What do Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, and LeBron James have in common? Along with a host of other celebrities, these people are at the top of their game. And what helps them navigate the treacherous realm of stardom in their respective fields is one unifying factor: they all meditate.
What is it about meditation that provides the needed "head space" to get it all done and still maintain sanity? Meditation is not a religion or even a philosophy. It's a technique for calming the mind, reducing stress and anxiety, getting enough energy to banish fatigue, and balancing the mind and body.
Although the staff at Google Inc. might just now be learning the benefits of "mindfulness" in the "Search Inside Yourself" course provided free at work, meditation has been around for thousands of years. It's a tried and true way of slowing down, developing awareness and self-knowledge, and training your attention inward.
In other words, there are no downsides to meditation. The hardest part is simply organizing your day so you can sit undisturbed for twenty minutes. If Jerry Seinfeld could find the time to meditate every day while he not only starred in the show "Seinfeld" but was its executive producer, head writer, and in charge of casting and editing, chances are, so can we!
Anyone can learn to meditate. There are different meditation techniques; I recommend a mantra based meditation that gives a "leg-up" in dealing with fast-paced mental activity. With a mantra, no need to banish thoughts; they just seem to float effortlessly somewhere out of sight. For more info on types of meditation and tips for a successful practice, check out deborahking.com.
Eastern religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, have very strong connections to meditation because it is recognized as the best way to expand consciousness. But you certainly don't need to be religious to use meditation techniques to empower yourself or to help you heal physically and emotionally. These days, meditation is mainstream, not in any way limited to a particular religion, culture, location, or desired effect. One noted benefit is the cognitive and psychological benefits that last all day after 20 minutes of meditation. Harvard University, in a study using MRIs to see the changes inside the brain has recently found that meditation actually rebuilds the brain's gray matter.
You may want to learn how to meditate in order to relax -- but also to bring down your blood pressure, alleviate anxiety and stress, and enhance your immune functioning. It's not necessary to sit down to meditate with the goal of ultimate enlightenment. But if you are spiritually inclined, meditation will also open you up to a greater connection to Source, to clearer inner guidance, and a deep sense of peace. Along with developing a solid grounding in mindfulness, which is the ability to live in the here and now, with meditation you can learn to cultivate compassion -- for yourself and others!
In meditation, you turn inward, not outside yourself. It is the clearest mirror for seeing yourself, and it provides the means for changing what you don't like about yourself. A consistent practice of meditation can shift you away from blame and shame, and lead you in the direction of self-worth and self-development. It allows you to forgive yourself and others, and is a root practice for emotional healing.
With so much to offer, it's unfortunate that people often think of meditation as a way of avoiding life, rather than engaging with it. You are not trying to turn your mind into a blank slate -- you are simply clearing away distractions, learning to focus your energy, getting clearer on what you want from life, and creating a peaceful space that actually helps you be more efficient and effective.
Join with those like actor Hugh Jackman, who said to Oprah, "Meditation is like a party: You've got to show up to find out that it's amazing. The more you practice, the deeper the experience gets. In the moments of clarity that meditation brings, I know that I am limitless. That's an incredibly powerful feeling."