There are dozens of documented studies that show how meditating changes your physical, mental and emotional well-being. People who meditate feel happier and are less depressed and anxious. Mediation also helps people feel more connected and in control of their lives. There are even studies that show how it changes the physiology of the brain itself. And yet, even with a mountain of proof, it is a challenge to create and maintain the daily habit of mediation.
So here are a few of the mental techniques I use to push me back to meditation over and over again.
Most of us never question our daily physical hygiene routines. It feels too gross to walk around dirty. Using that analogy for continuously clearing your mind is one way that I remember to sit quietly.
The longer I ignore all the noise rattling around in my mind, the less capable I am of really addressing any of it. Sitting still and watching the noise go by takes practice and sometimes even many years later, I have to open my eyes to write down a note so that I can put the thought aside. But, generally speaking, training myself to sit back and watch the story lines without reacting to the anxiety that is tagging along teaches me that there is a space between me and all the problems that sometimes feel like they are closing in on me.
Even when the anxiety level is acute and the pressure to get up and do something is all I can experience in my meditation, speaking to myself with kindness – knowing that I have the time to sit still for 20 minutes – turns the heat and pressure down a notch. And turning down the heat, even for a few minutes at a time, helps me feel like I am being my own friend. The truth is that even when I am exhausted I always brush my teeth and wash up. Sitting for meditation is how I have come to understand cleaning my mind.
Create More Time
I remember hearing from a teacher that if you have no time to meditate, meditate for twice as long. Although I still don’t entirely understand how slowing down our own mind seems to impact the world around us, all I can say is that when I unplug from the frantic vortex of events spinning out of control and stop to feel my breath coming into my body, the outer world has a chance to right itself.
I don’t always remember to do this. More often than not, I get caught up in the pace of events that leave me feeling breathless. It’s almost like each event accelerates the one that follows it and by mid-day, I can’t discern what is critical and what just needs time to process.
Even a five-minute break of stillness actually adds time to the day because I come back more able to see what can’t wait, and more able to let all the other stuff process.
Meditating makes me feel like I am choosing the pace of my day instead of feeling owned by it.
Be Here Now
The truth is that the only time that ever exists is the moment you are in. Everything else that we do with time – looking forward or getting stuck in the past – is a thought structure that keeps you out of the time you are in. It’s addictive really; the ways that we give our authority to a past that seems much more glorious in retrospect, or hope for a future that never materializes the way we envision it. And then we waste even more time trying to adjust to the ways that life is not matching our expectations.
Meditation gives me respite from the ways in which my mind works to pull me out of where I am. For the minutes I am meditating, I get to witness the number of thoughts that make me miss the past or long for something imaginary.
Meditation is one place where the moment is fully satisfactory just as it is.