Meditation is a tool that has been used for thousands of years. It has been used by people from all walks of life for many different reasons.
Meditation is a tool that has been used for thousands of years by people from all walks of life. There are many methods, just as there are many unique and different types of people who have used them.
One does not need to seek enlightenment or be on a spiritual path to benefit. For instance, meditation can improve concentration and one’s sense of well-being. And science has shown meditation to lower blood pressure and improve memory and cognitive functioning, and effect other physiological changes.
A common myth about meditation is that it must be done in a particular fashion, such as sitting and being still for an extended period of time: a task that may seem to great to conquer! This can be a major turn off for many and isn’t entirely accurate. Although one may be sitting, the meditation practice involves the practitioner’s participation, as they notice the inhale and exhale of of the breath, watch the light on a candle, or listen to the sounds in the surrounding environment. Those who wish a more active form of meditation can try Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Karate or walking meditation. Anything that helps us become more mindful and live in the present moment can be used as a practice. In Sufism, meditation takes the form of movement through dance and song. And Thich Nhat Hanh, beloved Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, teaches practices, such as smiling. How beautiful is that?
The practice of meditation is just that – a practice. There may be days when you experience a calm, peaceful state of mind almost immediately. Alternatively, there may be days when it’s hard to focus at all. Being aware of the reactions to your practice can be another form of mindfulness! Letting go of judgments regarding your experience, such as “that was a great meditation,” or “that was a waste of time!,” as well as your attachments to a particular type of experience will prove fruitful. Be patient. Take your time. You may need to experiment with a variety of techniques before you find the one that’s right for you. Try one method and stick with it for at least a month. If it’s not right for you, feel free to try another technique. You may find that a practice you’ve used successfully over a long period of time (perhaps years) may not be appropriate in the future. Remain flexible and be opened to experiment with another form. Above all, be gentle with yourself.
Most people find a meditation teacher to be of great value when starting a practice. Working with an experienced guide can speed your progress immeasurably. Look around for a class that can meet your needs. Yoga studios, health clubs, or community colleges may offer free or inexpensive classes.
1. The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
2. The Journey of Awakening, Ram Dass.