By Steven Correll
You were late to work today and your boss yelled at you. Your significant other is not responding to your text messages. You have not had a good night’s rest in weeks. Your credit card bill is due tomorrow. You’re stressed, you’re frustrated, and it feels like the world is out to get you.
What if I told you that you did not need to feel this way? That there was a simple solution to all of the ailments currently plaguing you? That it was something that you already knew how to do and that you have already done unconsciously many times? That it could be summed up in one word: Meditation.
If you do not meditate, it is not what you think it is. You don’t have to be a yogi to meditate, or a hippy, or a new-age philosopher. You do not need to be anything other than yourself. Anybody can do it, and everyone should do it. Meditation is powerful and cultivates insightfulness, and most importantly, meditation is good for you — it is very, very good for you.
While there are many varieties of meditation out there (all of which I encourage you to research), my favorite type and the one that I have practiced for years is called Mindful Meditation.
Mindful Meditation is the process of bringing oneself fully into the present moment. It is about focusing your mind on something — your breath, a visualization, a mantra — in order to become aware of the world around you and your place in it. It is consciousness, it is awareness, it is recognizing that you are alive. It is acknowledging all of these things and appreciating them. Most of all, meditation is about appreciating yourself and your place in the world.
One of the best things about Mindful Meditation is that it is simple to do. You need no previous training (though some is beneficial), and the only requirement is to sit down in a comfortable, relatively quiet spot. You can meditate sitting in a chair, on a pillow or even on the ground — wherever you would like, just don’t get so comfortable that you might fall asleep!
Once you are sitting in a relaxing position, place your hands on your thighs, palms up, thumb and pointer finger gently resting against one another. Some people prefer to have their hands in their lap with their thumbs resting against one another; others prefer their hands at their sides, on their knees, or against their belly. Do whatever feels best for you.
Next, close your eyes. Draw in a big, deep breath slowly through your nose — as much as you can possibly fill your lungs with. Then with your mouth slightly open slowly release that breath. That’s one cycle. Repeat this process.
That’s it. Meditation is really simple, right?
While you are first starting out, I would recommend trying this for five minutes at a time. Put a timer on your phone and just sit there and breathe for five minutes. Don’t try to “clear your head,” don’t try to “find inner peace,” don’t try to do anything but breathe. Just breathe. The rest will follow, I promise. Once you’re comfortable with five minutes move on to 10, 15, 20; go for however long you are comfortable.
While you’re sitting there you are going to be hit by a barrage of thoughts. You forgot to do something, you have this big project, there’s an itch on your neck. You might find yourself debating whether to order Chinese food or pizza for dinner. But don’t get discouraged; this is normal, and it happens to all of us. Whenever you notice that your mind has drifted somewhere else , just remember to bring yourself back to whatever you were focusing on — in this case, your breath. The more you practice, the less this happens and the easier it is to get focused. Be patient with it; you’ve got all the time in the world.
After you begin meditating, you start to notice that everything looks a little different. Your perspective changes and with it your brain. Seriously, there have been many studies on this. With continued meditation the amygdala — the part of your brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response — shrinks, while the pre-frontal cortex — the part of your brain responsible for higher-level thinking and awareness — grows. Crazy, right?
Maybe after meditating you will realize that your boss didn’t mean to yell at you and is under a lot of pressure as well, and you coming in late was what triggered that short fuse. That it was not personal, just a wrong-place-wrong-time kind of thing, and that it is water under the bridge by now. That your significant other is not ignoring you at all but had told you that they were meeting with an old friend last weekend and were probably too engrossed in catching up to check their phone. That you’re tired because you chose to stay up late last night watching Netflix, which can easily be remedied with an extra coffee and going to bed earlier tonight. That you can easily pay the minimum amount on your card while you wait for your check at the end of the week to clear off the rest of the payment. That being overwhelmed and letting it get to you does nothing to remedy the situation, but looking at it from a different perspective greatly changes the way you feel.
You are able to do this because you meditate. You are able to do this because you can step back from the whirlwind of life that constantly surrounds you and instead focus on the present moment for a minute. The present moment, in which you are alive and can have a job that you like, a person that cares about you, technology that entertains you, things that you enjoy. You realize all of these things because you’re present and aware. You realize that life isn’t so bad. It’s actually pretty good, considering how hard it can be for others. You do this because you mediate, and that alone makes all the difference.
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