Turning inward for just 10 minutes a day can put your life back into perspective
Here’s an interesting question to ponder: What do Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Al Gore, Halle Berry, David Lynch and The Beatles have in common? You might be thinking it’s that they’re all world-famous, richly talented and highly innovative people. Or maybe it’s the fact that they were or are leaders in their respective fields, but actually there’s a much deeper connection. All of those people were or are all meditators. And the list of notables doesn’t end there — Thomas Edison, Tina Turner, Indira Gandhi and Bill Ford, among many others.
It’s not just celebrities and icons, of course, who’ve followed the path of self-discovery through silence. Students, teachers, lawyers, patients, prisoners are all following this ancient practice. But why?
The strength of thought
Some experts believe hunters and gatherers may have practiced the ancient art of meditation thousands of years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that the tools became available to see what happens to the brain during meditation. This research is showing that meditation, even for a short period, increases alpha waves (relaxed brain waves) and decreases anxiety and depression.
Harvard Medical School, among others, have been using MRI technology to analyze the brain activity of meditators. Those studies showed that meditation activates the section of the brain responsible for the autonomic nervous system, which governs the involuntary functions of the body, like digestion and blood pressure. These functions are highly susceptible to stress. So doesn’t it makes sense — scientific sense — that if we can modulate these functions, we can ward off stress. We could also reduce the likelihood of digestive problems, infertility, weakened immune systems, chronic pain and heart disease.
Short and simple
The question now becomes why isn’t everyone meditating? It’s partly because of misperception. There’s this notion that meditating involves ridding yourself of all your earthly possessions, sitting in seclusion and chanting your life away. But that’s nowhere near the truth.
Ten minutes of meditation once or twice a day is enough to change your life dramatically. The most challenging aspect for most people is finding the courage and discipline to sit smack dab in the center of themselves. That discomfort may be a bit intimidating for some. Most would rather spend their time avoiding who they are or some uncomfortable truths about their lives.
But, you see, the real mastery of meditation does not come from having a perfectly still mind or tuning out physical distractions. It actually comes from accepting yourself and how you feel in the moment, each and every time you sit silently with yourself.
Don’t worry so much about the form. There are lots of ways to meditate, to quiet the running dialogue that flows endlessly through your mind. Finding YOUR way to meditate is an intricate part of this personal journey. Whether you choose Transcendental meditation, concentration techniques, mindfulness, movement, visualization or loving kindness meditations, all that matters is that you feel better when you’re done. It’s truly as uncomplicated as that.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
Find a quiet place. If it’s easier to tune out distractions in the dark, turn off the lights and draw the shades.
Close your eyes. The idea is to cut off the information coming in from your senses. With eyes closed, it’s easier to shut out the outside world.
Pick a seed. A seed is a word, a phrase or even a sound that soothes you with repetition. It can be something that already has meaning to you or it can be a completely made up word or sound. Either works. Just don’t make it complicated.
Focus. Repeat the seed, with each breath in or out, to yourself in silence. Don’t force it. Let it move as naturally as possible. In time, it will allow you to drown out the noise and focus.
Here’s the next question: Will committing to the ancient art of meditation and then consistently practicing it on a daily basis put you on track to becoming a rock star or a genius? Well the answer is no…but it will lead you to your healthiest and most productive life and that is the best news of all.