On a recent Thursday evening, in a downtown loft space, 250 New Yorkers listened to the sound of their own breathing.
As part of a private showing of ON MEDITATION, a potent documentary film which I'm executive producing, I led a post-screening meditation. It was a profound few minutes, and for many, their very first experience of meditation. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio (featured in our film) sees meditation as the "Quiet Revolution" -- from a young age, he felt that there should be time set aside for quiet, contemplative listening, unrelated to religion or creed. Meditation is transforming our culture, one breath at a time.
To me, meditation is when I'm seeing most clearly. It's my time to release back into myself, to feel the impressions of my recent actions, and dream the future into clearer focus. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, meditation brings me back to my confidence, breath by breath.
Many people think you have to be in a temple or yoga class to meditate "properly," but there is no right way. We can do it right where we are. We simply sit still and listen. Congressman Ryan meditates in his office on Capitol Hill. Actor Giancarlo Esposito (also featured in On Meditation) meditates every day, especially when on location. Sometimes my meditation happens in my son's room, surrounded by his toys after he's fallen asleep. The locale is of no consequence; it's the intent to be quiet and receptive that matters.
As we've learned that our bodies need some form of exercise to feel more spacious and well, Congressman Ryan sees the meditation as a form of mind fitness training, becoming more widely known as the way to keep ourselves mentally and even emotionally fit.
It's time for us to become familiar with even the briefest and simplest of these practices, for children and parents across the globe to take time for meditation, as routine as brushing our teeth. Employers are beginning to carve out time for employees to connect with themselves, in order to help them release stress and be more clear -- with colleagues, clients, their own goals and collective intentions. I spend just a few minutes each day, sitting or even laying down quietly, with a timer set to three, 11 or sometimes 22 minutes. I spend that time listening, softening, and being quiet internally, as best I can. Even when it stirs me up inside and I spend the entire time watching that little maelstrom, the awareness of it all shows me where I'm stuck with compassion and clarity, qualities that most employers value highly.
Often I'm asked how to get our kids to sit. My son (now six) sees me meditate, hears me talk about it, and has sometimes even joined in. I've learned not to force it. Teaching our kids about meditation is like teaching them how to eat healthy food: now that he's watched me eat veggies and quinoa consistently all his life, he's begun asking me to taste it, and he's found that he loves it. So it will be with meditation, or anything we ourselves do with consistency -- if we do it, don't push it, and lead by example, it will happen. It's been a huge privilege to watch my son entertain his own practice simply because it's always around his home.
Now in progress, our film is a series of short portraits, featuring real-life meditators discussing their reasons and practices in an elegant, accessible way: Peter Matthiessen, award-winning author of The Snow Leopard, actor Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad, Congressman Ryan, yours truly, and others to come. Our aim is to demystify this ancient practice, and to make it more available to the world.
May thousands of homes, schools and workplaces of all kinds, hospitals, prisons, residences for senior citizens, and homes for the disabled begin to implement this simple healing practice.
Join the Quiet Revolution. Meditate.
For more by Elena Brower, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.