Easier Than You Think: Exploring Meditation

I’ve tried meditation but always abandoned it because I felt that I simply couldn’t do it “right.” I considered myself a failure at meditating because my brain seems to have an open-door policy that invites in endless chatter like a welcomed guest. My brain won’t set boundaries for the random thoughts that insist on barging in unannounced. I can’t seem to sit still in a trance-like state and just be present in the moment.

Rationally, all of the potential benefits of meditation make logical sense and I have no doubt that the payback can be significant. Meditation offers the promise of a good return on my investment of a modest amount of time and little bit of practice, but why didn’t it deliver for me the way it seems to for others?

Meditation can be practiced anywhere! Photo by Radu Emanuel
Meditation can be practiced anywhere! Photo by Radu Emanuel

Thankfully, my best friend Sue tactfully pointed out my misconceptions about meditation and explained that it doesn’t have to involve emptying my mind, blocking out all of my thoughts, and letting my mind go completely blank. This New York Times article validates her advice and this information has made all the difference in my attitude about meditating.

Things changed once Sue advised me to let my thoughts enter my mind and not to question or judge them. Now, I simply acknowledge my thoughts -and the fact that they have made an appearance – and then let them pass right through as if observing from a somewhat detached distance. This quiets the mental ruckus that the Buddhists call the “monkey mind” with its thoughts that jump around in chaos like monkeys swinging through trees.

Quieting the mental noise seems like a desirable, yet realistic goal.

For me, it works to focus on my breath. I breathe in deeply through my nose for a count of three and then exhale  through my mouth to a count of five. I live near the Pacific Ocean and visualizing the ebb and flow of the waves (which sounds a bit like my deep breathing) puts me immediately into the right mental space.

Waves at San Francisco, California beach, Photo:Ramiro Cardozo
Waves at San Francisco, California beach, Photo:Ramiro Cardozo

Like many other people, when my life feels ridiculously busy and the world seems endlessly chaotic often chaotic, I start to search for anything that can serve as an antidote to the endless multi-tasking that has become our new normal. It makes sense to explore¬†meditation as a means to achieving a calmer and more “present” state of being.

Neuroscience research suggests that incorporating meditation into your life may help reduce anxiety and depression, support better sleep, and improve concentration and focus. This article published on Forbes explains some of the science in simple terms.

It feels good to start the day with a brief meditation and to end the day the same way, but the reality is that I often miss my morning opportunity. But, no judgment – I do what I can, when I can, for any amount of time that feels right to me at that moment.

Sue puts it this way: “We all need peaceful mental maintenance.”

As usual, she’s right.

 

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