For many, the idea of meditating can be likened to slipping into a hot tub. There is a general understanding that once fully in the water, it will feel good, but to get to that point, the experience takes some warming up to.
Dipping one’s toe in the hot topic of meditation reveals all kinds of sensitivities AND misconceptions:
I’m not spiritual, so meditation is not for me.
I don’t have time to meditate.
There is no way I can stop all of the thinking.
I will never be able to sit still for that long.
Those I work with routinely state these comments and more. The number one misconception is that meditation means the cessation of thought. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our brains are very complex and continuously active. Thoughts are firing at light speed and we are constantly stimulated by our surroundings. Some may describe their “outer” stimulation as chaos.
Let’s look at the image above for a minute. My friend took it during a visit to Thailand, and what he captured happens to illustrate beautifully what the true essence of meditation is. The fierce waves in this picture can be akin to our external stimulus––work, taking care of our families, making sure food is on the table, paying our bills, driving the kids to soccer practice and gymnastics, answering emails, etc.
They can also be related to the continuous stream of thoughts that swirl around in our minds––I feel fat. I wish that person would call me back faster. I can’t eat that, it will go straight to my hips. I really need more money. I feel paralyzed by debt. I know I shouldn’t eat that because I’ll feel like S*%^ tomorrow, but it will make me feel better now. I’m lonely, and so on.
We are human. We have thoughts. And as long as we are alive, they never go away. This is a fact.
Going back to the picture. Beneath those stormy waves––beneath the “chaos” of the sea, there is calm. There is stillness. The waters are tranquil. When we apply this understanding to our inner and outer experience, we see how we too can have chaos all around, we can be pulled this way and that, but we can also have peace within. We can be still and in a more Zen-like state amidst the challenges and activities of every day life.
To achieve this, none of us needs to take a week off to attend a silent retreat (although lovely.) None of us needs to sit on a meditation cushion for hours, or even one hour. None of us needs to assume the lotus pose, be a spiritualist, or a yogi. In the simplest terms, meditation is the act of choosing awareness and neutrality. And, it is for ALL OF US.
It is the union of a psychological and physiological shift––one that brings stillness to our inner state of being. It is also a practice. The ability to remain at peace within does not happen over night. It happens one day at a time, and with consistency. It’s like exercise for your nervous system. It’s not unlike training to be a long distant runner, or to re-shape and tone your body. It takes attention, desire, commitment, and consistent practice.
And, just like exercise, every little bit counts. With just five or ten minutes of inner calm focus each and every day, your mind and body will begin to shift into a deeper state of neutrality and ease. It won’t be long until that five minutes produces such profound results that you will enjoy and look forward a twenty or thirty minute minute session.
If you’d like to learn more about how to engage in a personal meditation practice, please reach out with your inquiry.