We live in a time when we tend to look so far ahead into the future that we may lose sight of what's going on in our lives at the moment. I know I used to find myself running so far and so fast that I missed an entire year here and there.
All that changed when I began meditating.
Meditation stills the mind from its daily chatter and teaches us how to be in the moment. It allows us opportunities to breathe and to see our lives with our eyes open, in a calm, peaceful way. And when we are in that calm, peaceful state, we interact and communicate with others more authentically and precisely.
Research has shown the amazing benefits of meditation on mind and body. There are lots of different ways to meditate, so if you haven't found one that feels right for you, keep looking!
Some of the more commonly known methods include transcendental meditation, prayer, Zen meditation, Taoist, mindfulness, walking meditation, and Buddhist meditation. Several of these require your body to remain still, while others allow free movement. Then there's my favorite: meditating to music. It transports me into the sweet zone of alpha theta -- the portal of infinite possibilities, the state in which I'm able to download the messages available for me.
I had dabbled in it, but I began my deeper journey with meditation when I attended a three-day lecture by the Dalai Lama in New York 12 years ago. He explained that meditation is something within us; it's a state of being that we learn. Eventually we can learn it so well that we become it 24 hours a day. We want to condition our minds to live in the present moment, not in the past or the future. He made me understand that meditation doesn't need to be a strict practice, either -- you don't have to have an altar filled with gifts; you don't have to sit erect on the floor or in a chair; if you have an itch, by all means scratch it! Our culture wasn't meant to practice the way monks do, nor does meditation need to have a religious connotation.
Listening to the Dalai Lama, it was as if a cloud of expectation had been lifted. I knew that any way I conducted my practice would be acceptable. It sounded so logical, forgiving, and workable. This was for me.
I have been calmed and changed by my meditation practice, and it has deepened and given me greater benefits over the years. Permit me to share with you some of the techniques I've learned along the way:
- Give yourself permission to let go of expectation, and understand that meditation doesn't have to take more than five minutes of your day. If you can manage one minute, that's an accomplishment!
- Start by closing your eyes and taking four deep, long breaths, on both the inhale and exhale.
- Before you begin your day, sit and plan how you want it to turn out.
- At the end of your workday or before you go to bed, reflect on how your day went. Assess whether it was positive or negative, then ask yourself whether there's anything you would like to do differently the next day.
- As someone who has been meditating for 12 years, I can feel every day the way it has changed my life and my sense of well-being. Meditation for me means allowing myself permission not to think, to be in a quiet space of freedom, to close my eyes for a moment. When I reopen them, I've recalibrated: I'm different, calmer; my thoughts are clearer than they were before.
We're all going to feel stress every day. (As my husband likes to tell me, "No matter how Zen you get, that Sicilian in you always comes out!") It's how we choose to deal with the stress that makes the difference. Those of us who have embraced meditation have a built-in way of deflecting life's stresses, leaving us more open to the good stuff.