Meditating at Cinnamon Bay, St. John
Blog Post 6.5 It’s amazing to me that after 50 years of life (!) I finally realized that we have the ability to control our minds instead of letting our minds control us. Therein lies the power of meditation. Prior to 2011, I thought meditation was the purview of people from the 60s or those that wished they were still at Haight Ashbury during the ‘Summer of Love’. Meditation was a little too ‘out there’ for me. Boy, was I wrong. During a difficult 2011, I was grasping for anything that could make life’s changes more understandable and less stressful. We all try to deal with the stressors of a fast-paced life as best we can. Generally, the higher the stress or anxiety level, the greater the chance for a less than positive outlook (which, in turn, can sabotage our careers, thereby increasing stress)!
We’d all like a chance to catch our breath, settle our restless minds and breathe, but who has the time? Is there a way for those of us who aren’t ready (or can’t afford) to retire on a beach somewhere to gain control of our thoughts and emotions? Well, not to sound cryptic, but the answer lies within. Meditation! I know some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have the time,” or, “I don’t have the patience,” or “That’s too weird for me,” or “How does one even get started?” That’s why I’m taking the time on this blog entry to cover the why and how of meditation, in the hope that it will pave the way for you to reap the rewards of a trained, focused and more peaceful mind.
Answering the “Why meditate?” question is easy. We ALL have a calm, clear mind buried somewhere under the static, chores, duties, responsibilities, stressors and irritations that come naturally from bludgeoning our way through life with an untrained mind. We may be “successful” on several scales, but can we really ever consider ourselves successful until we have peace of mind? How much is that worth to you? People pay a lot of money to go sit on a beach for a week or two and pretend they don’t have any problems, only to return to “real life” and have it all crash down on their shoulders again.
Well, meditation doesn’t cost anything and you can start in just a few minutes a day, once you know the steps. You will quickly discover that you aren’t required to act on every thought. Your mind can be a great ally in your struggles and experiences, instead of a source of rigidity or painful thoughts that take control of your emotions. Often we are burdened with our mind’s inflexible perceptions which we hard-wire over many years of experiences. This dampens our ability to see things as they are, react appropriately and move in a helpful, more positive direction. Meditation enables us to ‘re-wire’ our minds.
OK, so how do you get started? This is the best part. The equipment cost is $0. No fancy gym membership required, no lululemon athletic wear, or professionals charging exorbitant hourly fees. However, there are a few things that will help you get better results quicker. First, pick a quiet, comfortable, clean place. Preferably someplace spacious or where you feel uplifted. Second, pick a time to give it a go and try to stick with that time daily if at all possible. Maybe you have 10 minutes in the morning? In preparation, try to wind down any tension you have so you can really relax and flow into a calm state. Maybe even stretch out a bit to limber your body as well as your mind. Now you’re ready.
Take an upright, seated position, well-grounded either on a cushion (with legs loosely crossed) or a chair (with feet flat on the floor). Hands on the thighs, fingers relaxed, chin tucked, jaw relaxed, eyes and mouth slightly open, gaze down or close your eyes. It’s not about intake right now…not really looking and not really listening, just…being. Now here comes the fun part. Pay attention…to your breath. Try counting the cycles of in and out. If you find your focus wavering, check your posture. Upright with an imaginary string pulling your spine straight as your body relaxes around it. Recognize any thoughts rushing in, let them go, and continue to breathe steadily in and out. In time, the mind will relax and the thoughts will slow, allowing you to get down to the business of synchronizing your body and mind. Deep, calm, settled. This leads to mindfulness – the ability and experience of complete immersion in the present moment, often with gratitude, recognition of the beautiful life that surrounds and welcomes us with a more complete existence. You may want to try a Meditation Center near where you live to get you started. Most Centers offer guided meditation for beginners that may cost $5 per 1 hour class. The Shambhala Mediation Center of Boston, for example, can be reached at email@example.com.
Sound too good to be true? In the short time I’ve been practicing I’ve noticed dramatic and exciting changes for the better, both in my mood, thought patterns and physical presence. This is something everyone can do, with patience and practice, and it is highly recommended as a method to steady your thoughts and actions, increase your level of calm and happiness and move through life unhindered by the various demons that make their presence known throughout our day.
And just another quick note…Yoga can often provide similar benefits, with the added bonus of increasing flexibility. I know it can be difficult working it into your normal routine of weights + cardio, but definitely consider it an option – meditation in movement – good stuff! As always, I’m interested to hear any comments or suggestions that you may have, or techniques that worked for you. We’re all in this together. Best of luck! Rob
Excellent Books about Meditation:
When the Chocolate Runs Out ; Lama Yeshe, Wisdom Publications, Boston
The Joy of Living; Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Three Rivers Press, New York