“Meditation teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” ~Unknown
Do you feel overwhelmed at times? Or slightly lost? Do you struggle with anger, anxiety, or low self-esteem? Are you left with a mind that doesn’t seem to want to slow down?
If the answer is yes, rest assured that you are not the only one. There are many who feel the same way.
This is exactly how I felt five years ago. I was working hard as a musician, and I felt like I’d hit a brick wall. The harder I pushed with gigging, practicing, and writing, the more I felt my creativity take a dip and my overall happiness decline.
I remember feeling exhausted, and my life feeling heavy and serious. I felt burnt out, and the worst part was that the harder I tried, the more disconnected I felt. It was a classic case of burning the candle at both ends.
I was trying to be more creative and found that the opposite was happening.
Overwhelming, worrisome thoughts and feelings would arise, and I wouldn’t know what to do with them. One after the other, they kept coming.
I was very critical of myself at this time. I felt frustrated, stressed, and often, very low, with fear constantly knocking at the door.
I started wondering, “Am I the only one feeling like this? Why do I feel this way? What’s going on?”
Society had taught me that once I achieved what I wanted, I would be eternally happy. But I met people who had achieved their goals and amassed great wealth, and were still hugely stressed and unhappy. How could this be?
In Our Lowest Moment Lies an Opportunity for Personal Transformation
I recognized then that I was constantly blaming the outside world for things not going the way I wanted. I believed that life should make me happy. I slowly began to see this was far from the truth.
One day, I said, “Enough! Stop blaming other people and circumstances and take a good long look in the mirror.” This was hard at first, as a part of me still wanted to point the finger, but I knew this wasn’t going to serve or help anyone, least of all me.
I started reading a load of books, taking courses, and researching human behavior, covering topics such as psychology, self-help/development, emotional intelligence, spirituality, biology, and more.
After all this research, I realized that in order for me to be happier and more productive and have a better quality of life, I had to take a step back and realize that being busy isn’t cool, it’s a lack of priorities; that being stressed and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t the right path; that happiness is actually closer than I may have thought. The journey had begun…
An Inner Win to a Greater Outer Win
I have discovered that we can overcome our negative thoughts and feelings and deal with all of our challenges with a greater understanding and a sense of ease.
The secret is that first we must feeling centered within (our thoughts, feelings, and emotions), and then we can move to what our outer purpose is. This enables us to deal with challenges from a place of inner calm.
If the mind and body are working together, we have a much greater chance of knowing what we want and how to face it, rather than constantly trying to fill the void within with external gratification. External gratification can be beautiful, but first we need a strong foundation, anchoring our drive so that it can serve us and the people around us in an authentic way.
You deserve to live an amazing life. You deserve to be inspired. You deserve to be free and to live a life on your terms. And you can do all these things.
Transformation starts with ourselves, so in order for us to move into a happier state of being, we first need to be kind to ourselves, and to have a little bit of discipline and the willingness to awaken our greatest selves.
Creating Some Well Deserved Headspace
Imagine you’re watching your favorite play. During the show many different scenes occur; there's a love scene and moments of anger, tragedy, and betrayal, along with a whole load of excitement.
Now, imagine that during the play, you run onto the stage and cause a load of confrontation because you don’t like one of the scenes and want to stop it.
Once you jumped up there you'd probably feel a little foolish, and might leave with your tail between your legs, feeling baffled and confused after turning and seeing an angry audience now wanting their money back.
Well, what if you viewed the mind in the same way? Let's say you’re sitting at home, minding your own business, when an angry thought suddenly arises.
It may have a character and there may be a storyline within it—something that happened that bothered you or something someone did that upset you. What do you do? A lot of the time, we get sucked into our negative, angry thoughts and are left feeling worse than we originally felt.
We have metaphorically run onto the stage in our minds, and the angry audience is usually our close family or friends.
Now what if I told you that you don’t even have to go into the angry thought? You can simply watch it and let it play, like you would at the cinema or the theater. You simply see it, with little judgment, and let it pass. The seeing of the thought is the beginning of liberation.
This is one of the first major steps toward a healthier, happier mind. By simply seeing the thought, we begin to disassociate with it, leaving space for it to pass while we continue with our day.
Mindfulness is the day-to-day seeing of the mind, called “awareness” in many circles. If we are mindful, we see our thoughts and let them come and go like scenes in a show.
By simply seeing the thought, we are then left with a choice: to let it go or hold onto it. We then need to ask ourselves, do I want to react angrily, or do I want to let it go and deal with the situation constructively?
Meditation is training for situations like these. This can simply be a ten-minute space in your day where you may sit, or a part of the day where your attention is focused entirely on what you are doing.
You may have already had moments like this when you exercise, when you are in an intense state of creativity, or when you’re entranced by a beautiful sunset.
You are focused, present, and not distracted. If we can develop this in our practice, we’ll be better prepared to handle challenges in our everyday life.
Meditation can be seen as a little woo woo. The thought of a bunch of monks in robes come to mind, or maybe lit candles, bells, gongs, and floating off to some eternal bliss. We need to let go of the clichés to realize how much benefit it really has. The value it can add to your life is immense.
Who Is Using It and What Are The Benefits?
Mindfulness and meditation have really taken off in the west, with major businesses, military centers, schools, and celebrities all getting involved. The big question is “why?” Why does a major company like Google have its own meditation rooms and courses?
Let's dig a little deeper into the health benefits so you can see the potential of just taking ten minutes out of your day for your great self.
10 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Day-to-Day Life, Work, and Relationships
1. It lowers your stress level and improves your focus and attention.
2. It reduces worry, anxiety, and impulsivity.
3. It increases empathy and helps you develop positive relationships.
4. It can improve your information processing and decision-making skills.
5. It increases positive emotions.
6. It improves your memory.
7. It enhances your ability to set aside mental chatter.
8. It decreases feelings of loneliness and helps reduce social isolation.
9. It increases feelings of compassion.
10. It increases grey matter in keys areas of the brain associated with compassion and awareness.
What do I do? Where do I start? What type of meditation do I do?
I asked all these questions when I sat down to do my first meditation. There’s so much information out there, and it can be overwhelming at times, so I want to keep it simple and actionable.
First, find a comfortable place to sit; it can be a chair or the end of your bed. If you can find somewhere that has few distractions, that will be helpful. Next, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath.
Write on your to-do list when you intend to meditate, or couple it with something you do regularly (i.e.: brushing your teeth, before/after a shower). This will help you make meditation a habit.
3 Tips for Once You Begin Meditating
Don’t expect the mind to stop. The point of meditation is not to stop your thoughts, but rather to clearly see the mind with clarity and non-judgment.
Think of your thoughts as passing cars on the road or clouds in the sky. Remember, it’s a skill, so at first you may be a little shocked by how many thoughts there are. But don't worry—this is perfectly normal. The mind will, with time, begin to free up a little and the thoughts will lessen. Ahh, peace!
2. Effort—Finding the Balance
We can't force our mind to be quiet. Think about when you can’t sleep, so you say to yourself, “I can’t sleep,” and you start to try harder. What happens? Ironically, you struggle to sleep. So the idea is to have a nice amount of attention and focus but an equal balance of relaxation and rest.
3. Unveiling Happiness in the Now
Once we have a healthy balance of expectation and effort, we can then move to the realization of stillness. This is the realization that happiness is already here, in this moment now. This will become clearer once you are into regular exercises.
Rather than trying to create peace within, we simply realize it's already here. This is one of the first steps toward internal mastery.
When Should You Do It?
I normally recommend you do it first thing in the morning, but that’s only if that works for you. Everyone has different schedules, so choose a time when you know you’ll have ten minutes free.
Common Road Blocks
Watch out for the classic excuses, such as “I don’t have time to do it.” Yes, you do! As Tony Robbins once famously said, “If you don’t have ten minutes, you don’t have a life.” If you want to awaken your greatest self, give yourself that well-deserved mini break, so when you come back to your routine you're rejuvenated and ready for the rest of the day.
“I’ll do it tomorrow” is another classic, and it never happens. There is no time like the present, so just do it!
And finally, the ultimate excuse: “This all sounds to be good to be true; this will never work for me.” We now have so many scientific studies to back up the benefits, so give it a go, follow it along, and enjoy them.
Whatever the excuse may be, I promise you that slowing yourself down for ten minutes can begin to change your whole world dramatically.
I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like a bit more peace, focus, and clarity in their life, and it's all here for us, right here, right now.