Feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Need some mental clarity to aid in your decision making? Do you need to chill the heck out? Well, there is a great practice to help with all that! Meditation is amazing for getting you out of a state of overwhelm or a stressed out mental space. No voodoo or even a religious component required. This practice is simple and effective for anyone! That’s not all, it can help you tap into that complex mind of yours so you can function and thrive as you are meant to be!
Still not convinced? I get it. Telling someone who already feels there aren’t enough hours in the day that they should spend time sitting motionless, eyes closed, in silence can be a pretty tough sell. But that’s exactly what I would advise anyone feeling busy and overwhelmed to do.
Before I get to what meditation is, and why it’s so damn effective, lets bust a few myths and talk about what meditation isn’t. It isn’t the sole domain of Tibetan monks or new-age hippies. It isn’t a waste of time. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it isn’t about stopping yourself from thinking.
Wait, what? Back up. Isn’t meditation the act of clearing your mind? Well, yes and no.
Look at it like this: One of your brain’s main functions is to think. That is its natural state and left to its own devices, that’s exactly what it will do — 24/7. You can’t expect your brain not to think, any more than you can expect your lungs not to breathe, your eyes not to see, or your heart not to beat. In fact, the subtle misunderstanding that meditation is about shutting down your thoughts is perhaps the main reason many people struggle with it at first. When you begin consciously and forcibly attempting not to think, you can create for yourself a lot of frustration — the exact opposite of what any meditator is attempting to achieve!
Maybe meditation can be best described as the art of knowing. You know your brain is going to think. So, you let it get on with it from this position of knowledge. In doing so, you become the observer of your thoughts. Through meditation, you can give your conscious mind something simple and repetitive to focus on, such as your breathing or a mantra (simply, a repeated word or phrase, preferably with no preordained meaning) and, with practice, you will find that over the course of your meditation, your subconscious mind will follow until you reach a state of peace, calm and stillness, often referred to as pure consciousness.
Whoa. Getting a little deep, there, Gareth. Not really. We all at our core exist in a state of pure consciousness, where there is no thought, only being. Or, to look at it another way, there is always a part of our mind that is at peace. Sure, we generally have a lot of words and thoughts racing across the canvas of our consciousness, but isn’t there always space between those words and thoughts, no matter how brief and fleeting?
A history of anxiety and racing thoughts put me on the path to meditation a number of years ago. I trained in Transcendental Meditation (TM) — a popular type of mantra meditation — and later became a certified teacher of a similar meditation technique, called Transformation Meditation. The results have been spectacular and I now have a go-to, wholly natural, completely drug-free way to avoid a mindset of anxiety and panic.
I believe in mantra meditation, but there are many ways to meditate. You may find a simple guided meditation a good way to start, before delving deeper to find an approach to the practice that works best for you.
Why don’t you try my short guided meditation below to set you on your way? I hope it will be the beginning of your meditation journey, and that meditation will bring about the kinds of amazing life-enhancing effects it has given to me.