Meditation has become a hot topic in the wellness discussion. Meditation Centers are popping up everywhere and the internet holds countless sources of assistance for meditation. To many people I know, however, their response to a suggestion of meditation is, “You’ve got to be kidding”. For many of us, when we think of meditation, we picture a lone monk, who hasn’t bathed in twenty years, clad in a prickly hair-shirt sitting in a cave communing with God. Or perhaps we see Saint Teresa of Avila in the serenity of a beautiful fifteenth century abbey transported to ecstasy with visions of angels.
These images are so far removed from our life as to seem mythical. You aren’t sitting in a cave but driving madly through traffic trying to get to work on time after being up all night with a sick child who had diarrhea. As you drive you’re trying to organize your day – Is it Maggie or Molly who goes to swimming today? What time is Austin’s game? How are you going to get from the arena to the swimming pool on time? After a day of golf your husband will surely be amorous tonight! “Oh God” is the closest you come to prayer.
I do not intend to mock religious tradition, but these notions of meditation belong to a different time and place. The lone monk’s most taxing activity of the day was foraging for roots and seeds to eat. He did not have to worry about schedules or lessons or a child’s diarrhea. St Teresa too remained a virgin (perhaps she was on to something) with all the time she needed to contemplate the mysteries of God.
Taking a moment to notice a garden variety slug slowly making its way up the stem of a striped coral root orchid is the essence of meditation.
Many today are realizing the importance of taking time to be still and relax both the body and the mind. This is not a fad or some new-age advice to stick on a poster but an absolutely essential practice if we are to survive the chaos of modern life. Meditation is the practice of living in the now. It is the means through which you come to know your authentic self.
Meditation has been found to have a powerful influence on day-to-day life. It has been described as “fitness for the mind”. Just as the body requires training and exercise to reach its optimum potential, so too exercise and training are needed to create a fully functioning brain. Research has shown that during meditation blood flow is increased. This leads to increased energy levels and improves productivity. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to go into detail about the various strands of research that are looking at the relationship between meditation and wellness, but many references can be found on line.
Meditation like other practices described in earlier posts in this series, requires nothing more sophisticated than being quiet and focusing your thoughts on the present moment. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. No special equipment in needed, although sometimes people new to the practice are encouraged to purchase a special chair or mat along with other small items that might help create a harmonious, calm environment.
I am fortunate to have a lovely solarium, enclosed in windows that face my garden. When I sit quietly in this room, I often focus on one leaf catching the sunlight or a small flower that I know no one else will ever see. This connects me to the inner sense of wonder we all experience as children but seem to lose as we age. These remarkable miracles of nature are all around us but are buried beneath the trivia and worries of everyday life. The adage “stop and smell the roses” is so over-used it has become a cliché. Yet it is in the small moments when we notice, perhaps for the first time, the exquisite design of an autumn leaf kissed by the sun that our inner being is touched. This is meditation
Some basic steps to help you get started:
• Give yourself the gift of 5 minutes of time-out just for you.
• Go to a quiet place with no distractions. Hopefully you’ve created this space as described in an earlier post Stop and Breath.
• Sit comfortably, back straight, feet touching the floor.
• Dismiss the clutter in your mind and begin slow, rhythmic breathing (in through the nose – out through the mouth).
• Focus on your breath and notice how your body moves as you breathe.
As you relax into your breathing, try to keep your mind focused on the rhythmic contractions of your body. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back. As you let go of the busyness in your mind, think about something positive, something for which you are grateful. Let positive feelings relax you. Your subconscious mind will inspire you and take you where you need to go.
• Be consistent in doing your meditation. It’s better to do a few minutes every day than to do longer periods of time on a hit and miss schedule. Remember you are training your attention “muscle”. Like all muscles it takes time and consistency to get results.
In the next post, I’ll examine guided meditation as the next step toward healing through meditation
Something to Think About
“Experiencing the present moment in meditation trains your brain to stay awake to it throughout the rest of the day…. We’re so busy trying to get to the next moment that we’re missing out on this one”.
Unplug. (2017) Suze Yalof Schwartz
Meditation has become a hot topic in the wellness discussion. Meditation Centers are popping up everywhere and the internet holds countless sources of assistance for meditation. To many people I know, however, their response to a suggestion of meditation is, “You’ve got to be kidding”. For many of us, when we think of meditation, we…