Meditation— Should We Bother?
How did your day go yesterday or today – joyful or stressful?
Whether at home or at work, we sometimes encounter moments of being overly busy with too much to do, too many interruptions, and/or not having enough time to accomplish everything we want to. Obviously we’re talking stress and frustration and wouldn’t we all like to avoid those moments, especially when we wake up the next morning and have to do another one of those days. Common sense says if we could just stop at stressful moments to try and relax to collect our thoughts it would help, but we certainly can’t always rely on being able to stop when unplanned bumps in the road appear.
What many people today are doing is planning their own way to a smoother, more productive, and joyful day. They’re doing this by including a specific time and place to stop and clear their thoughts in a calm and deliberate manner. This is meditation in one of its simplest forms, though there are many different methods of meditating with many desired objectives possible.
Simple meditation (to relieve stress and achieve a clear mind) works best when a person has the faith and commitment to practice regularly. It’s best to set aside 15-30 minutes daily and if possible at about the same time of day (morning sessions work best for most people). It may seem hard to fit this time in your schedule when you’re so busy already but the meditation actually gives you more time. By making your mind calm and more focused, tasks become easier to prioritize, simpler to accomplish, and usually in much less time.
Once you’re ready to dedicate the time, start with a timer so as to relieve any anxiety about falling asleep. Then choose a quiet, comfortable place to sit (those complex yoga positions aren’t required) and begin by simply closing your eyes. Some people choose to start with a prayer. Once your eyes are closed, the easiest way to relax is to consciously relax each part of your body – start with your fingers or toes and work your way up your arms, legs, and body making sure each part is relaxed and comfortable. If you get distracted during the relaxation process by an interrupting thought (perhaps a task or event yet to complete) visualize that thought written on a note pad or blackboard behind you (The thoughts will be there when you’re done meditating and can be taken care of then or later).
Once you relax your entire body, turn your thoughts to clearing your mind by concentrating on a single event. Some people use a meditative tape or cd of repetitive sounds but many more find concentrating on their own breathing works best. By consciously breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly and deliberately thinking through each breath, you are narrowing the limits of your thinking to a single controllable event. When the timer goes off and your mind returns to the present moment, you have achieved some specific goals of the meditation process. This simple exercise of taking the time to direct your thoughts has a very calming effect. By demonstrating that you can take charge of your mind and you can overcome outside stress (it’s all outside until you let it into your mind), it consequently brings you inner peace and balance. You have freed your mind from the stress and anxiety of your daily environment to a state of calm and equilibrium. Thus, it feels like re-entering a busy highway after a brief rest area stop.
Even if at first you didn’t completely calm your mind or relax every single part of your body, by briefly turning your mind away from the outside world, you allowed yourself some degree of peace and harmony (like briefly recharging your batteries). With practice, meditating gets easier and more rewarding as you transform your mind and thoughts from negative to positive and from frantic to peaceful. You’ll even find it can be done whether you’re at home or at another one of those rest areas.
About the writer: Howard Golden MM., Cht.
Howard Golden MM., Cht. Owner and Editor of the Guide