In a day and age when we are surrounded by the constant cacophony of text tones and email swooshes, it’s hard to find a moment of solace. Even carving out 15 minutes of structured free-time from our jam-packed schedules seems impossible, or even something that will jeopardize our productivity and leave us feeling more overwhelmed than before. I implore you, however, to consider the merits of taking that chunk of time to sit in personal reflection, unencumbered by the telephonic tether linking you to the world of hustle and bustle. Yep, you read that right, rest those weary Twitter fingers and take a moment to meditate.
With an illustrious 7,000-year history, meditation is one of mankind’s oldest forms of escape. Described by most religious and scientific figures as the art of focusing the mind on a single point, meditation settles us into a blissful state of mental equilibrium. In fact, the Bhaghavad Gita, an epic Hindu poem, states that the goal of meditation is to, “let your mind be still like a candleflame in a windless place.” That is certainly interesting, but why should you take a leaf out of an ancient book and introduce some form of meditation into your life?
The answer is simple: meditation improves your brain chemistry and reduces stress levels. Researchers at UCLA used MRI’s (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine the health benefits of meditation and found that those who meditated regularly had noticeably thicker tissue in the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for focus and control. So, if you’re looking for that extra edge at your next business meeting, or the ability to power through those long post-lunch, pre-weekend hours, why not give meditation a chance?
START YOUR PRACTICE
Stumped on how to introduce a lifelong practice into your daily routine? Here are a few quick and easy steps you can take!
The first step to developing your practice is to forget whatever romanticized image of meditation you have – the one with the rock garden replete with gnarled Bonsai trees and indigenous mosses - and accept that you can meditate practically anywhere, anytime. All you need is a relatively secluded and distraction-free environment.
Once you’ve found a suitable location, I would recommend downloading a guided meditation app - most of these apps offer sessions lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours - to help ease you into this new world.
MAINTAIN YOUR PRACTICE
After finding a practice that fits your schedule, it is important to develop a daily routine. Whether it be five minutes after you get home from work, or twenty minutes before your morning shower, it’s necessary to schedule a consistent block of time as this will drastically improve the likelihood you will continue your practice beyond the typical three-day infatuation period. It won’t be easy, but after developing a daily routine that fits your time constraints you will begin to build up the stamina and concentration you need to become a veritable Lama!
If you only glean one thing from this post, let it be the notion that meditation comes in a multitude of forms. Whether it’s sitting in your living room reciting Buddhist mantras, or walking the dog contemplatively, a consistent meditation practice will help activate the neural pathways that have sat dormant for years and give you some much needed stress and anxiety relief. So, next time you feel the creeping tendrils of work related angst tapping you on the shoulder, take some time to breathe. Just breath.