You hear people talking about meditation and how their lives have improved. Perhaps you have even tried meditating a few times on your own. But for some reason, days go by and that meditation pillow you bought remains unused. Does this sound familiar?
Before you decide the “art of stillness” is not for you, consider that there are many paths to the same destination and, like many things, you have to find what works for you. It’s well worth the effort, especially when you begin to experience the hidden treasures of cultivating a regular meditation practice that keeps the truly dedicated coming back for more.
After all, there has to be something to this “trend” that has actually been around for thousands of years and practiced by cultures all over the world.
There isn’t a magic pill that will suddenly create in you the desire to meditate. Sometimes it takes an especially low moment in life—like a stressful event or a health issue—to spark the need to seek out something more to soothe the spirit. Whatever path you take is right for you. You are always one meditation away from tapping into the stillness and peace that already exists within you. It’s a part of who you are; you were born from stillness. The more you connect to it, the more you reunite with an innate sense of who you really are and what you want out of life.
Here’s what you need to know about meditation beyond what you may already know.
Build a Foundation for Your Meditation Practice
Deepening your understanding of a meditation practice will be extremely helpful toward building a strong foundation, helping to navigate through obstacles you may encounter during your practice. Try taking a class or finding a teacher who can guide and support you on your journey. The Chopra Center teaches Primordial Sound Meditation in an online course, and the following are a few examples of important principles taught to help students enjoy a successful meditation practice:
- There are four possible experiences you may have meditation: 1) sleep, 2) repeating your mantra (or whatever the focus of your attention is), 3) having thoughts, and 4) slipping into the stillness between the thoughts or “the gap.” If you have any of these experiences, you are meditating.
- Comfort is important! It is not a requirement to sit cross-legged on the floor. Use as many props as you need in whatever position to be comfortable. (Though try to avoid lying down if you can—this signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.)
- There is always time for meditation. Even if it’s starting off with five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening and eventually working up to 30 minutes. What do you need to change in order to make this happen?
- Let go of expectations and surrender to the practice. There is no such thing as a bad meditation; in fact, the benefits happen outside of meditation. Though the benefits of meditation may be subtle at first, over time you will find one day that you are experiencing life freely from a place of greater happiness.
Still not convinced? Here are four powerful reasons to start meditating …
1. Meditation Is Preventive Medicine
You live in a stressful world and it’s easy to get caught up in emotional turbulence. Unfortunately, stress left unchecked can lead to seeds of illness such as high blood pressure, increased stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol), decreased immunity, etc. These seeds then grow into more serious issues such as anxiety, addictions, gastrointestinal disorders, heart problems, and more. Fortunately, Western medicine is recognizing the correlation between stress and well-being, prompting recommendations of stress reduction techniques such as meditation by doctors and therapists.
Meditation is not a cure-all, but it can help improve your capacity to deal with what is happening by strengthening your body and mind, providing new perspectives, and gaining the ability to move through situations with greater ease. No matter what initiates your desire to start meditating, when you feel better (and you will) the important thing is to keep going. Avoid becoming a “crisis meditator,” waiting until things get difficult before starting your practice. Daily meditation is powerful preventive medicine, with the side effects including, but not limited to, becoming happier, more peaceful, and more creative. It’s also free and can be accessed at any time.
2. Meditation Helps Connect to the Idea of Something More
People who are interested in starting a meditation practice are usually seeking more out of life. What that is exactly is unique to each person and is part of the journey of discovery. To simply have an awareness that your patterns, habits, and choices are no longer fulfilling is a huge step.
The beauty of meditation is that it meets you where you are and ushers you into a world where you can connect to a greater sense of purpose. Life moves at a fast pace and as you get caught up in your daily lives you tend to lose touch with what’s important to you or what makes you truly happy. Going inward and connecting to your True Self that is unbounded and full of potential begins to awakens you to a bigger picture of what’s possible.
3. Meditation Helps You Live in the Present Moment
Think about how many of your daily thoughts were not about the present moment. How can you live a wholesome life if you spend it on thought loops about the past and future that may be holding you back from making true positive changes in your life?
As a human, you are wired to think about a great many things; it isn’t possible to live every moment in the present. What can change, however, is the quality of your thoughts and what you choose to focus on, which can be empowering. Meditation helps to release the emotional and stressful grips of the past and future that can immobilize you in the present. In turn, space is created for you to have deeper connections with friends and family, to enjoy the sweet moments of life, and be more productive at work. The possibilities are endless.
4. Meditation Empowers You to Become the Author of Your Story
Are you tired of finding yourself as the reader rather than the author of your life? It doesn’t matter how you ended up there, what matters is that it’s never too late to make changes. Being the author of your story doesn’t require huge overwhelming change right away. The first step is simple but powerful; you already know the answer. You start by going within. You go within to regain your clarity, find your strength, take back your voice, and reinstate yourself as the dynamic co-creator of your life.
Naturally, and over time, with regular meditation there is increased self-awareness as layers of conditioning and defense mechanisms are peeled away with each dip in the pool of your inner world. You may find it becomes harder to stuff yourself into old patterns and habits in favor of the more authentic and expansive version of yourself.
At this point, hopefully you are motivated to start or restart your meditation practice. Keep in mind, you don’t have to make this journey by yourself. Meditating with a group amplifies connection and there is a feeling of support for each other’s intentions. You have the information and now it’s time to have the experience. Enjoy the journey!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Jump start your meditation practice with 21 days of simple, transformative meditations in Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body and Spirit, Oprah and Deepak’s free online meditation program starting March 19. Register for free.