A friend recently made the comment that meditation take a long time to learn and incorporate into daily living. Well, one gratuitous statement deserves another. No it doesn’t. Take a deep breath. Gently and silently exhale. Now keep your attention on your breathing. Let your mind escort the next inhale and exhale. And the next.
Congratulations. You are officially a meditation practitioner. Let me know where to send your certification. Just like many school where we can earn a certificate or degree, there are many meditation techniques. But the essence of meditation, the essentials, are 1) to quiet the mind and, 2) allow the effects of a reprieve from the nearly constant inner chatter and external stress to take over. That would be the healing effect of meditation. One of the reported origins of the word meditate is: to focus the mind and to heal.
What meditation heals are the damaging effects of the stresses of life. We seek peace of mind, but it comes and goes and often eludes us for extended periods of time. Old issues that cause us regret and guilt aka quiet desperation, and the fear of a host of possible painful outcomes in the future keep us chasing the vagabond mind and stressed out to varying degrees much of the time. Meditation is a means of restoring peace of mind for extended periods of time and benefiting from the healing the effects of stress inducing mental bombardment.
Oh, and the part about incorporating into daily living? We can meditate virtually anytime, anywhere – getting dressed, taking a shower, making the bed, tying our shoes. We do not have to assume a full lotus position, palms up, thumb and forefinger looped to meditate (although there may be some subtle and/or powerful reasons for doing so, as the yogis have done for centuries). For now, we’ll leave that to a matter of stylin’ and how we roll.
Connecting even a brief period of meditation to daily activity and we benefit. It may take a while to establish the habit, as did learning to make a bed, ride a bike, learn to swim or tie our shoes, but once established it becomes effortless. And, of course, we can set aside a period of time for “formal” meditation, where we sit or lay down and meditate. Soothing music and nature sounds are great companions to meditation. There’s even new recording technologies that help slow brain waves and encourage deep relaxation.
If we want to learn to meditate for relaxation and stress management, any and all forms can help. We can re-read the first paragraph, follow the steps, and we begin to benefit faster than you can say, “Fries with that?” Welcome to the MacDonald’s of meditation practice. BUT, and big BUT…
If we want to go deeper into meditation as part of an inquiry into how we can get off the emotional roller coaster, truly find peace of mind and enjoy the lightness of spirit we knew as children – some call it a spiritual quest, then simply learning techniques; while they will help us manage stress and be less reactionary over time, typically will not bring us to any life-changing insights.
For those on a quest, a pre-meditation orientation from a qualified meditation teacher can help prepare the way for an MBA – a Meditation Breakthrough Awakening. KaBoom! A sudden and startling rush of new wisdom that first blows our mind and then settles into an abiding peace of mind. However, this pre-med course is not available at MacDonald’s.
To be continued.