Meditation for the Rest of Us

Meditation is good for me. I should meditate more. Clear my mind. Get in touch with my inner wisdom. Why can’t I sit still? My ankle is stiff. I should really start making dinner. Focus on the breath . . . .
Meditation has long been something I “should” do. I’ve read books, taken classes. I’ve wanted to be the kind of meditator that can sit still for an hour and think only of the rhythm of my breathing. Then, during a yoga class, it dawned on me. Who says mediation has to be sitting still in a quiet place until your legs go numb? And, my yoga teacher (who CAN sit still for hours, even days, with a quiet mind) confirmed it, mediation can take many forms. Yoga is a form of meditation, so is Thai Chi, gardening, walking – these can all be meditative.

The real goal is to find whatever kind of quiet mental space YOU can, to tap into your “inner wisdom”, that little voice, that “gut” feeling that helps you choose. You might only find 30 seconds while you’re waiting at a stop light or five minutes while you’re folding laundry. But you CAN find the time and space for a little peace.

Why bother? A friend of mine just returned to the U.S. for a visit after several months overseas. He said the most striking thing about his visit home was how “stimulating” everything was. The T.V.’s always on, the radio’s always on, there are always advertisements, everyone drives fast, walks while texting, talks while texting, talks while driving . . . . Our brains are so busy sorting out all this sensory stimulation, figuring out what’s important, testing our flight-or-fight response, that we feel stressed, tired and out of touch with our bodies.

Sure, there are loads of medical studies that show how people that meditate reduce their blood pressure, heal faster, are less stressed, are happier, etc. But you don’t have to be sick or almost sick to benefit from a little peace and quiet. And getting a little time-off for your brain doesn’t have to mean carving an hour out of your day. Try some of these tricks.

  1. DON’T Multitask. JUST cut up the vegetables. JUST talk to your friend on the phone. JUST drive, no radio, no phone.
  2. Turn off the T.V. or whatever “white noise” you have on.
  3. Focus on your breath — how you breathe in, and out – whenever you’re stopped at a stop light, come to a train station, wait to cross a street, or stand in line.
  4. Try “moving meditation” like yoga, martial arts, gardening, walking – these activities allow you to move your body and rest your mind.

Your efforts might only add up to 10 minutes of “meditation” a day but it will feel like you’ve created a wealth of space and time in your mind.