper understanding of it is lost. Yoga would be a good case in point. Many students are surprised to learn that the original purpose of yoga asana is to prepare the body and mind for meditation and inner work. The fact that regular practice gives you long lean limbs, core strength and a tight yoga butt, is a happy side effect of aligning the energetic systems of the body.

The approach to meditation is the same. Many come to it to relieve stress or improve sleep, for example, which of course it does and relatively quickly with regular practice. But, settling the central nervous system is simply the first turn of the key to unlocking the gateway to empowered living. Once you are able to settle the nervous system and alter brainwave patterning at will, you can enter this inner space, consciously and really get to work. 

How do meditation and mindfulness improve our lives?

I find it fascinating that the more we meditate, the more our system changes to enable deeper and better meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle that evidences the fact that we are designed to meditate and live creatively through our inner aspect. With regular meditation, we change our default perspective for viewing life. We start to observe ourselves and we start to see the cause and effect of our thoughts, feelings and actions. We start to see the thought and emotional patterns we are bound to and we’re able to observe our reactions to these patterns in our bodies and sense of wellbeing. 

This observational state is mindfulness.

For new-comers to meditation, it can be quite an awakening. Very often I see people in my courses come to the shocking realisation of how stressed they have become, of how less vital and sensual they feel and how they have lost their sense of intuition, their inner knowing. The pace of our modern lives requires a mechanical approach to keep up, especially if we’re running a family, home, career, or have children or a partner to support. And when we are in this mode, we become reactive to our outside world and a slave to time. We miss the present moment and we are always shocked at how quickly life is flying past us. 

What is mindfulness meditation and how does it help?

Within the thousands of meditation approaches that exist, there are some that are called ‘Mindfulness Meditations’, where the point of focus of the meditation practice is simply to observe. However, all meditation practices lead to a mindful state. 

If we continue to nourish this ability to witness ourselves and our lives through regular meditation, we shift from reactive to responsive, and with this shift comes a marked fall in adrenaline and cortisol hormones in the bloodstream. This vastly improves cognitive function. Parts of the brain actually rebuild physically. Our cells regenerate, our body chemistry changes, we sleep better, we dream and we start to feel great. This positivity and calm improves relationships and exchanges, and we feel a connectedness with our life field, and more importantly, with ourselves.

A broader field of choice opens up for us. We have the inner space, clarity and wellness to choose the person we want to be, and how we respond to life and others. We become expansive. 

We start to read situations better. We start to feel spontaneous gratitude, kindness, generosity, and love. These beautiful higher feelings are harmonising, soothing, restorative and blissful and they gently change our behaviours. 

We give of ourselves more. We smile more. We want the best for others and we try to help them. We forgive more and jettison past hurts, regrets and resentments. We choose our friends differently. We choose to expose ourselves to life-supporting, positive content. This beautiful shift into expansiveness is where we heal and where we start to connect much more palpably with the energetic nature of the self and life. We become creative. 

What happens when we start to meditate and establish mindfulness?

At the outset, for the new meditator, the practice is essentially mind-training, to gain mastery over thought and the system’s responses to thought-patterns. It is about reclaiming ‘present awareness’.

In this context, ‘to meditate’ is to consciously draw in the dissipated mind, calm the mind/body system and dwell in a state of clear, alert awareness, at will. It combines posture, the focus on breath, and a single point of focus for the mind. Every time we catch our mind wandering and bring it back to the point of focus for the practice, we exercise the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for our ability to concentrate the mind on the present. Yes, meditation enables the ability to meditate! 

There are literally thousands of different ways to meditate and beautiful meditation practices from every culture and spiritual modality. Yet, essentially at the outset, they are all about the same thing – using various techniques and points of focus to train the mind into present awareness. 

It’s exactly like getting fit or learning a new skill. It requires dedication to familiarise yourself with the art. You can’t decide to start playing the guitar one day, and then give it up because you’re not able to unleash Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven immediately. It’s similar when we train our bodies. A little exercise every day, very quickly cultivates a new stronger level of fitness and endurance.

Meditation works exactly the same way.

Neuroscience confirms that a daily practice of at least ten minutes every day will establish the neural pathways and associations in the mind, to help master the move into present awareness. The more we dwell in present awareness, the more it establishes as our operating state. We start to live mindfully. A pause point is established between our interface with life experience and how we choose to respond. 

Mindfulness is the ability to experience day-to-day life from this viewpoint. It helps us recognize our habitual emotional and physiological reactions to day to day events. 

Just like learning a new skill or getting fit, meditation requires a dedicated choice to do it, a push to practice. And after teaching meditation to thousands of people over the years, I can absolutely confirm that within a very short time, that ‘push’ flips to a very strong ‘pull’. Your system recognises the innate benefit of the practice. Your body starts to heal from the damage of reactive stress triggers. Meditation pulls you towards it. And there are also some wonderful meditation practices that specifically circuit-break reactive stress responses as you embark on this transition to mindful living. These are explored in the current online Introduction to Meditation Course – Return, now open, with nine beautiful guided meditation tracks to support you.

If you wish to learn more about meditation and mindfulness or have any questions, do get in touch. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 


If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

Meditation and Emotions - Danielle Van de Velde

5 ways meditation can help ease emotional stress

5 ways meditation can help ease emotional stress

I find shopping at the supermarket pretty unpleasant at the best of times. All that choice, over-packaging, noise and brutal lighting just doesn’t appeal. When it comes to buying groceries, I’m a stealth shopper. Shopping list. Target aisles. In. Out. Done.

Now with COVID containment measures in place, which in Singapore involves ‘Safe Entry’ protocols of temperature scanning, QR code scanning to register entry and exit in malls and supermarkets and social distancing in aisles and check-out queues, my days of being a stealth shopper have come to an excruciatingly slow and masked halt. It is absolutely impossible to execute a quick shop and you do not want to be in a rush or running late for another appointment. 

When the world was just starting to wake up to the prospect of a pandemic a few months ago, supermarkets around the world became the scenes of some pretty ugly displays of toilet paper wars, trolley raiding, and expressions of fear and aggression. 

Stress is an interesting thing. While it is a necessary response of the system to deal with heightened events, threats, and complications, our system is not designed to cope with high-stress for prolonged periods of time. We’re all familiar with the more obvious signs when our system is in a prolonged state of ‘high vigilance’. Our immune function falters. Our sleep is disturbed. Our digestive system can get knocked out of proper function. Some of us see it in skin irritations, break-outs or dandruff. Libido can take a dive along with mental clarity. Our bodies reliably signal the state and call for attention.

Prolonged stress also signals through our emotional state and this can be far more subtle and so subjective that we may not be aware of it, until, for example, we have a tense encounter during a pandemic, in a supermarket!

This is exactly what happened with me a couple of months ago, with possibly the most exquisitely dressed, emotionally stressed woman I have ever encountered. 

I had been out riding my bike to get a break from the screen and a full day of writing. On the way home, I decided to pop into the supermarket for some fruit and snacks for my constantly ravenous teenagers. Thankfully, I found what I wanted and proceeded to stand on the line of red tape on the floor to mark the safe distance from the person in front of me, in the check-out queue.

Only two check-outs were open and there were clear straight lines of places to stand. When the person in front of me stepped forward to approach the counter, from the aisle next to me, a woman emerged, infuriated with me. Her jaw was tight. A vein bulged in her neck. Her voice was very strained and through gritted teeth, she snarled at me, “It is NOT your turn…!”

The amount of anger emanating from her was palpable. I could almost feel the electricity cracking and whipping in the air between us….and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

“Excuse me, I don’t understand,” I said, stepping back because, by the look on her face, I thought she might throw a jar of something at me. 

“I was waiting here first. I was waiting here. I saw you walk past and into this queue. How dare you….”

Again I was very confused. I looked at the red tape marks on the ground and the straight line to the check-out from where I stood. Then I stepped around the aisle and looked at where she must have been standing. It was clear she had been queuing in a line to a closed check-out. 

Her breath was very shallow. She had beads of perspiration on her forehead and she was seething. I dropped my voice and slowed my speech. I could see she wasn’t in a good place, and told her that it looked like she was queuing towards a closed check-out. She turned and looked at where she’d been standing, blushed slightly, and then turned to me and very deliberately looked me up and down from my head to toes and back. She seemed to feel highly insulted by this observation and clearly felt that I had deliberately taken her spot. She felt personally attacked by my actions. 

I wasn’t in a rush and told her that she was very welcome to go next in line to the open check-out. Again she felt she needed to defend her position and be right. She again very angrily made the point that it was rightfully her turn, but with a flourish of her hand and slightly high-pitched voice she declined the offer and rolled her eyes. I insisted. She threw back her head, dismissed me and walked briskly to the check-out. 

Meditation and Emotions - Danielle Van de Velde

And in a beautiful twist, the check-out that this lady was queuing for then opened and a sweet teenage girl who had been standing behind the lady and had observed the whole exchange, popped her head out from the aisle and said with a smile, ‘You go. We can alternate!’ Both the teenager and I were out of the shop before the stressed lady…which I’m guessing would not have helped how she felt either.

It’s a small example of prolonged emotional stress that we are seeing play out on the world-stage currently. This interaction held all of the telltale signs of heightened emotional stress:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling anxious 
  • Inability to hold a different view
  • Highly reactive response patterns 
  • Inappropriate anger and projected blame and criticism 
  • Defensive mindset/victim mentality 
  • Feelings of isolation or tendency to draw away through condescension or passive-aggressive responses
  • Inability to lift one’s mood
  • Physical tension and heat

Here are five key ways an established meditation practice helps with emotional stress:

1. The pause-point

The very nature of meditation is a practice of ‘paying attention’. With regular practice, we train the mind back from the reactive interface with life, into present awareness. This creates a pause-point between what we experience and how we choose to respond. 

2. Regulated anger-arousal

Regular meditators are shown to have less stress hormones in their bloodstreams. One of the main reasons for this is the effect meditation has on the brain. Of the five main physical brain re-structuring that regular meditation causes, a notable one is the shrinking of the Amygdala, which is responsible for anger arousal. The plasticity of the brain is fascinating as it constantly reforms to support our operating mode. With pause-points established and the ability to see situations for what they actually are rather than through an emotionally-stressed filter, that ‘shoot from the hip and think later’ function of the brain becomes regulated, and the part of the brain that facilitates it actually physically shrinks. The resultant release of stress hormones into the bloodstream becomes regulated.

3. Holding different perspectives

Another fascinating brain change with regular meditation is the rebuilding of the Left Hippocampus. This is a part of our brain that literally gets eroded by high levels of stress hormones. It is responsible for memory and recall, and I’m sure all of us have experienced an inability to remember the shopping list or recall a name when we are under the pump. Another function of the Left Hippocampus is our ability to shift perspectives and change our mind. During high emotional stress, this ability is essential, whether you are feeling attached to your own viewpoint, or need to summon empathy for someone else’s. 

4. Utilising the breath

The conscious use of breath is key in all meditation. Mindful breathing connects us with the effects of the breath on the system, especially in the immediate calming of high emotional reactivity. Once this awareness of the breath is established, our breathing becomes both a useful marker when we are over-wrought, by flagging as short, shallow and more rapid, and also a useful tool to calm the system and pause, listen and choose a response.

5. Cultivating empathy

Another wonderful effect of regular meditation is a rise in the sense of connectivity with others and life. This is facilitated by another amazing brain-change through regular practice. The frontal-parietal junctures of the brain are where conscious empathy is enabled, which is coupled with a felt emotion in the heart. This part of the brain also strengthens and physically ‘beefs up’ with regular meditation. There are also some beautiful meditations that utilise visualisation and mantra to deliberately cultivate the vibration of compassion in the system. By engaging in meditation in regular sits, these beautiful aspects are cultivated within us and inform how we respond in situations – such as mine described above. 

With the softer, more expanded states that regular meditation brings, we tend to slip more into the felt flow of life too. There’s a right timing and field of opportunities that always surround us. However, it’s something we can miss when we’re bound in the tightness and separation of emotional stress. Just like the extra check-out opening and a sweet teenager appearing, in perfect timing!

If you wish to start mindful breathing and meditation for emotional stress, do get in touch and take our online introduction to meditation course, Return. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

The Meditation Pill

The Meditation Pill
Is the ‘magic pill mentality’ hijacking your inner game? 

Modern living has an incredible effect on our mentality. Constant real-time information relayed 24/7 through a multitude of channels has us skimming the surface of social and world events. The current click-bait headlines and ‘high-alert’ reporting is jizzling the senses…constantly. Social media platforms and gaming that offer instant acknowledgement and gratification have the neuro-scientists confirming their addictive qualities. And the gadgets through which this constant stream is entering our systems mess with our pineal gland and natural sleep/waking patterns.

Loaded onto this usual state of affairs is the extreme world anxiety that all of us are exposed to currently, whether through the media, the mind-blowing statistics of COVID 19, or through the necessary isolation measures we are now adhering to, to flatten the curve. And the increased screen time as we are operating our jobs, businesses, online learning and households, and resultant shifts in security, are certainly taking their toll.

Western medicine’s approach to immediate alleviation of symptomatic discomfort has us popping pills to keep going, rather than listening to our body’s cues for nourishment, rest and restoration. We are trained into seeking instant and easy results to discomfort, so as not to slow things down.

We can be so caught up in the race itself, that we lose the thrill of the experience; the magic of the journey; the enjoyment of our ability and strengths.

Currently there is an intense amount of ‘isolation productivity pressure’; to emerge from COVID, 19 fluent in Spanish, cooking cordon-bleu meals and having mastered a yogic headstand.

The constant pressures to survive and succeed currently have us engaged in a linear, goal-oriented mind-set that creates a dissipation to the present moment and the journey and that require quick fixes to keep up.

We have a magic-pill-mentality.

Ironically, this fast-paced, sensory-overloaded, materialistic focus, and its resultant impact on our health and wellbeing is what is bringing so many people to meditation and inner practice. However, the magic-pill-mentality is possibly the main reason why so many people’s attempts are hijacked.

I see the magic-pill-mentality is various guises in my meditation classes and private sessions and it’s the first thing that has to be addressed if the student is to adopt the natural organic art of meditation into their lives. I am often asked if it’s possible to ‘fast-track’ the mastery of meditation. I even had one very focussed senior executive who engaged me for private coaching, offer me a bonus

if I could achieve this for him. Coming from a corporate background myself, I totally recognised the mindset, but it did make me giggle.  

I was once engaged for a private session with a mother and daughter to teach some basic meditation practices to help with the girl’s anxiety issues. Weeks later the mum commented to me that the session ‘didn’t work’. They hadn’t meditated once since I saw them.

On occasion I see keen seekers wanting to enter the world of meditation teaching and healing. Some frequent many courses and workshops and allow little time for integration or personal practice. They’re seeking the vernacular and concepts and the ‘appearance’ of mastery. This mimicry, rather than instructing from a place of genuine knowledge, is why many don’t see their classes take-off.

Motivation and mindset in meditation are just as important as practising the meditation techniques.

There’s a huge difference between determination to commit to the art and the practice, and ambition to achieve results. Determination is essential to mastering the art and to experiencing the amazing life-affirming changes it creates. Ambition is attached to perceived outcomes and usually flags either a misunderstanding of what meditation actually is, or an ulterior motivation to engaging with the practice in the first place.

There are now plenty of studies that prove the dazzling results that regular practice yields, initially on our physiology and then our experience of self and life.

Brain structure and brain wave patterning alter, body-chemistry, cardio-rhythm, blood pressure and the central nervous system regain balance. However, like any re-training in any system, it requires a daily approach. It’s a bit like training for fitness. One massive effort at the gym may feel good, but it doesn’t create lasting changes to form and fitness. Only daily exercise does.

It’s the same with meditation. At first it requires effort, a push towards establishing the practice and mastering technique, and thankfully that process is a quick one, as the system starts to recognise the movement inwards and neural pathways form to create ‘the habit’ of meditation.

A dedicated minimum of ten minutes a day will yield these shifts in a relatively short amount of time. 

What I find exquisite, is that the physiological changes that regular meditation allows, all enable deeper and more profound experiences of meditation. We are designed to do it, and here-in lies the perspective that works with meditation.

Meditation is engaging in a natural process within our organic physical and energetic system. It brings connection with and balance to our patterns and cycles because it creates inner space and stillness and when we dwell in this state, regularly, our systems

naturally reach for harmony. Meditation connects us to our vibratory energetic self and it is here that we sense broader fields of energy and information.

Forcing our way through meditation sits on the hunt for the illusive inner peace, is a bit like playing a basketball game with all our attention on the scoreboard, it yields nothing as we miss the game.

However, when we turn our attention to the love of the game, the movement and energy, the scoreboard looks after itself.

But the deeper game of meditation is the understanding that arises of ourselves and also the ability to choose new directions and perspectives of self and life. Regular practice creates a mindful default state, a shift from reactive to responsive engagement with life. When that pause-point between the external trigger or situation and the internal reaction establishes, we respond with discernment and most importantly choice.  We have the inner space to start to recognise patterned behaviours and the underlying beliefs or perspectives that are holding these patterns in place.

Once we can see the repeated experiences and reactions and we have the inner space to respond, we can lay down our weapons of reactive attack and blame and ask ourselves authentically, what is it that I am holding that’s making me react this way?

Do I continue to hold this, or do I choose a different perspective? It always comes down to a choice. This is the ultimate blessing of our free-will.

Meditation and inner practices like energetic healing are ways to navigate our inner-terrain and to come to know and love that landscape. They enable us to work with our innate spiritual design. They are not the end game and they are not magic pills. They are keys to acknowledging that we are far more that what our modern world dictates and when we come into this realisation, we enter into the beauty and mystery of Self and Spirit, and it is then that we heal.

One of my favourite writers about this very thing is Bob Sharpels. From his book Meditation: Calming the Mind, he writes it in a nutshell:

“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love”.

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Introduction to Meditation