By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor
You’re probably thinking, “Oh great, another post about stress management and hippie lifestyles.”
There is a stigma behind meditation, it’s true. With everyone’s lives getting busier by the week, meditation has unfortunately become somewhat of an overblown fad that many people, although hearing about it everywhere they go, really don’t know that much about. So, as a partaker in this practice, I would like to tell you to forget about everything you thought meditation was, because it’s a lot different (and easier) than most people think. I strongly believe that everyone, no matter how happy or successful, could benefit from forming this habit.
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation is about being mindful. To be mindful is to be aware. So many of us, often without realizing, get absorbed into the business of our day, moving from one thing to the next without any pause, and ending our days with a cluttered mind. The stress and worries we have are never dealt with, but rather pushed down into the depths of our thoughts, underneath our larger “priorities.”
But shouldn’t we be one of our priorities? How are we supposed to be happy and live a successful life if we are constantly ignoring our own need to feel better?
Meditation is about gaining control of the mind, handling those feelings as they arise and eventually stopping them from ever happening in the first place. It’s not nearly as difficult or involved as people think, and even the busiest of humans would find that just a few minutes a day could lead to a lifetime of mindfulness. Meditation is an incredibly simple technique that yields endless benefits to those who truly wish to bring themselves to a better place.
What can it do for me?
The purpose of meditation is to help you be the person you want to be. We all want that, right?
Meditation is not just about finding relaxation or a pleasant mental state (although that is often a result, and it’s quite nice). It’s about learning the skill of mindfulness, and applying that skill to difficult areas of your life. Etienne Stott, an Olympic champion, claims that mastering the skill of mindfulness was one of the key factors that helped him to win Olympic gold in London 2012. He explains, “Mindfulness is what I’m after because a number of good things follow in its wake: being able to see my thoughts and feelings for what they are and then choose my reaction to them.” He practiced in the same way he would learn a new slalom canoeing skill — first, on easy waters, and then in competitions after developing it, when the pressure was on. You could compare meditating and mindfulness to learning any skill, in fact. When practiced, they will build. And over time, you’ll find yourself being mindful in the moments you need it most.
Where do I start?
Starting is simple, but it’s all about making a habit, finding a reward to keep in mind, and sticking with it. Like any new skill, it takes practice! I happened to stumble upon this app called Headspace after hearing about it from one of my coworkers during a time of need. I’m not advocating that you choose any method over another; there is no “textbook” way to meditate. But Headspace was created to teach people who know nothing about meditation to meditate. It doesn’t just guide meditation, but rather walks you through the steps in a very simple way with the explanations of how and why. I found it to be immediately charming, and did not hesitate to carry on after my trial ended. They provide guided, themed sessions for every scenario and emotion in the book, from stress to sleep. You’ll only get as much out as you put in, though. That is why it’s important to develop a practice of meditation over time, and eventually the benefits will become reward enough to maintain the habit.
You may have always thought meditation wasn’t for you; that it was a whole bunch of nonsense only practiced by monks sitting cross-legged under misty waterfalls. I never thought much of the idea either, until someone told me more about it. That was back in June, and even now, I still meditate once a day, at the very least. The people around me have noticed a difference in the way I handle life, and so have I. It’s nice to feel more in control of your mind. And once you have that upper hand, your potential is endless.
Featured image by Claire Hansen.