There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation: what it is and what it’s for. Meditation doesn’t mean sitting with your legs twisted in a painful pretzel and voiding your mind of any and all thoughts. Nor does it mean you have to be bearded and barefooted, sitting in your tie dye Volkswagen Bus, trying to find inner peace, man. It’s about mindfulness, being aware of what is going on in the present moment. This could mean sitting still and focusing on your breathing or just noticing how running water feels on your fingertips. You’re still allowed to think (it’d be actual torture if you weren’t) but you have to stay placid. Noticing your thoughts and understanding how to handle them is the goal. It’s not easy, but I think that’s the point.
I’ve heard of many scientific studies on the benefits of mindfulness but I thought it was just a few hippie scientists trying to justify their hippie ways. Many feel this way as well; however, meditating is genuinely good for you. Science has proven that meditation helps with lowering levels of stress hormones, reducing blood pressure, and boosting the immune system. It can also assuage symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and cognitive decline due to age. Of course, there won’t be results right away. Like anything, true progress takes time. In the beginning especially, it’s easy to get frustrated as your mind wanders away from meditating but, that’s only natural. Given time and patience, you’ll be reaping the benefits of your new-found mindfulness and self-awareness.
You don’t have to have a conventional way of meditating to get the full experience and benefits. I think it’s easiest to just take a minute every once in a while, when things are getting hectic, and pay attention to something small. For me, it’s normally my breathing or feeling how my weight presses down into the floor or my chair. When your thoughts do wander, which happens all too often, recognize your thoughts and pull your focus back to what you’re doing. Keep your mind on what’s happening around you in that very moment rather than worrying about everything else. The peace you feel as your mind and body get a chance to truly relax is invigorating.
There’s not always going to be time to sit down and listen to a 10 minute session to guide you; sometimes, you’ll have to be on your own. That can seem kind of scary but I think that’s the beauty of meditation. You can do whatever makes you the most comfortable and still come out feeling great. So, embrace your inner hippie and be here now, see where it takes you.