If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh
If I told you there was a simple, virtually fool-proof way to combat stress that you could do without leaving home, that takes just a few minutes, and is completely free, would you want to hear more? It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Meditation has proven itself over centuries as a tried and true way to reduce stress and increase general well-being and happiness.
“Meditation may be nice for some people, but it’s just not for me,” many people say. “I can’t sit still for very long, and I can’t ever clear my mind completely.”
The good news is that the benefits of meditation are within reach of everyone, even if you agree with these statements! There is no magic to meditating, and no right or wrong way to do it. Whether you can sit for 3 minutes or for 30, there are benefits. And, it’s impossible for anyone, even Buddhist monks and nuns who have meditated for decades, to clear their mind completely. That is not a goal of meditation at all.
Secret Superhero Power
The goal of meditating is not to clear your mind, but to sit with whatever mind you bring to meditation. I often say to myself “Well, today I am meditating with my planning mind,” as my thoughts whirl with what I have to do that day or plans for the upcoming weekend.
But the more you meditate, the more you are able to watch thoughts arise, and watch them go by. The power of being able to have a thought and then to let it go is truly a secret superhero power, and a real advantage in our chaotic, information saturated lives.
Extraordinary Benefits for Everyone
If you feel you don’t have time to meditate, even just a brief period of meditation is beneficial.
Some of those benefits include:
A time set aside just for restful quiet
An improved ability to let thoughts come and go
Positive effects on the body, such as lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system
Improved concentration and memory
More relaxed physical and emotional responses to stress
My Meditation Experience
I have been meditating almost every day for four-and-a-half years, and all of these gifts of meditation have come to me as a result. I started by meditating for 15 minutes a day, on a homemade seat of a yoga bolster perched on top of a folded rug and towel. Over the years, I’ve worked up to 25 minutes a day. When I skip my meditation, the events of the world are harder to handle, and when I return to my practice, it is with great relief and I wonder why I ever left it.
Get Started on Your Meditation Journey
Many community centers, local colleges, and HMOs offer free or affordable classes, to learn a little more about meditation. But a class or any special knowledge isn’t necessary at all.
A few tips if you want to get started right away:
There’s no right or wrong way to meditate
Every little bit helps
Set up a permanent place to sit, if you can
Work your way into it as slowly as you like – into longer time periods and perhaps even a daily practice
As in all things, be gentle with yourself
If you’d like to do some reading on the subject, here are some great resources (clicking the links will help you find a copy near you!):
Give meditation a chance! You may love it, and the rewards are great not only for you, but for the whole universe. Yes, I really believe this.
To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.
Thich Nhat Hanh