Meditation: The Single Most Important Skill You Can Learn

From brain health to anxiety relief, here's why you should work even a five-minute meditation into your day.

Sweta Vikram

We live in an incredibly busy world. Frantically paced. Pausing is looked down upon. When did you last take any time to do nothing before COVID-19 forced you to do so? When the pandemic brought hiatus with it, the majority of us didn’t know how to handle it. That’s because we have started to believe that the constant noise and on-the-go mindset is healthy.

A little calm goes a long way.

In the pandemic world, I have been doing a lot of speaking engagements and interviews around mindset, Ayurveda, and productivity. The one compliment that I unanimously receive from everyone: “You have a calming presence, Sweta.”

Honestly, until meditation became a part of my daily practice, I was anything but calm. Like many others, I wasn’t 100% present in the world that we live in. Harvard University did a study that tells us that our mind is lost in thoughts 47% of the time. My mind would be torn between the past and future. I wouldn’t get anxious, but I would get easily triggered and annoyed by injustice, self-centeredness, and stupidity.

Meditation has transformed me in a way I didn’t know was possible. I have learned that the present moment isn’t ordinary. It hasn’t stopped me from caring for or speaking up for the values I believe in. But it’s made me less reactive and more responsive. What that means is that I can channelize my energy into productive outcomes.

Meditation has transformed me in a way I didn’t know was possible.

Meditation can literally change your brain. I won’t get into the clinical part of what meditation does for us — we can let the doctors and therapists do that! — but I will share that meditation allows you to step back and see things clearly. “Whenever I find myself struggling to sleep or have thoughts that bother me, I use my breathing technique to help me,” says my nine-year-old niece Pahel Vedansh. Meditation has helped Pahel with her nightmares.

Meditation can make us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient. A client of mine, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “I was clinically diagnosed with depression. Sudden mood changes, suicidal thoughts, anxiety episodes, nightmares, weight loss, and increased blood pressure were a few of the things that hit me following my diagnosis. At this point in life, I turned to meditation for help.”

If you are still wondering why you should meditate, I asked three other women from different professional and personal backgrounds about why they meditate and how they got into it. Here is what they had to say:

“Turning inward, my TM (Transcendental Meditation) practice, which I started in January, has helped to ease my growing anxiety and has started to create space in my brain and in my heart.” — Felicia Stingone, Co-Founder of Chief Marketing Partners

“I started meditation to find a moment of silence from the chaotic nature of my everyday life. I depended on it as my escape for a few moments each day. Eventually it grew into a ritual and then a habit. The period of practicing meditation formally coincides with the birth of my twins (sort of losing control over daily ‘freedom’) and launching my consulting practice. I continued to rely on meditation through challenging times in my life to gain a sense of release, self-acceptance and feeling a sense of empowerment. Meditation has also been a helpful practice for me to decompress at the end of the day — especially when I serve as a ‘container’ to hold space or act as support or lend a listening ear to complex human experiences. I try to engage with meditation at the beginning and end of the day for myself. Over the years, I’ve used it as a calming tool for my children or as a practice that can bring my community together at the beginning of projects/ events.” — Aditi Davray, Chief Program Officer of Exhale to Inhale

“I was introduced to meditation by my mother when I was about 12 years old. She would ask me to sit with eyes closed and be quiet for a few minutes. I did it because she asked me to. Then as I was growing up, I was reintroduced to it when I started yoga. I started to enjoy that quiet time because it helped me to kind of press the ‘pause’ button in life. As my practice deepened, I began to find answers to my questions in my meditation. Meditation has helped me in being intuitive in my healing /coaching sessions.” — Kalpana Vasu, Eating Psychology Coach & Reiki Master

I urge you to start with five minutes of meditation. It’s the easiest way to do mental flossing and de-clutter your brain.