The Importance of Meditation
One of the first things we notice when we begin mindful practice or meditation is how chatty our thoughts are about the future. What are we going to have for dinner, did I remember to pay that bill, or worry over a family member……and it goes on and on.
Take a moment to think about something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious; either an experience in the past, the present, or the future?
People sometimes say, “I’m really upset or worried about what happened.” However, if we look closer, and become aware, a person can have a whole movie in their head as if feeling it is life or death or a movie of all the things we have to get done for the day. What tools do you use to slow down your brain and calm the chatty, racing thoughts?
It’s possible one of the ways mindfulness practice can help you with an uncomfortable situation or daily life, in general, is by inviting the brain, mind, and heart to bring attention to the present moment. Some practical tools to practice being in the present moment are praying, hypnosis, walking meditation with a focus on the breath, belly breathing, silent mindful eating, listen to music, playing an instrument, work and play.
With an emphasis on the breath when our thoughts begin to wander like a small child that walks off a path, you simply gently take their hand and bring them back to the road, you acknowledge the thoughts and go back to the breath.
Here is an exercise that can help you: I invite you to bringing attention to perhaps the breath. Is your breathing shallow or deep in your belly, is light or heavy, is it rapid or slow? Just let your breath be, just notice it. Do your thoughts wander? That’s ok, just notices them. When your thoughts pop in imagine if can your thoughts are gently floating by on a stream. And then return the attention to your breath. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4 and out through your lips, like blowing out candles to the count of 8. Continue to breathe in and breathe out.
Another way mindfulness helps is a bit more counter-intuitive. In terms of Neurobiology, the brain is programmed to find anxiety unpleasant. If we weren’t, our decisions might lead us toward disinhibited unsafe actions and behaviors. This protective part of the brain allowed our ancestors to survive and reproduce. In cave man days, those who were not mindful about their decisions got eaten by the tiger.
Most people want to get rid of their unpleasant anxious feelings. Most attempt to avoid anxiety at all cost. Often the attempt to make the fear go away, not the anxiety itself, is what keeps us stuck. The invitation is not to get rid of fear but to become aware and acknowledge the concern with no judgment. The goal is to increase your capacity to deal with it.
When fear, anxiety or dread overwhelm you, instead of doing something to try to feel better and make it go away — stay with it, ride it out until it goes away by itself. Just like gravity, it is neither good nor bad until we make a judgment. Just like physical pain, it is what it is. However, if we are thinking in our head about how bad it is, or when it will go away or if it will last forever, it gets worse. Check in with your feelings and sensations in your body and notice what you need. Think of anxiety as a traffic light and use it as a way to check in with yourself. Ask what do I need?
How do you inspire others? This is an invitation to reflect on your own life and notice how you make yourselves happy or not. How do you avoid comparing yourselves to others? How do you develop and sustain the capacity to have a feeling "I am enough?" How do you make others feel in your presence? How do you make others feel by your actions? Are you inclusive if someone is different? Or are you only inclusive if they have your same values and interests? Or are you only inclusive if they are apart of your family, friends, club or organization? Do you participate in thoughtful speech? Do you gossip about others? When there is a mistake do you look for a solution or blame? How do you create a win-win outcome for your family, friends, coworkers or colleagues? How do you model happiness and feelings of “I am enough.” How might you become curious and discover the possibility that mindfulness, lovingkindness, gratitude and feeling of love and joy in your heart might be instrumental in your life? Maybe you already have it. How might you realize and make a commitment to practice self-care, meditation, and mindfulness? How is it children model for us being in the present moment? They eat when they are hungry, sleep when they're tired, cry when they’re hurt, are connected to their bodies and will shake and tremble when they are afraid until an adult teaches them to stop. Children have the capacity to believe anything is possible.
I discovered meditation as a child, I just didn't know what it was called at the time. I still to this day look forward to a summer’s night to be delighted by fireflies. Play is a form of meditation.