I’m sure we’ve all heard of meditation. Maybe you’ve tried it once or twice. Or maybe you go through cycles of meditating, but it’s hard to commit to it. That mind chatter that happens is really hard to quiet down, after all. Probably some people just aren’t good at it, right? Why is it so important to meditate?
First off, I want to say that it is challenging to still our minds, because thinking is what we do. We live in a society that prizes intellect and activity over awareness and calm. Many of us were also raised in families that equate productivity in the world with self-worth. So trying to stop ourselves from that normal busy-ness to sit quietly may seem counterintuitive. Especially when we find ourselves fighting our thoughts when we try it. This is all part of why it is so important that we do it!
What we are essentially doing when we meditate is training our minds. Rational thinking often runs our lives. But the brain is a magnificent machine, capable of so much more. As quantum physics is proving, we create our realities by our thoughts. They are powerful. But how often do we focus on fearful thinking? If we allow our minds to go to the dark place, they most certainly will do that. And what we think about is what we draw to us, which is often what we don’t want. With meditation we are telling our minds that the observer self is in control, not the mind. The observer is the real self within our bodies that notices what the body feels, that recognizes our emotions, that is conscious of the thoughts inside our heads, all the while watching us react to life. This is the wise self that is informed by intuition, and that is naturally connected with the universe. When we decide to reign in our minds and sit quietly with our selves, we are tuning into our natural wisdom that we can only hear in stillness. This is where we connect with our own heart.
From this place, we begin to learn who we really are from the depths of our innermost souls. Our deepest thoughts and emotions, our authentic power, true nature and unconditional love all reside here in this place. Here we can step back from the world, from our conditioning, from the noisy critic inside our heads, from worries and from everyone else’s opinions. It is an amazing process of finding awareness of what our true thoughts and emotions are under all of the noise of daily life, and it is a powerful tool to cultivate self-love and acceptance. If we visit this place regularly, we start to recognize this observer self as the authority that naturally knows what is best for us and loves us without condition. We can become our own best friend!
I personally began meditating at a time in my life when I was in chaos, overwhelmed by family needs and long-term illness. I had reached a point where it was clear that I was heading quickly toward a nervous breakdown, and I realized that I had to do something to save myself, if not for me, then for my family. So one morning I woke up early, grabbed my ipod and headed to a room downstairs. I turned off the lights and laid down on the floor, turned on some meditation music and tried to stop thinking. It didn’t work very well. That first fifteen minute meditation, (if one could call it that), was long and difficult. Gratefully, I got up and proceeded on with my day, thinking that meditation might not work for me. Ironically, what I had learned from the experience was that I had all kinds of things to think about!
Despite the lack of success, it made me feel better that I tried, and I went back to it again the next day, and the next.
It struck me as odd that, even though it was a constant challenge to clear my mind, there was a strange sense of comfort in being there by myself, and of spending the time for no one else but me. I felt for the first time that I was really taking care of myself. Not in the way that fighting illness required...but in a way that seemed to nurture my heart. I was finally caring enough about my own pain and sanity to listen.
I came to depend on this quality time with my self. It somehow helped me feel more calm and stable, even in those earliest months of struggling, and if I missed meditating, I felt noticeably more reactive, anxious or irritable during the day. The difference made it worth continuing.
I’ll admit that it probably took me six months to experience moments of the deep peace that eventually happens when the mind gets suddenly quiet. When that first happened, it felt like a deep rest unlike anything I’d ever felt previously that fortified my whole being. I began to see changes happening in my awareness, and growth in my intuitive gifts. And that encouraged me further to continue the work.
Now, years later, meditation is much less of a struggle, though there are still days when my thoughts get the best of me. But it is the practice of meeting myself there in that solitary space that anchors me no matter what is happening in my life. I have discovered that, when I enter my meditation space, it’s like coming home to a beloved sanctuary. I can feel the peace, waiting there for me to leave behind the thoughts and concerns I carry. Some days I feel resistant to meditating, and I’ve found that those are the times I most benefit from doing the work.
Meditation is the best thing any of us can do for ourselves. It takes courage to tell the mind who is really in control, and commitment to eventually develop a practice, but it is worth every bit of time and effort. This is a beautiful opportunity to meet yourself where you are in this moment, just as you are.