Google “Meditation.” What do you find? A picture of a Middle Eastern and or hippie guru sitting legs crossed, hands in some funky circle thing humming “om.” For as long as anyone can remember the idea of meditation has been consumed by a stereotype of chanting, deep breathing, and a whole lot of incense. In more recent years, however it has gone mainstream, more and more people are adopting a practice and marveling in the supposed benefits. Here you are-along with 95% of the population thinking, “come on. Meditating? That can’t be for me.”
I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.
I, similar to many others rejected the practice for years. Sure, I tried it a few times. I found a youtube video that looked promising and focused on silencing my mind but I felt that I could never truly get it to shut down-the thoughts were always racing. Recently however I have approached the process in a new way. After some research I found that I had been doing it all wrong. Contrary to popular belief it is not about complete and utter silence, it’s about mindfulness and the idea of being in tune.
Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in a candlelit room connecting to the spiritual world. It can be closing your eyes for five minutes and just breathing, or repeating a mantra to yourself as you face a stressful situation at work. You don’t have to censor or block out your thoughts, let them come to you and pass without judgement. If you want to move, then move if you want to cry or laugh do it. Be sensitive to the sensations of your body, allow yourself to feel and just be. If religion is a part of your life implement that in your practice. Use this time as an opportunity to connect with God-or whoever else you believe in. There are many different methods and means of meditation, take some time to explore them and find the way that is best suited for you. The most important aspect is focusing on the breath. If you can learn to do that the rest will follow.
As you dive into your meditation practice you will find your level of self awareness beginning to rise, your thoughts becoming more positive, all the while your stress levels fall to the floor (as much as they can in this high stress world). From mental struggles and physical ailments, to delayed aging and an improved immune system this awe inspiring practice has the ability to better your life in a host of different ways. Harvard conducted studies show that meditation literally changes the brain. One study in particular included 16 participants practicing various forms each day for 30 minutes. After eight weeks an MRI found that each of the participants supported increased grey matter in the brain(Harvard.edu). This indicates an increased ability in learning and memory, as well as cognitive function, compassion and introspection. Big time corporations such as Apple, Google, and Nike encourage their employees to take time out of their workday to find mindfulness. Entrepreneurs meditate as a form of professional development. Even Kobe Bryant utilizes a meditation practice to improve his athletic performance. Maybe this is not some ludicrous phenomenon after all.
Now that I have immersed you in my knowledge, what do you think about the guru stereotype? A little less mystical and a little more attainable? That’s the goal. Everyone, yes even you, can benefit from the remarkable practice of meditation. Make it your own, embrace the experience and watch the benefits unfold.