By Ann Zimmerman, LAc.
Despite our best efforts, most things in life are beyond our control. If we depend on the the world outside of ourselves to comfort us from our personal sorrows, anxieties, fears, and boredom we will not live a very pleasant life. Meditation is a tool that allows you to take responsibility for your own state of mind and to change how your mind effects your experience of life.
Commonly people think of meditation as something that you are either good at or not. Many people will say they can’t meditate because their mind is too active. However, meditation is not achieving a completely quiet mind, but the practice of noticing the active mind and learning to not take it seriously. The mind can be compared to the weather. The weather is always changing and we do not expect it to stay the same. Meditation can teach you to watch your mind like you do the changing weather patterns. Your mind will continue to change from thought to thought, but you can practice staying unaffected by its weather.
The practice of watching the mind is not unfamiliar to any of us. For example…. you have the thought while you are working that you wish you were outside hiking. Generally there will be a feeling of longing for that hike and wishing you could do it right now. Then the thought passes and you move onto the next thought. The thought of hiking and not being able to do it did does not have to ruin your work day….it simply came up and left, just like the clouds passing. Meditation helps give us breathing room in our mind. It is a kind of climate control for keeping your well being running at 75 degrees, allowing for space between the thoughts so you do not lose yourself in one of the passing clouds and spend the day or years in a stuck thought pattern.
Meditation practices are techniques that help you develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calmer vision of the nature of life. Just as we do not expect to be in great physical shape without regular exercise, we cannot expect to have a quieter mind if we do not meditate. Meditation is an essential practice to help you manage the ups and downs of life. During the easier times, we will be able to enjoy more of the peace and gratitude of life and during the more challenging times, meditation allows you to breathe deeper into the suffering without losing yourself into a unpleasant thought pattern.
Meditation offers many health benefits and research shows it can be helpful for the following conditions;
• Chronic pain
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Sleep problems
• Tension headaches
Most meditation techniques include focusing your attention and relaxing your breath and body. There are many different meditation practices. Finding the one that you enjoy and are able to be consistent with is the goal. Commonly practiced forms of meditation include: guided imagery, sitting meditation, yoga, dancing, qigong, and tai-chi.
I have personally found meditation to be one of the most important things in my life. I feel like having a regular meditation practice allows me to be a more resilient human. It gives me an anchor in the storminess of world events, personal growth, and relationships, allowing me to keep an open-heart while living in uneasy times.