Do you meditate?
I don’t really, but I have been sorta of trying. It seems like every article or blog I read lately has something about meditating and how much it benefits your life.
Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress and lifestyle guru always has something “new age” on her site GOOP. This is from her New Years Resolution to start meditating post and this excerpt is from Mark Epstein, MD the author of a number of books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy.
“Meditation, as taught by the Buddha, was a means of taming the mind by bringing the entire range of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations into awareness, making the unconscious conscious. There were already various forms of meditation widely practiced in the Buddha’s day but they were all techniques of concentration. Buddha mastered each of them but still felt uneasy. It was fine to rest the mind on a single object: a sound (or mantra), a sensation (the breath), an image (a candle flame), a feeling (love or compassion), or an idea. This gave strength to the mind, a feeling of stability, of peace and tranquility, a sense of what Freud came to call the ‘oceanic feeling’. While this could be relaxing, it did not do enough to change the mind’s complexion. Buddha was after something more.”
Another blog I enjoy, Zenhabits, also had an article recently on “The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life”
“I’ll save you the suspense: it’s two-minute meditation. And it’s extremely simple: take two minutes out of your extremely busy day (cat videos) to sit still and focus on your breath. Just keep the gentle fingertip of your attention on your breath as it comes into your body, and then goes out. When your mind wanders, take note of that, but then gently come back to the breath.“
Almost all of the articles tout the ease as well as the difficulty of meditation, but how much better, uncluttered, relaxed, zen, etc, etc you will feel. And, if you practice often enough it will become a tool you can invoke at anytime.
Another article by Dan Hurley in the New York Times Magazine that had a section that took me a bit by surprise, it includes the work of psychologist Amishi Jha’s with the U.S. military, helping solders learn to meditate to better their performance in combat situations. An excerpt from the article;
“We found that getting as little as 12 minutes of meditation practice a day helped the Marines to keep their attention and working memory — that is, the added ability to pay attention over time — stable,” said Jha, director of the University of Miami’s Contemplative Neuroscience, Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. “If they practiced less than 12 minutes or not at all, they degraded in their functioning.”
So much for new age, hippy dippy make yourself and the world more relaxed. The article also talks about some of the down sides of too much mindfulness; that it can inhibit your creativity and stifle your ability to let your mind wander to the benefit of your life. But the final paragraph from the article sums up the “sacrilege” versus using new tools to be better at what ever you do in life.
“After meditating upon such sacrilegious findings, no doubt the Buddha, who taught a middle way between worldly and spiritual concerns, would have agreed that there is a time for using mindfulness to discover inner truths, a time for using it to survive a battle or an exam and a time to let go of mindfulness so that the mind may wander the universe.”
I am generally a skeptic, but I have been so stressed out by almost every aspect of my life lately that a hint of desperation is setting in, I am going to give this a try in earnest. Beginning today, I am going to meditate everyday for at least 2 minutes. I will follow-up on my experience and progress or in my case probable ineptitude in some upcoming posts. namaste.
Do you meditate or practice mindfulness? How does it improve your life or maybe the lives of those around you?