Meditation has saved me. Along with exercise, a nutritious diet, great sleep, sunshine and fresh air, a daily meditation practice is key to my health and well-being.
Much of our suffering is caused by our thinking. We can free ourselves from this suffering by learning to recognize what is true in the present moment. We do this through the regular practice of mindfulness, otherwise known as meditation.
– Tara Brach, PhD
Very practically, meditation has been shown to help manage pain, depression, stress, and cortisol levels, as well as raise our happiness set point, that point on the happiness scale where we tend to return. It leads us to see our thoughts, to focus on what serves us and others. More importantly, it teaches us to let go of negativity and choose love. It leads us to be kinder, and to stay present through the inevitable challenges in our relationships. It opens us up to life, crumbling our walls, growing our compassion, unveiling life as a full, vibrant, and genuine experience.
The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.
— Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada
Going deeper, meditation leads us to whom we really are.
Through this daily practice, we open a gateway to knowing that quiet, radiant, loving awareness within. In paying attention, to the nature of our internal world, we learn that we don’t have to spend our lives avoiding pain and seeking something more to fill that wanting within, that emptiness, that hole in our soul. Because what we most long for is already inside us.
There are various methods but essentially meditation is simple — you focus on something – your breath, candlelight, a repeated phrase (a mantra), even walking. When you notice your mind is distracted by thought, don’t judge the thought, just gently let it go, and bring attention back to your point of focus. Some prefer to listen to one of the many guided meditation apps and resources online. Use whatever works to help you establish a daily practice. Try to make it the same time each day. Start with 5 minutes, once a day. Extend the length of your sit as you feel ready.
BATTLES MONKEY MIND?
As we watch our thinking, we soon notice how our mind jumps from one subject to another, much like the random, frantic antics of a monkey. Thus, “monkey mind”. The “battle” reference thematically speaks to that of the superhero fighting the good fight against the unsettled mind, which continuously serves up thoughts which are not helpful, nor healthy. In true meditation practice, we don’t “battle” our thoughts. We recognize our mind has drifted away, we calmly let the thought go, and return to our point of focus.
There is no amount of skill we may gather as meditators that will keep us from having thoughts. Expert meditators do not have thought-free meditations. Rather, they simply do not judge their meditations by how many or how few thoughts they may have.
— Jeff Kōber, Vedic meditation teacher
WANT TO TRY?
Here are some resources that helped me:
- Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach, PhD
- Deepak Chopra, The Chopra Centre, guided meditations
- Susan Piver, Open Heart Project weekly newsletter and meditation, susanpiver.com
- Jeff Kōber, Vedic Meditation teacher, Daily Thoughts email, jeff-kober.com
Be still and know…
— Psalm 46:10