The idea of balance – family, work and life – is a popular topic these days. Most of us have families, jobs, friends and community activities we’re involved in. Some of us have experienced additional pressures due to the economy, or changes in our life circumstances. Maybe you or someone close to you, such as an elderly parent or a child, is going through a time of difficulty or transition, which has required more of your time and energy. Sometimes the idea of “balance” seems almost comical – you’re just trying to get through the day.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid challenging situations and times as we go through life. Most of them are minor, the small annoyances that crop up in our daily rounds. Occasionally, we are going to encounter more serious trials, and the reality is that neither category can always be avoided. The ability to deal effectively with our circumstances is what can make a world of difference and there are lots of suggested ways to do this. There are answers. And meditation might be one of the best. A focused and positive mind is your best ally when it comes to effective (and free) stress management and problem solving.
Lots of research has been done in the last 30 years on the benefits of meditation physically, psychologically and emotionally. Meditation has become increasingly mainstream and is now embraced by people in all walks of life – politicians, athletes, business professionals, students, and soccer moms. Oprah meditates. So does the Dalai Lama and Tina Turner. (How’s that for a diverse mix?) Here are just a few of the benefits of a regular meditation practice:
- It lowers oxygen consumption and improves the flow of oxygen to the lungs.
- It decreases respiratory rate.
- It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.
- It reduces anxiety and relaxes the nervous system.
- It can lead to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
- Can help to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of hypertension.
- Can aid in pain management by reducing awareness and sensitivity to pain.
- Aids in increasing serotonin level, which in turn influences mood and behavior.
- Increases focus and concentration.
- Increases creativity.
- Increases emotional stability and equanimity.
- Increases productivity.
- Improves relations.
- Improves ability to see the larger picture in a given situation.
- Improves ability to solve complex problems.
- Reduces aggressiveness.
- Enhances mindfulness and the ability to be fully engaged in a given situation.
And that’s just some of the returns you can expect. There are even more well-researched and impressive benefits to a regular meditation practice. So maybe you are already asking “How do I get started?”
The best news is that meditation can be done anytime and anywhere, with very little training or preparation. The most important step, and often the most difficult, is making the commitment to do it. One of the most common reasons for not trying meditation is “I don’t have the time” or “I wouldn’t be able to sit for that long.” Being able to get past that mindset is the first step, and my advice would be to start where you are. If committing to twenty minutes twice a day seems impossible, try 5 minutes. Anyone can find 5 minutes in their day to stop and breathe and if you don’t feel you can, then you really need to. Start there and do that for a week, or two. Maybe then work up to ten, a minute at a time over the period of a month. Maybe you will set a goal of 15 minutes of daily meditation. You may or may not want to work up to 20 minutes once or twice a day, now or in the future. You will be surprised at the benefits you can get from even 10 to 15 minutes of daily quiet time
How to begin? There is lots of helpful information out there, from books and articles, to classes, CD’s and DVD’s. Keep it simple. What’s most important is to find what works for you – pick a time (if possible, the same time every day is best) find a comfortable and quiet spot, and breathe naturally. A common beginning practice is to simply follow the breath, which enables you to quiet the mind and turn inward. Don’t be distressed if a parade of thoughts enters your mind, one after the other. This is normal – it takes time for the mind to quiet. (In the beginning, it may seem impossible that your mind will ever quiet!) Simply ignore the intrusive thoughts and continue to sit quietly, focusing on your breath. You may want to place a clock someplace so you can easily see it when you are finished. The next day, just show up again. Don’t worry about whether or not you are doing it “right” – if you consistently practice, the mind will learn to quiet over time. As you practice and learn more, you may want to try different techniques. The most important component of developing a successful practice is consistency – it’s in the doing. With a consistent practice, over time, you will begin to notice the benefits of your daily meditation time. You may find your mind clearer and more focused, your concentration improved. You may have a sense of calm and patience in situations that you have found irritating in the past. You might enjoy a general sense of well-being that you haven’t felt in a while. Everyone is different, and so each individual will experience the benefits of meditation differently. What meditation can do is bring a sense of wholeness and centeredness to how you experience life. Create time for it and watch your world change for the better.
I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions or comments!