I talked previously about deep breathing for optimal health, and how to do some simple breathing exercises. The truth is, deep breathing alone can accomplish a lot… but taking it to the next step with full-out meditation can do even more for you.
If you just pictured a monk sitting silently with hands on knees, fingers held together in loose circles, uttering “ohmmm” every few seconds, then you might have some trepidation about trying meditation. However, it really doesn’t need to be a big production, or something “woo-woo” or “weird”… basic meditation can be a simple process, but one that brings you huge benefits.
According to The Art of Living Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to making life stress-free, “Settling the surface mind is meditation. Living in the present is meditation. Relaxing deeply is meditation. When you are really happy, reposing in love, you are meditating. Meditation is that space when the thoughts have subsided, and the mind is in complete rest.”
So it’s sort of like letting your computer idle, and having a screensaver start to run. It’s not doing anything, it’s just being… and if computers needed a rest between heavy-duty tasks, that would be their mental nap.
Of course, computers don’t need really need to rest, but they do need a reboot now and then. You actually need both… and while your nightly sleep is like a full reboot of your system, a short mental break in between can remove stress and frustration. Not only that, but a meditation session can bring you greater rest than a deep sleep, according to The Art of Living Foundation.
“When the mind settles down, it lets go of tension and stress and centers itself in the present moment.” So meditating daily clears your mind, increases your ability to focus and concentrate, and expands your awareness.
But since meditation really involves quieting the mind and “not thinking” (thoughts may come to you, but they’re not generated from your brain), many of us busy people find it difficult to do. After all, how do you really get rid of all those thoughts about what you “could, would and should be” doing instead of sitting peacefully?
Martial arts instructor Robert Alan Anderson recommends starting off by figuring out who you are. Write down your likes and dislikes, and ask yourself where in your life you experience the things that make you happy, and the things that make you unhappy. Then work on ways to put more of the things you truly love into your life.
Next, he says to make a list of your worries and stressors so you can dump some of them from your life. Take out anything from the past, because what’s done is done, and anything from the future that you can’t control; then consciously let them go.
What’s left will be present stressors, which are very real — things like deadlines and the personalities of people who are part of your life. “Accept them as the here and now, and deal with them individually as they come in and out of your life,” Anderson says, and that allows you to start being in control of yourself.
Now you’re ready to start meditating, and Anderson suggests you find time to do so daily, even if it’s just five minutes in the morning or evening. Sit quietly, not thinking, but just existing —like a screen saver. “Finding this peace internally will automatically affect your actions externally… Change the inside and the outside will follow,” Anderson explains.
If you still find it difficult to keep thoughts at bay, go back to the simple deep-breathing techniques. Start with a few deep cleansing breaths to push out any stressful energy. Then focus on your breath going in and out, varying the length of inhales and exhales to achieve relaxation. Imagine that you’re breathing in a “positive” color, like yellow or purple, and breathing out a “negative” one, like black — whatever feels right to you.
Another tool you can use is a mantra. “Said aloud, under your breath, or mentally, without sound, the purpose of mantra is to stabilize the mind and to protect it from unwanted distractions,” Anderson says. But it doesn’t have to be “ohm.” It can be any word with personal meaning to you, such as “calm” or “peace.”
A third technique Anderson recommends is using a deity, which is simply an object of focus. That can be a painting, a statue, a candle flame, or a spiritual deity to draw you closer to your God. As you focus on the item or image, you can think about being filled spiritually with love, knowledge, understanding or wisdom.
So by taking just a few minutes a day to relax your mind, you’ll also end up inspiring your spirit, and rejuvenating your body. That’s a lot of benefit from just a small investment of time, and no investment of effort.
Deep Meditation © TXD
Meditate © Nasrulekram
Fire, Wood and Stone © Denise Cross