“Nothing like a Jesus joke to take the air right out of the room.”
While watching Jim’s most recent stand-up special on Netflix, Cinco, this throwaway comment caught my attention. After an agreeing nod and a chuckle, I started thinking about other topics that tend to make most people uncomfortable. The first thing that came to mind was something I have written about before, but I know makes people about as comfortable as a well placed Jesus quip:
Meditation. There goes the air.
I practice meditation every day, but I certainly don’t parade the idea around in my social circles. I’ve written about it before, but it doesn’t often come up in my daily conversations. Why? It makes some people’s skin crawl.
I get it. I used to be one of those people. The concept of meditation used to look a lot different to me than it does these days. Before I started practicing it for myself, I thought it was about hours of deep thought, religion, and chanting non-descript noises. It can be about all of that, but in most cases it’s not.
You can meditate for an hour, or you can meditate for a minute. You can chant and hum, or you can sit silently. You can do it standing, sitting, or laying down (note the featured picture of this post). There’s really no right or wrong way to meditate. Eyes open, eyes closed, who cares? It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.
But why do it in the first place? That part’s simple. It works, if you make it a consistent practice. I’m not a meditation expert by any means, and to be honest I’ve probably only scratched the surface of it all. What I do know is what it’s brought into my life. Below you’ll find three reasons that I think meditation is helpful, then also a quick meditation practice you can try for yourself!
Clarity: Get Rid of the Cobwebs
Where do you do your best thinking? The shower? On a run? In the car on a long drive? Most often, our thoughts of inspiration or (what we deem) pure genius happen in moments when our mind isn’t supposed to be engaged at all. We’re either on autopilot on the highway or mindlessly washing our hair. When we loosen the reins on our brain, it can explore some deep crevices of the mind. Meditation creates this space intentionally. While sitting in silence or listening to a guided meditation, your mind isn’t required to critically think. In fact, most meditation practices encourage the opposite; to acknowledge your thoughts, but to let them pass without inspection. This tactic creates the same space in your mind as a long shower or road trip. It’s in that space that our mind can clear it’s cobwebs and start thinking more clearly. You’d be amazed at what revelations you can have when you clear out your cluttered mind with some fine tuned meditation.
Awareness: See Your Thoughts In Plain Sight
Like I said above, mediation encourages you to acknowledge your thoughts, but not judge or inspect them. Just sort of let them float on by. Obviously, this will make you more aware in the moments of meditation, but it ripples through the rest of your day as well. In situations that have previously been a source of tension, I’ve found myself observing my thoughts and talking myself off a cliff. When you can see your thoughts more objectively, it makes it easier to not get caught up in the emotions of them.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
-Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor
The quote from this man who has clearly lived through a ton speaks to the awareness that meditation can bring you. It allows you to see the stimulus (an angry text, a dirty look, etc.) and just observe it and not respond without thought. Increased awareness allows you to act more consciously rather than subconsciously. More well-intentioned and less knee-jerk reaction.
Calm, Cool, and Collected
I meditate within 20 minutes of waking up every day. I used to wake up and get moving as fast as I could. My mind was rushed, my body was racing, I was putting myself in a state of panic because I woke up in a full sprint. When I started meditating, what I found was an incredible sense of calm to start my day. Yes, I had to start waking up a touch earlier to squeeze it in, but it was well worth it. It’s important to note here that I didn’t-and still don’t-have to meditate 30 minutes every morning to see results. I can meditate for 5, 10, 15 minutes and get the desired calming result. The important thing is setting aside that window of time for myself to just sit and breathe. No to-do lists, no emails to answer, no texts to respond to. It’s unapologetically selfish, but that meditation time has become a crucial part of my day. It’s like a warmup before I start putting my mind and body to work.
I can’t say enough about the benefits of meditation, but there’s some things that need to be said here to shake up some of it’s misconceptions.
- You DO NOT have to meditate for 30 minutes to be successful. Take 5 minutes to just sit and breathe and you are well on your way.
- You DO NOT have to sit cross legged and hum away. You can if you want to. But there’s nothing wrong with sprawling out on the couch for a session.
- You DO NOT need to invest money in your practice. The app Insight Timer has thousands of guided meditations to choose from and it’s completely free.
- You DO NOT have to be a yogi or a Buddhist to practice meditation. Meditation is for anyone and everyone. It doesn’t discriminate.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me walk you through a quick meditation practice to show you how easy it is. It will take you less than 5 minutes, but I promise you that you’ll come away from it with a great sense of calm and gratitude.
Okay, close your eyes…
My attempt at meditation humor. Obviously, you’ll have to keep reading to walk through this with me, but I promise I’ll keep it short and sweet. Once you get the hang of it, you can feel free to actually close your eyes and give it a whirl in the dark.
- Think of a person an important person in your life. Picture their face.
- Take a deep breath in. As you inhale, think of one reason you are grateful for that person.
- Take a deep breath in. As you inhale, think of one reason you love that person.
- Take a deep breath in. As you inhale, think of a unique quality about that person.
- Rinse and repeat for a minimum of 2 more important people in your life.
It’s quick. It’s simple. But it works. Start small and build from there. Try this rotation of gratitude every morning for a week and notice the difference as you start each day. Once you’ve seen some benefits of it, you can branch off to different meditation methods and see what works best for you.
Meditation is like the stock market, people. In order for you to see progress, you’re going to have stay invested in it for a period of time. Understand that one day won’t bring you enlightenment, but it certainly can make you feel lighter. It’s worth the few minutes it costs you, trust me.
Until next time,
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