The practice of meditation is much like masturbation. It has been practiced across the globe since the dawn of time and yet is still taboo. It is very personal and usually best practiced in private. It is great for altering mood and reducing stress. AND although you typically close your eyes and increase your breathing, everyone does it a little bit differently.
All jokes aside, the benefits of meditation are profound and undeniable. It has been practiced in various forms and by various cultures across the globe for millennia. Despite much research to support its many benefits, western medicine still relies on pharmaceutical interventions to improve mood and to address the symptoms of stress, to name a few. The consensus seems to be that practicing meditation for at least 20min first thing in the morning and at the end of the day is optimal. In my personal practices I would have to agree with these findings although significant benefits can be obtained through various schedules and durations.
The effects of a busy life with little time to ourselves, with insufficient self-reflection and with an uninterrupted flow of constant thought, are likely at the root of many, if not most, of our stress related ailments. If we were to look at our happiness and how it relates to our quality of life, our self-esteem/image and our personal relationships, we would likely find that we neglect ourselves in many ways.
We often cram our mornings with busy rituals before leaving the house and often do the same before bed. This makes it difficult to schedule, let alone justifiy, 40mins of structured meditation every day. However, it is this time of stillness, of innerpiece and self-reflection that is at the heart of our healing practices. Mindfulness is the foundation of a good meditation practice. The wisdom to be mindful is a presence of mind that both nourishes meditation and grows from it. It is the mindful moments in a day that make up the human experience and allow for gratitude, compassion and wisdom to be grown and harvested.
Start by challenging yourself to be mindful several times per day. Stop to enjoy a pond or take your shoes off at a park. Be grateful. Be humble. Be still. Be conscious of the life that surrounds you; Nature, the sky, animals, the wind. Being aware and present allows you to create perspective and counter the unnecessarily stressful moments in life. It is difficult to reap the benefits of meditation when meditation itself is a stressor. Living with intent and presence leads to a string of mindful moments and inevitably to a yearning to connect with the self through meditation.
The quieting of the mind through meditation allows for detachment from the material world and from the reality we construct and stress ourselves with. Mindful moments too allow us to see the beauty in life and create perspective through gratitude, compassion and self-awareness. These mindful moments can range from a 3 second sense of heightened awareness to the recital of an empowering affirmation. Being mindful of a person’s potential personal circumstances allows us to be compassionate to their behaviors rather than reactive. As a result we avoid confrontation and harmful inner-monologues and instead, grow with every incident. Taking a moment to fill your mind with positive and goal driven self-talk allows you to maintain an effective and productive mindset regardless of the circumstances that surround you. These are but a few examples of mindful moments that can be incorporated into your everyday activities without jumping in to a structured meditation practice. Of course I do recommend the inclusion of both into your daily life, however, many people are apprehensive and intimidated by the disciplined nature of meditation. As such, mindful moments can easily and effectively bridge the gap to and of meditative regularity. Pun intended.
We can all benefit from inner piece, greater emotional awareness, improved self-esteem, greater sense of purpose and improved personal relationships to name a few. Start by micro-meditating; String some mindful moments along throughout your day and, before you know it, you will be yearning for time to connect and heal yourself. You will seek meditation more than you think and you will look forward to it. I am grateful as the writing of this article has been a mindful moment for me. I am grateful to have found such a deep and enriching practice. I am empathetic and compassionate to the challenges of adopting such a practice. I am wise enough to understand that 20min twice a day is not the only way to navigate this stressful world but that micro-meditation is a tool that even the most accomplished meditator can and should incorporate in their daily lives. Not only am I a Micro-Meditation Maniac, I am also a Chronic-Meditator!
Jean-François Dufour MKin, CEP, CSCS
A New Level Strength & Conditioning Inc