Confessions of a Chronic Meditator: The Simple Why and How of Meditation
My name is Traver and I’m a chronic meditator. It’s true, I have been this way for the past four or five years now. I’ve meditated just about everywhere you can think of – on airplanes, in movie theaters, stuck in traffic, in line at the bank. You name the place, I’ve most likely meditated there. One time I stopped dead center in the middle of Grand Central Station, closed my eyes and pretended no one was there, and secretly meditated before anyone noticed.
Do me a favor and stop reading for a second and count to twenty. Yep, I just meditated quickly in your absence. Truth be told, after living with my fiancé for six months, she tearfully sat me down one day and told me she knew any time I had shut a door behind myself, such as in our bathroom, bedroom, or office, I was meditating and she wanted to know why! (I spent the last ten years in Los Angeles, you get used to shutting and locking doors.)
The “why” is the easy part; for most people it’s the how that trips them up. The medical benefits of meditation are endless simply because the human stress response, if left at the heightened level most people have it, leads to so many ailments. Meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce insomnia, lower resting heart rates, and much more. Per the Mayo clinic, such ailments as allergies, anxiety, cancer, depression, and substance abuse can all be helped through mediation.
Those are great effects, but not as profound I believe as the real benefit of meditation. Have you ever been in an argument, or had someone say something not very nice to you, and much to your surprise, you had a second or two of pause in which you could run some quick analysis before responding? That pause is the gift that meditation brings you.
That pause, will let you ask yourself, “Is this situation really about me or am I just the closest warm body to someone with their own issues?” “Is this situation really worth getting upset over, or am I reacting simply because other people would believe I had the right to react?” “Should I smile and walk away or do what I want and bop this individual in the nose?”
Questions like that give you an opportunity to make decisions proactively rather than reactively. Reactions based purely upon an instantaneous reaction are often times not how we would like them to be, and afterwards, they are regretted - especially when they happen in public. The ability to hold one’s emotional space for nothing more than a second or two allows for a far more tranquil and emotionally balanced human experience, as the reactive mind and its love for the dramatic slowly quiets down.
On to the “how" - meditating is one of the simplest yet hardest activities to undertake. Western society is addicted to hyper-stimulation (how many of you got a text or an email while reading this article?), to constant arousal, adrenaline rushes that come in a can, and all of the trappings of a digital world. Our biological systems, however, are not hardwired to deal with all of the flashing lights, blurps, beeps, and garbles.
So how do we break the curse of over-thinking, how do we remove ourselves from the constant onslaught of stimuli? We stop what we’re doing, sit still, and breathe. That’s it. That’s the whole shebang. Stop. Sit still. And breath.
What do I think about during that time, you ask. Simple. You don’t think about anything. Impossible, you say, how does one stop thinking?
Think of it this way: Imagine that you are in a crowded airport and have stopped to take a seat. Every person that’s around you represents a thought. Now you have two choices sitting in that airport seat. You can acknowledge there are people around you, you see them, and you know they are there. However, they have no power over you as you are more focused on your breathing, its sound, its texture, its rhythm, its cadence, and anywhere in your body your breath is going. You do not find yourself staring at any one particular person. The woman on her cell phone yacking away to your left is there, but you are not pulled into her meaningless conversation. You do not get upset in any way at the volume of her conversation. You are not frustrated by the crying baby that should have been left at home. You notice both, but are affected by neither.
While meditating, you acknowledge when thoughts enter into your mind, like words appearing on a movie screen. But then you let them go. Following each thought down the wormhole of mental fantasy or watching the reality television version of your own life is what happens when thoughts are focused on instead of acknowledged and released.
Don’t judge your thoughts, nor yourself for thinking them. Simply admit they are there and refocus on your breathing. Anytime that you realize you’ve been the star in your own mental movie for the past few minutes, stop, take a deep breath, and return to your breathing.
Grabbing seconds of meditative bliss will lower the volume on any given day. Anytime you find yourself in a situation where conscious thought is not necessary, give this practice a try. Meditating can be done virtually anywhere with the calming effects not dependent upon location nor upon the duration. Just five slow breaths can do wonders.
Do you have a favorite secret mediation spot? In a church tower, elevator, or maybe somewhere at work? Do tell, I’m off to shut a door and grab a thoughtless moment to myself.
I recently posted a video about Meditation for the Beginner, so if you still aren't sure about "how" to go about this, check out the video.