Even after listing all the benefits, the few who still cringe at the thought of meditation don’t realize the gift it is. They’re too caught up in thinking they can’t do it. Believing the myths and getting discouraged.
“Is it sitting around thinking about nothing? My mind never shuts up! Besides, I have too much to do to set aside 15 minutes to do nothing. That’s time wasted.”
But it isn’t time wasted. It’s so powerfully recharging and rejuvenating that once you experience the gift of meditation, you’ll happily make the time to do it because it will prove to be the best way to start the day.
Reconnecting with yourself in meditation, checking in and getting centered is how we stay cool, calm and collected. This work leads to clarity, insight and peace.
It leads to connected relationships. The time spent in meditation will equal how joyful and present you become with those you encounter at home, work and everywhere.
Once you decide that meditation is worth it, it will be. And you’ll see the gift of meditation manifest in your life immediately.
If you’re still wrestling with the idea, unconvinced of its benefits, let me offer you a crash course in meditation.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a discipline. It is disciplining your mind to relax and slow down as often as you’re present to its wanderings.
When you let your mind rest from constant thinking and processing, you’re reminded that it is safe to do so. You’re reminded that you don’t have to let thoughts control you or dictate your every move.
You’re creating the space necessary to observe behavior, time, events and circumstances without passing judgment.
Like with exercise; when you’re toned and fit, you feel more energetic and adventurous throughout the day. Same with meditation; when you train your mind to quiet, you feel more relaxed and present throughout the day.
Meditation is the only true vacation you’ll ever take.
The Mind Is a Tool
Yogi, Kavita Maharaj, says,
The mind is a tool. With overactive minds, we can’t turn this tool off. And a tool that you can’t turn on and off is not a tool that works for you, it is a tool that you work for.
When we’re not vigilant over the mind, it keeps us in bondage with our neurosis, cravings and insecurities, because its purpose is to alive.
Quieting the mind strengthens your feelings—your sensory perception—to sense more purely what’s going on around you. Otherwise, we’re lost in the think of things.
Through regular meditation, you can rise above all the physicality of your being and hover, observing life without condition or circumstance. Without judgment or attachment.
What Meditation Isn’t
Meditation isn’t a race to get to a point where the mind never wanders. Maybe on our death bed right before we close our eyes for good, our minds go completely blank. But our life’s mission is not that.
Our goal is simply to see thought for what it is. Don’t make it more by letting it define who you are.
When you see the distinction between thought and who you are, you can remind yourself of this truth whenever you get anxious, overwhelmed and fearful. Nothing is that serious when you keep a clear perspective.
Daily meditation will increase the distance between chaos and your reaction to chaos, and it will decrease the distance between problem and solution. (There really are no problems, but that’s a post for another day.)
Meditation will give you room to breathe, appreciate and enjoy all of life. Consider those days when you are peaceful because your mind isn’t going 100 mph, how much more sane you feel. With that calm and clarity, you can achieve greater focus and accomplish more.
There are various types of meditation, several approaches to achieve the same thing, basically:
•metta meditation (meaning loving kindness)
•holosync or paraliminal meditation
Meditation syncs several areas in the brain, like those responsible for focused attention, images and emotions, and spatial orientation. (Read more on the mental health benefits here.)
Meditation appears in various disciplines (spiritual or not) like, such as transcendental meditation, Hinduism (through yoga), Taoism (through tai chi), Christianity (through centering prayer), Islam (through muraqaba), Buddhism (through mindfulness and metta meditation), science (through mindfulness-based stress reduction), NLP (through hypnosis).
The idea of meditation is offered everywhere there is a search for growth and development.
How To Meditate
Meditation is best done seated. You want to be comfortable. You can sit on an erect chair or on a mediation pillow on the ground. Sitting upright keeps you alert, facilitates optimal breathing, supports your back and softens your belly, which you want. I know it’s tempting, but avoid the La-Z-boy recliner or arm chair; you’ll end up slouching or leaning to one side. This posture strengthens your resolve and commitment to do this now.
The length of time you practice isn’t as important as consistency. You’ll reap more benefits meditating 5 minutes a day rather than going weeks without it because you can’t carve out 1 full hour. I usually meditate for 30 minutes every morning and, if the stress of the day calls for it, another 20 before bed.
Try to meditate the same time every day. Morning, noon, night, whatever is best for you, stick to that timeframe each day.
Try not to eat 30 minutes before meditation or 10 minutes after. You don’t want to fall into food coma. You want to be relaxed yet conscious. When complete, you want your mind to harvest the effects for a few minutes as you welcome the day.
Find Your Focus
Use the breath as your focus. The breath is an easy, rhythmic mental distraction. Sometimes we need to focus on something that will calm us. The breath does this.
You can also focus on the area just beneath the nostrils, the mouth or the throat, and as you’re breathing, feel the air enter and exit. Or focus on the rising and falling of your belly with each inhalation and exhalation.
If you prefer something more visual, you could picture all 7 chakras, up and down, and flood each point with white light.
You could repeat a phrase like ‘om’ or ‘relax’ to yourself. Repeating the word ‘om’ (which has no English translation but is a chant meant to foster focused awareness) is a great way to calm. Not only is ‘om’ vibrationally soothing, but the sound represents the energy of the universe and ‘om’ circulates that energy throughout the body.
Make it easy, especially if you’re starting out. Don’t overthink the process.
The less you have to remember, the easier it is to commit to your practice.
Speaking of remembering, if you think you have to remember what pops into your head during meditation, or like you need to analyze the thoughts and figure out a problem in your head (therefore breaking concentration), that’s just thought toying with you, distracting you, and succeeding. Don’t give in.
One of the perks of meditation is that if something is important enough to remember, it will come up again while you’re going about your day.
Even cooler than that, solutions to problems will surprise you out of nowhere hours after a meditation. This is because all things are made clear when we quiet the mind, slow down the intake of information and allow time for sorting and processing. The clearer you are, the faster the answers come.
Clarity brings all answers right under your nose.
The Gift it Gives
We really can benefit from techniques like meditation to get clear and be present; to reap the full benefit of being alive in this body. To enjoy peace, compassion and security.
Meditation is like working a muscle; it’s not always going to feel great at the time, but the results will astound you. Stick to your schedule. When it’s a part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth, you won’t consider skipping it. When you stick to it, you’ll find life moves more smoothly and that time you feel you ‘lost’ will come back 10-fold. Your day will have more than enough hours to accomplish what you set out to.
Sitting meditation may not be where you start. Maybe, first, it’s moving, dancing, listening to instrumental music.
Consider it meditation when you allow yourself to step away from the cares of the world. When you use an activity as a means to go within and connect to Source.
If you need more proof about the power of meditation, search for it. Read articles, books, study the effects of it on your brain. Then feel it. Observe how it feels after you’ve dedicated time to deliberately taking in oxygen and releasing the weight of stress. Your heart, your nerves and your sanity will all thank you.
If you trust that this practice does something for you, you’ll allow it to do something for you. You won’t resist the good. You’ll gladly make the time giving yourself this treat.
Updated from original post in Jan 2016.