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Day 4: The Meditative Mind

“Some people think that meditation takes time away from physical accomplishment. Taken to extremes, of course, that’s true. Most people, however, find that meditation creates more time than it takes.” -Peter McWilliams


Every day when I awake I realize that I have to learn yet again how to be positive. Often the first thoughts of the day for me are anxiety filled. It’s unfortunate that it is what is uneasy in me is what surfaces first when I wake. Middle of the night waking is often like that too, where my thoughts don’t just drift around like the dreams that just ended, but seem to point in a directed way to whatever is looming, ominous or uncomfortable. I began practicing a simple Buddhist chant when I wake up to replace the anxious thoughts . (“May I be happy, May I be well, May I be peaceful, May I be free of fear…”).


While this has helped reduce the morning stress incrementally it was when I started meditating again in earnest that I started to see results that lasted throughout the day. In fact it was my positivity science studies that inspired me to find the time to sit still again. According to several and repeated studies, the single most effective behavioral change on creating a more positive mind is a daily meditation practice. What is even more inspiring is that a regular meditation practice didn’t only increase positive emotions in the people practicing meditation, it also increased their physical well being, sense of connection in life and ultimately increased life satisfaction levels all around.

A good way to approach learning to meditate is to begin thinking of it as daily hygiene for the mind. You would never consider your teeth clean after three days of not brushing; so it goes with your mind. Our mind will produce as many bad thoughts in a day as germs populate our mouth, it’s just how it is.

This defines the idea of practice, really. Giving ourselves twenty minutes a day to actually quiet our mind long enough to be able to see the bad ideas from the good ones is at least as important as cleaning your body and some would argue more important.

There are many kinds of meditation practices–some are more demanding than others. Years ago, I learned to meditate by listening to a CD by Rod Stryker and still often let him lead me into a quiet, still space. I love all his work, but for beginners the Meditation for Life disk will teach you how to sit still for 20 minutes at a time. I have been practicing with the Relax into Greatness disk lately, which is a great thing for those who tend to doze when they meditate. I also really love the books by Pema Chodron and Sharon Salzburg on Loving Kindness and Mindfulness meditations, although those are a bit more challenging for me.

In this digital age, the resources for learning to meditate are not in short supply. Building in the time to practice is really the hurdle we face. The days that I meditate are better, a difference that my children notice within minutes of being with me.