“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak” - Buddha.
Stop what you are doing.
Sit quietly and close your eyes.
Tell yourself to inhale and exhale slowly.
Think only about your breathing.
Do this for five minutes.
That is meditation. Now you can carry on with your day!
I was introduced to meditation in my early twenties. Practicing Yoga and Tai Chi were vehicles for meditation. During a Yoga or Tai Chi class there were always a few minutes of quiet contemplation. At first, I found quieting my thoughts quite challenging; I would say I was an over-thinker. Thinking and worrying about scenarios that were beyond my control was like a full-time job! Needless to say, meditation was a helpful tool.
One summer, I visited a Buddhist temple where monks lived and worked, and I was given a tour by one of the monks. He showed us the various rooms in the temple, all very simple and yet surprisingly warm and inviting. There was the library, classrooms, cafeteria, and meditation room. I was with a group of students and the monks taught us a simple meditation. We sat on cushions with our legs crossed and our eyes closed and surveyed our thoughts and breathing. The monk had a bell and rang it when the meditation time was complete. There was incense burning and complete silence in the room, the lighting was dim, and soft rays of sunlight came in from high windows on the wall. How could something so easy be so difficult? All we were required to do was sit and breathe while clearing our thoughts.
After the session of about 30 minutes, which felt like an eternity, I asked the monk, “what do you think about when you are meditating?” His reply stunned and enlightened me. “Nothing! You think about nothing for as long as you can.” Said the Monk. Wow! Fairly new to meditation, I was letting my thoughts be in control of my meditation. I would think about things I wanted to do. I would visualize conversations I wanted to have. I would even think about how annoyed I was just sitting there. The monk explained to usthat meditation was like cleaning a dirty room. At first the task is daunting: the thoughts are clutter and we must clear the cutter. Once we do this, the mind is pristine and clear. All of your other tasks in your day become easier because you have calmed the mind and now it is ready to focus on studying or work.
Having said that, I was only doing meditation while in classes. At most two to three times per week. There weren’t any apps then that I could put on my computer or phone to remind me to sit each day in contemplation. Or when my anxiety was high I’d often get swept up in feelings of being overwhelmed. So I learned to bottle up my anxious thoughts until I was able to go to class. By the time I got to class I was like a pot of boiling water, steaming with stress and it would take me more than half the class to relax and find calm.
After a few years of this routine, letting stress percolate and then returning my anxiety to a simmer, I began to experiment with the mediation practice on my own. I’d purchased books, like the “365 Daily Mediations”, and Louise Haye’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, and added a few more days of mediation to my routine. It was often difficult to begin and yet every session left me less stressed. My problems didn’t magically go away, rather I developed clarity with how to manage them better.
By the time I was pregnant with my first child, I was meditating at least five times per week.
It wasn’t a spiritual practice for me at the time, more of a means to an end. In a later section I will share the spiritual values of meditation, but in the early days of my practice it was mostly a tool to help stabilize my overthinking and worried mind. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate, no good or bad time to practice. It’s all about where you’re at in the journey of your practice.
I have meditated in my car (not while driving, that’s just dangerous), in line at the grocery store, laying in the tub, while basking in the sun, and even hiding away in a dark closet. I’ve meditated for one minute and I’ve been on weekend retreats where we barely spoke and observed silence the entire weekend. The point is, you don’t have to have a beautiful room in your home dedicated to your meditation practice. You can do it anywhere and you will reap the incredible benefits.
At first these benefits may go unnoticed, such as lowered blood pressure and decreased heart rate. The more we meditate the more benefits we notice, such as improved memory, increased patients, less anxiety and heightened creativity. Think of mediation as giving yourself a gift. I recommend scheduling this activity into your day, and beginning with a small amount of time like two to three minutes. Building your practice slowly and steadily will provide you with a sense of accomplishment. You will be more successful if you begin slowly.
One practice I recommend, from a book I read called “Master the Day”, is to add a minute to your practice each day. For example, if you commit to meditating for 30 days, on day one you begin with one minute and each day you add another minute, until you are able to meditate for 30 minutes. This method builds your confidence and I find that you look forward to adding those minutes to your daily practice.
1. Find a comfortable chair or cushion to sit on.
2. Place your hands on your lap.
3. Set a timer for one, two or three minutes.
4. Now close your eyes and just breathe. You can play nature sounds if that helps you relax.
5. Your mind will wander, and that’s okay, always bring it back to your breathing.
6. Tell yourself to inhale and exhale.
7. When you are finished, notice how you feel? Calmer, more focused, maybe less anxious? Good, now make this a habit and you will experience peace and clarity more frequently in your life.