So, now we have this hypothetical scenario that walks you through some of the What’s and How’s of Meditation practices. We’ve gone over some nice simple steps that demystified the process a bit and should get us moving in the right direction. Let’s take a moment to reflect and maybe even pat ourselves on the back before we really step back and address the horrifying complexities that lurk behind the final question: WHY should I meditate?
Well, the simple answer here is Health Benefits. The American Heart Association suggests that the regular practice of Meditation lowers your resting heart rate, causing less wear and tear on your heart and circulatory system, which reduces your risk of Heart Attack and Stroke.
And remember all that muscle pain you’ve been having? Well, meditation can help you with Neck and Back Pain as well! The list goes on, and I’m sure we’ll discuss more of these potential benefits in the future.
But the key word in that sentence is potential. I could talk your ear off (or is it “type your eyes off?”) about what meditation could potentially do for your body, mind and spirit. It’s up to you to figure out what you need to get from practicing meditation regularly. And the best way to do that comes through- you guessed it- non-judgmental awareness.
Let’s go back to our 5 minutes a day commitment. We’ve set aside a very small amount of time to meditate and practice non-judgmental awareness. What we’re doing with this process is learning to listen to our bodies and minds to cut through the noise of everyday life. During the hypothetical meditation session we created last week, we ran into a couple examples of some of that noise and learned to label it. In addition to the literal noise of the outside world (the truck zooming by) and the figurative noise that takes place inside your head (crazy old Uncle Bud and his misspelled memes), there will also be physical signals that you will pick up on- mostly in the form of pain and discomfort. If you take note of where these signals are coming from, you will be able to address the root of the problem. For example, if your knee hurts when you sit on your meditation cushion, that means you may need to adjust your physical position, or do some stretching. If your heart is racing, that could be a sign of stress, or it could mean that you have some lifestyle adjustments to make- is there anything you could be doing to improve your diet, your exercise regimen, or your work life? Make note of that, and think of some simple, actionable ways that you can address the issue.
So, while practicing meditation for five minutes a day can certainly help you to improve your mental and physical health, it’s more important that we look at the self-knowledge that you gain as being its own reward. Western thought is full of classes, certifications, distinctions and “goals” that suggest that everything is a skill to be quantified and mastered. We are taught to believe that there are specific benchmarks that indicate our value as human beings. Meditation puts us on a path towards transcending these limited and often severely unhealthful attitudes, and realizing that life is a journey unto itself. And, perhaps ironically, it’s through letting go of our “goal” oriented attitudes that we can find the health, contentment and sense of well being with our bodies, personal relationships and even careers.
Oh, and if after all that’s said and done, you find yourself still looking for a “goal?” Starting next week, try meditating for Six Minutes instead of Five!