Our society as a whole is a “now” society.
Check that e-mail now, respond to that text now, get it done now, buy it now. But how many of us are actually here now?
Have you ever driven all the way to work without actually remembering what the drive was like when you arrived?
Where did that time go?
We are all so busy we don’t seem to notice that time doesn’t slow down. To quote Ferris Bueller here, “if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” So how do you handle the stress of daily life, how do you stay present and not let yourself get overwhelmed?
The benefits of meditation
Back in the 1980’s the Dalia Lama began a dialogue about science and Buddhism which eventually lead to the formation of the Mind & Life Institute, dedicated to the study of contemplative science. Scientists have begun to take note and research is starting to show the benefits of the age-old practice of meditation.
Meditation as a contemplative practice can be seen in cultures all over the world.
While many different practices exist three of the most common are focused attention, mindfulness, and compassion and loving kindness. Due to their proven benefits these types of meditation are now practiced in hospitals and schools worldwide.
This type of meditation aims to keep the mind in the here and now, the present moment.
The goal is to increase vigilance of distractions and keep the mind, as the name suggests, focused. Advanced meditators have been known to be able to achieve a focused state of mind with very little effort.
Brain scans performed on them have shown that they become easily aware of distractions and seamlessly refocus their attention.
Through mindfulness mediation practitioners are seeking to increase awareness of all that is going on in the present moment, similar to focused attention, but without becoming overly involved with any one aspect.
The goal is simply to be aware and not let the mind spiral out of control.
Compassion and Loving Kindness:
Cultivation of positive attitudes towards others is the objective with compassion and loving kindness meditation.
This practice involves being still and looking deeply at the experience of those around you and to foster a sincere desire to help through understanding of how suffering affects others.
4 Steps to Help Get You Started
One of the benefits of meditation is its accessibility; it can be done essentially anywhere. All you need is a quiet place to sit and you’re good to go.
Sit on a cushion on a floor or in a chair while keeping your back straight. Maintaining good posture has been shown to help you stay focused and adjusting your posture helps regain lost focus.
Take a deep breath to help relax the body and mind.
In the beginning it helps to focus your attention on your breathing by counting each breath, being aware of air flowing in and out of your lungs.
Contrary to popular belief the goal is not to stop thinking but to simply be aware of your thoughts and letting them flow naturally without latching on to any specific thought. Stay focused on your breath and just let the thoughts flow naturally.
4. Keep At It
Determination is key because this practice is not easy for everyone.
The benefits are numerous but you need to keep trying. Start small with sessions lasting around 5-10 minutes every day and gradually increase time spent meditating. Soon you’ll find your mind becomes relaxed with less effort and you begin to naturally immerse yourself in the practice.
Having about 15 years of research backing its claims, meditation has shown its potential to produce significant changes in not only how the brain works but, as is the case with experience practitioners, even its physical structure. Continued research on meditation is providing insight into different methods of training the mind all with the potential to enhance health and overall well-being.