We are hearing more and more about meditation and its benefits. It can make you more alert, reduce your stress, enhance your creativity, make you taller and pump up your biceps… (Okay, scratch the last two…) But it sounds like the magical pill that will cure whatever ails you and everyone is trying to get in on it… After all, it’s only about sitting on a cushion, closing your eyes and breathing deeply, right?
Well, yes and no.
Meditation could be as simple as that but it actually takes a lot of work to get there. You are selling yourself short if you don’t consider all the possibilities of meditating. Don’t forget that it is an ancient tradition and certainly an important part of any yoga practice. Its powers can literally transform you if you let it.
But what makes meditation hard?
Well, try this little exercise with me: Sit still for a moment, hands in your lap, back straight and shoulders relaxed. Now turn your attention to your breath and let it come in and out without any effort. Then clear your mind… Try not to think of anything. Just sit quietly blank for a few moments. Continue to keep your mind clear and keep pressing away any thoughts that may come in. Are you still breathing? Okay, now keep it going for a solid ten minutes…
Not so easy, is it? Little thoughts keep trying to jump in and drag you away from your center. Maybe your back will start to twitch or slouch or maybe you get completely carried away and start to fall asleep! Like everything else it requires discipline and practice and a helluva lot of patience.
But, Sam, how can I get in on this, you ask?
To start, I highly recommend you participate in a guided meditation class to get an idea of how it goes. Let someone ease you into it. Let them guide your breathing and your posture. You can easily find a free class to join if you google “free meditation class” in your neighborhood. Try it a few times. Try several different studios until you can find one where you feel comfortable. Then practice at home.
There are many different styles of meditation. And just like yoga, meditation is a personal journey. Some need a space to meditate while others can practice anywhere. Some include moving (e.g. walking) while others involve visualization. There are many ways to meditate. Get in touch with what feels good for you and what allows you to let go and surrender to the present. I can’t tell you how it’s supposed to feel. It will be different for you.
You could also read about meditation, its history and its tradition. I recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. You can obtain a deeper understanding of the practice including its variations. Learn about different techniques and immerse yourself in it. It will give your process a whole new dimension.
Meditation is not a quick-fix for not taking care of yourself. If the source of your stress is doing too much or not getting enough rest, an additional activity is not going to help. Trust me. It does not take the place of much needed sleep or exercise.
Do you have a form of meditation that you use and recommend? Please let us know and share with our readers!