I teach a lot of people to meditate. When a new client comes to see me all stressed out, I usually ask them at some point in our conversation if they know how to meditate. Some say yes, though very few have a daily practice. Many say they’ve thought about it or tried it just a few times. Although our culture is becoming more open to both meditation and mindfulness techniques, some people have never even considered meditation because they haven’t been exposed to it yet!
Some of the people who say they have tried to meditate and didn’t stick with it claim that their minds are too restless to meditate. I usually chuckle, throw my arms up in the air in an exaggerated fashion, and say, “this is why we learn to meditate! One major purpose of creating a daily practice is to learn how to calm the restless mind.” More often people turn to alcohol, weed, or other shortcuts to addressing excessive and intrusive thoughts.
One client, who now meditates regularly, told me the first time that I brought up the topic that he had a “monkey mind.” Again, I laughed. In fact, I was appreciating that he was at least aware of his turbulent mind. He lamented, “I wish I had more mental discipline. I shoot off my mouth sometimes when
I know I shouldn’t.” Give it a year, I said, and your monkey mind will be old history!
Meditation does more than just calm the mind. Over time, active meditators have all kinds of health benefits including lower blood pressure, less susceptibility to stress related disorders like heart disease, digestive problems, and infertility. And it increases alpha wave activity in the brain which decreases anxiety and depression. There is also less activity in a region of the brain that processes fear! Sounds like a No- Brainer, hah?
So how do we get started? With most people, I have them sit, close their eyes, and “pick up their breath.” What does it mean to pick up your breath? It means to pay attention to the in-breath, the out-breath or both. There’s nothing to manipulate or control, just pay attention I tell them. When a thought or a fantasy comes in notice it and come back to the breath. Its that simple.
There are other ways to meditate as well. Starting with the breath is just easy and straightforward. The most important premise is to get started with whatever method you are comfortable with. Meditation is like going to the gym, the more consistent and reliable your practice is, the better the results!