“A mind that is fast is sick. A mind that is slow is sound. A mind that is still is divine.” –Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master
Recently, meditation has become more mainstream. Although seemingly mysterious and boring at the same time, to many people zooming around in our fast-paced society meditation has become more of a refuge from the stresses and anxieties that accompany life in the fast lane. AU students understand the stress and drudgery of difficult University courses mixed with financial burdens and living expenses. Pile on relationship, family, and work obligations, and stress levels can increase to dangerous levels.
Beginning a meditation practice is as simple as sitting or lying comfortably in a quiet room, breathing deeply, and letting your thoughts drift by without emotional reaction. It sounds simple, but for people who have never practiced, it can be very challenging. Some of these challenges include drowsiness, distracting thoughts, resistance to the moment, and feelings of boredom or discouragement—that you’re simply not “doing it right”.
Reading about meditation can support your journey by putting your mind at ease—there is no wrong way of doing it. Books abound with good information on the principles and purposes of meditation by world leaders in the movement. Following is a list of superb ones to start:
- Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn; preface by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, Ph.D.
- Meditation Now or Never by Steve Hagen
- The Healing Power of Meditation edited by Andy Fraser
- The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
Often it helps to have something to focus your attention on, such as a burning candle, fireplace, a bouquet of flowers, or soothing music playing softly in the background. The scent of burning incense instantly puts me into relaxation mode. A favourite place in nature is also ideal for meditation. Whatever ritual assists you in stilling your mind, just do it, even if it involves crawling under a pile of warm blankets with a soft pillow.
Despite the challenge of finding a good meditation class nearby, the world-wide web opens endless choices from the comfort of your own home. YouTube videos and apps can be downloaded onto your handheld devices. For anyone intimidated by meditating in front of a group of strangers, this is a lifesaver. Now you can fall blissfully asleep without fear of snoring, or worse, off-gassing, in front of a class! I can testify to how distracting it is trying to avoid laughing when fellow meditators begin snoring loudly in the middle of a silent meditation class. But what if you do fall asleep in the midst of meditating? As a perpetual sufferer of insomnia, I am eternally grateful for the relaxing and centering benefits of meditation that have vastly improved my sleep patterns in the last four years, in addition to calming my anxieties. I label these “Meditation Naps,” guilt-free.
The more highly rated meditation apps include:
- Insight Timer
Many of these apps are free. A few can be customized with music or sounds of nature to suit your taste.
Meditation is quickly becoming a healthy coping mechanism for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Why not challenge your mind to give it a try for one month, even if for only five minutes a day (although I’ve found 20-30 to be the most effective.) Meditation could become the best habit you ever formed in 2018. Cheers to your mental health and wellness!