Over the years, and especially in recent months, I have been encouraging my clients to try meditation, and have suggested it as a major change agent in their lives. As meditation has grown in popularity over the years, and as more information about it as a practice has been written about, many people have given it a try. Many people I speak with have tried to learn to meditate, with varying degrees of success.
What makes some people adopt meditation as part of their daily routine, while others struggle with it? I find there is a lot of “I don’t think I’m doing it right.” I have been told, “I can’t stop my mind from racing.” “As soon as I sit down to meditate, I immediately want to get up; I feel restless, bored.” I have heard, “It’s just not for me. I don’t see the point. I feel like I’m wasting my time.”
Let’s address the “doing it right” concern first.
I often tell my clients that no one meditates the right way, because meditation is a fluid practice that will be somewhat different for everyone. I think most people struggle with many aspects of meditation, especially when they first begin the practice. I know I did! I have been a daily meditator for nearly 20 years, and I honestly dreaded my sitting time the first few months, because it did seem like I could be doing something else. I questioned why I wanted to make this commitment. I found my mind running around like a squirrel in a cage ( or the “monkey mind” Buddhists talk about.) I often would have “to do’s “ come up that I had forgotten about, and felt the immediate need to get up and get a pen and pad and work on that to do list.
But I stuck with it, sometimes through gritted teeth; like any habit, you have to do it long enough before you start to see and feel the benefits. The day came when I realized I was looking forward to my time in meditation, and then the day when I realized I missed it terribly if something came up to disrupt my time. Now my morning meditation is a cherished ritual, and this long time night owl has learned to love the quiet, dark mornings, sitting in silence. I still struggle to quiet my mind and often find myself wandering down thought rabbit holes, but I bring my focus back to my breath, and I let these thoughts go. Over and over again.
What have the benefits been for me?
It has opened up in me the sense of connection to the spiritual energy that gives rise to all of life, and has taught me that, far from being flawed or broken in some way, I am an integral part of life. It has taught me self-acceptance, self-knowledge, and by extension, a greater acceptance of others.
I have long struggled with anxiety and worry, and it has soothed this anxious spirit and taught me to trust and know that life works out and that there are answers to problems and challenges, and they are within me.
It has helped me become more disciplined and to respect my own time and energy; to not multi task so much. I now try to focus on one thing at a time. It has taught me to be patient and to prioritize my activities. I have learned to listen more and to react less.
It has taught me deep gratitude for the mystical, serene beauty of silence, and of not needing to fill every moment with activity or thought. In this silence, the Divine can find me and whisper in my ear. It has taught me to cherish this planet, our home, and its many wonders.
It has taught me my own worth, as well as the worth of all other beings that inhabit our world; and that we all have this place of wisdom, peace, and love within us. Every one of us.
So this is why I encourage everyone to begin a meditation practice. If more reasons are needed, studies have shown that meditation can help reduce stress, and the many physical and psychological illnesses that come with it; it can reduce chronic pain in those who suffer from it, by soothing the body’s nervous system and easing the pain/anxiety feedback loop; It may help reduce age related memory loss; improve sleep; help with addiction cravings; reduce blood pressure; and help with many other physical, psychological, and spiritual maladies.
To begin, I would refer you to any of Tara Brach’s or Jack Kornfield’s mindfulness meditation teachings. For those looking for a more scientific approach, look to Jon Kabat Zinn’s mindfulness based stress reduction.
Faye Maguire, MA, LACC, is a People House private practitioner working with youth and adults, using a transpersonal approach to therapy. Counseling is her second career, after being a business owner for nearly 30 years. She enjoys working with people experiencing life transitions, grief and loss, depression, anxiety, trauma, addictions, relationship issues, and figuring out life’s direction, using a holistic approach. Please contact her at 720-331-2454 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.