With Guest Writer, Paul Robinson, LAc
Nearly all people have the desire to reduce stress and increase happiness in their life. In fact, this global desire has fostered a meditation and mindfulness industry that, “in 2015… raked in nearly $1 billion, according to research by IBISWorld…” (www.fortune.com ). Employer’s are hiring meditation instructors to teach their employees, mindfulness retreats are replacing vacation time-shares, meditation app downloads are in the millions, and the word Zen now refers to a person’s state of coolness.
These facts and trends couldn’t make me happier. In my own experience, meditation has been the single most effective tool in helping me attain higher levels of health and happiness, though I must share the truth that I and so many others have experienced on the meditation journey.
Meditation ain’t easy, and it takes time and patience for it to work.
It took nine years of regular meditation practice before slowly realizing the happiness I was seeking was within me the entire time. I just had to learn to let my mind quiet down and my body relax to feel this happiness.
What does it mean to quiet your mind and relax your body?
Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert in 1931, is an American spiritual teacher now living on the island of Maui. He spent decades teaching people Eastern philosophies, meditation, and has been pivotal in closing the spiritual gap between western and eastern spiritual cultures. Like most teachers of these traditions he conveyed deep insights in story-form. One of my favorite stories is about relaxing at home and taking a bath. [paraphrased from podcast Ram Dass Here and Now]
This silly story is a good reminder of how hard it is to quiet the mind and relax the body long enough to enjoy what is right there in front of us, just as it is. This state of mind doesn’t come naturally for most of us and is exactly what meditation cultivates: presence, patience, and acceptance. A powerful trio indeed.
My encouragement to all of those just beginning meditation or ready to give it up because it isn’t working fast enough is to keep practicing. You might have moments where you feel your heart racing, your mind exploding with thoughts, and that you are truly, truly going insane; it’s okay, just hang on and enjoy the ride. Take comfort in the fact you are simply sitting with your eyes closed, breathing deeply, and that your world can’t actually end in this moment even though it might feel that way.
It is true that when one is first learning how to meditate it is very helpful to have an instructor. I began with a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand. Why? Because I like to make things really hard for myself, but you don’t have to be like me. Consult with your complimentary healthcare practitioner to learn the best meditation resources in your area.
In the meantime, take a seat in a quiet room, close your eyes, take nine deep relaxing breaths, and smile. You have nothing to do or solve in this moment, just be right here. No matter where you are on your meditation journey, just sitting and practicing presence and acceptance is sure to bring some peace and calm to your state of mind.
Meditation Is Now a Billion-Dollar Business, Thanks to the Fortune 500 | fortune.com. http://fortune.com/2016/03/12/meditation-mindfulness-apps/. Date published March 14th, 2016. Date accessed July 1st, 2017.
Ram Dass. “Reality of Who We are.” Audio Podcast. Ram Dass Here and Now.