I am a stress expert and one cannot work in that field without learning about the power of meditation. Meditation is ultimately about attaining inner peace, which, of course, is the opposite of stress. Meditation provides a way of becoming more and more aware of the mental negativity that produces a stressful life, and to learn how to transcend it before it sends mind and brain into an uproar, making trouble for health, career, and family life. I took up a traditional approach to meditating. I simply close my eyes and observe my thoughts and the way they often stir-up upsetting emotions and misperceptions, jumbling into a hapless state of confusion. Sometimes it was like wandering through a bad neighborhood, trying to find the way to the other side of the tracks, getting more and more lost.
I didn’t like meditation at first; how could I when it felt like that? But I stuck with it because the brain research on the power of meditation to achieve health, success, and happiness is too compelling to ignore. And, happily, somewhere along the line my meditation began to improve, opening to an expansive experience. I found it possible to drop below all the disjointed thinking, slipping past the emotions and perceptions my thinking produced to reach a deeper, quieter, and spacious place within. It was like the door of a windowless room opening wide to the beauty of nature. This experience was there the next day and the day after that until it was always available for the choosing. I realized that beauty had always been there. I just hadn’t seen it because I had been back into a corner of that windowless room, not by people or events, but at the hand of my own incessantly stressful thoughts. I think this change I experienced was captured by the great Sufi poet Rumi, who wrote, “Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I will meet you there.” The “right and wrong” the poem alludes to is not morality, but the judgmental and sometimes condemning way we relate to ourselves, to people and events, and how other people related to us in the past, all of which leaves us feeling disconnected. Meditation is about transcending all that and reconnecting to ourselves by spending some time each day in that kinder, quieter place within, until it becomes our way of being.
Gradually, as I meditated I sensed the presence of what I imagined to be God sitting across from me, and I would feel my heart awaken. It was a sudden flash of happiness and wonder at being loved by Love itself. Then one day, I came to the recognition that God, or the Tao, or the presence of something greater than myself, or whatever I felt was there sitting across from me was not sitting “over there”. He, she or it was actually within me, emanating from me as me, shining through me out into the world. It took me a while to get used to the experience because it weakened my egotistical self, which scared me a little and had me grabbing onto the rail. But it was no problem. It was elevating. I came to see: no self, no problem.
If you’re interested in trying to develop a meditation practice, click here for the 7-minute meditation. It can help get you started. It offers a simple practice of becoming more and more aware of the way thoughts turn into emotions that produce expectations that shape the reality you experience. Get past the stress of a fear-conditioned mind and your experience will change, changing your reality. You can practice just seven minutes, or extend it to 15 minutes, or more. Even a little meditation done consistently goes a long way. It is the quality of your inner experience that matters, not necessarily the quantity of time you devote. Change your experience through a change of mindset and you literally stimulate neural circuits that instill more joy in your work, more peace in your day, more harmony in your relationships, and more spring in your step. The seven-minute meditation is only one form of practice. Prayer is another. Walking under the trees is as good as sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, if it is done mindfully. So is gardening, cooking, staring out the window at the new day as you drink a cup of coffee. Even sitting out on the porch at the end of the day is meditation when it is about letting the day go and allowing peace of mind to arise.
30-Second Brain Break (for work)
There is another meditation you can use at work, called the 30-second brain break. It quiets the mind and helps refuel the brain. Practice taking a brain break two or three times a day and you will be surprised at how it can improve your mood, your energy, and your performance. Do this especially before going home at the end of the day. It will ensure that the person coming through the door that night is the one the family is hoping to see.