By definition, the intransitive verb “meditate” means “to engage in contemplation or reflection,” or “to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
For most of us, the word “mediation” conjures images of chanting yogis, sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed and practically levitating with that “higher consciousness” thing that yoga and meditation are rumored to invoke. While the thought of actually making time to do, well, nothing, is preposterous to most of us, it might just be the key to our ailments.
Anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, ADHD, high blood pressure – all of these “disorders” amplify a very neglected necessity: The need to focus, slow down, and surrender to the simultaneous simplicity and enormity of the present. And yet, as a society, “presence” holds no value. It’s at the bottom of our priority list. And we wonder why we’re restless.
Mediation requires complete presence, focus, and commitment. But don’t let that deter you. It’s more accessible and comes in more varied forms than most of us realize. Listening to music. Walking through nature. Both are good starting points. You need to train your brain to really hear the notes playing, or discipline your mind to see the leaves, the squirrels, the ground beneath your feet in a meaningful way. As the say goes, be here now.
I’ve recently taken to reading before bed as an aid for sleeping. The other night, I found myself too exhausted to even hold the book. Rather than purposefully setting it down to put myself to bed, I set it down and just laid there. No music, no phone, no book. I just let my mind reflect and drift, with no intention of doing anything (including sleep). I just wanted to be. I woke up an hour later, the light on, and my book still open. My brain felt better, and I felt a sense of relaxation that’s become alien to me. Through the act of allowing myself to do nothing, an exquisite stillness washed over me.
Guided meditation is another avenue that works quite well. It takes all of the work or pressure out of attempting it on our own. We can give ourselves over to the trance-like state even more willingly when we feel like we’re simply following instructions. It’s like a Union break for our brains, which, like a typical Union break, allows us to connect with our fellow workers and shoot the shit about what’s really on our minds. In this instance, our fellow workers translates to our higher consciousness; that gut instinct we so often drown out with noise and busy-ness.
Peace comes from within rather than without. The road to fulfillment is one that leads inwards rather than away. Meditation may be the road less traveled for you, but as anxiety, depression, lethargy begin to slip away, the contentment and presence that takes their place as a result could become the reason your family members remain alive this holiday season.