I spent the last week down at Virginia Beach and Jekyll Island, Ga. with my family and had an absolute BLAST! The first two days I got-up around 5:30 a.m. and simply sat on the beach meditating with and without my new found mala (prayer/meditation) beads. The sounds of the crashing waves and hungry seagulls allowed me to slip into such a peaceful state that lasted the entire vacation.
As you already know, it’s not easy to control your mind. It’s like a balloon in the wind–blown here and there by external circumstances. When things go well, your mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind and become less tethered to the fluctuations of our moods that rise and fall as the result of external situations. We are like my daughter Landon building a sandcastle who is very excited when she makes the first turret, but becomes upset when it is destroyed by the incoming tide or others on the beach making their way to the ocean. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the tides of life or others trampling on our dreams. Gradually, we will develop a mental equilibrium of a balanced mind that is happy, rather than an unbalanced mind that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency.
Meditation is the art of silencing your mind. When the mind is silent, concentration is increased, and we experience inner peace in the midst of worldly turmoil. This elusive inner peace is what attracts so many people to meditation and is a quality everyone can benefit from. If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that cause our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace.
The one challenge that everyone faces when beginning to meditate is simply giving up. Silencing your mind will not be an easy task, but don’t give up. We’ve all grown so accustomed to the chaos and useless chatter that clutters our mind, that any attempt to achieve mental tranquility will seem foreign. If you tell yourself you’re going to meditate for 15-20 minutes then that is what you should do. Don’t become frustrated when thoughts run through your mind. Don‘t sweat it when you begin to notice strange sounds in your house that you’ve never heard before. Your greatest initial success will come from not quitting. It is on the back of this triumph that you will continue to make the healthy lifestyle strides that you’ve never even imagined. Don’t quit!!! And before you know it, you’ll be meditating.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
I try to meditate several times a week for at least 15-20 minutes and truly enjoy it. It may seem strange, but I feel happiest when sitting in perfect silence. The experience is difficult to express in words but is akin to the “peace that passeth all understanding.” It is also true that every meditation is not the same. Sometimes it is a struggle to control the mind, while at other times it feels effortless. Although this section will focus on the more traditional form of meditation, I’ve also come to discover that running, working in the lawn and pruning the rose bushes are also valuable forms of meditation. How do you meditate?
These are some of the benefits of meditation:
Ø Improved Concentration – A clear mind makes us more productive, especially in creative disciplines like writing.
Ø Less Sweating the Little Things – Do you sometimes allow yourself to get upset by little things? It is the nature of the mind to magnify small things into serious problems. Meditation helps us detach. Eventually we’ll learn to live in the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future. We will not worry about meaningless things, but see the bigger picture.
Ø Improved Health – There have been numerous studies pointing to the health benefits of meditation. The reason is that meditation reduces stress levels and alleviates anxiety. Stress is often at the center of many of our emotional and health issues.
Ø Knowledge of Self – Meditation enables us to have a deeper understanding of our inner self. Through meditation we can gain a better understanding of our life’s purpose.
The great thing about meditation is that our philosophy/religious belief is not important. Meditation is about consciousness. The beliefs of the mind become trivial. We dive deep into the heart of the matter to gain access to our soul–our inner reality. Therefore, meditation is practiced by people of different religions or no religion. This is the one thing that I truly appreciate about Buddhism. In fact, I truly believe that Jesus was a Buddhist in practice, but reject all the highly speculative Internet rumors that He traveled to India during the “Lost Years” from age 12-30.
Don’t Have Time to Meditate?
Many people like the idea of meditation, but feel they don’t have enough time. When we really want to do something, we can find time. Get up earlier or watch 30 fewer minutes of TV. Meditation requires an investment of time, but clearing the mind makes the rest of the day more productive. Nothing is better than the feeling of inner peace. What is the point in being tremendously busy but unable to enjoy it? Meditation is not about retreating from the world; it gives us inspiration. Whatever we do, if we have peace of mind, our work will be more enjoyable and productive. Remember, time is really all we have. It’s solely up to you to decide how you will use it.
How to Meditate
Like anything worthwhile, meditation requires practice. To get the most from meditation you need to do it daily. This requires a place and time where you will not be disturbed.
1. Sit with a straight back. Don’t try to meditate lying down because you are likely to fall asleep. Meditation brings relaxation and peace, but at the same time this is a dynamic peace. Meditation is quite different than the relaxation of sleep. When you really meditate, you are fully alert and conscious. Your sense of awareness is heightened. Afterwards you may have a positive feeling for the world and a renewed sense of dynamism (a theory that all phenomena can be explained as manifestations of force).
2. Don’t eat before meditating. After a heavy meal your body will be lethargic with digestion and this could make you sleepy instead of alert.
3. It is not necessary to meditate in the lotus posture. It is fine to meditate in a chair, as long as the back is straight.
4. Since there’s nothing more relaxing than a nice hot shower, it may be helpful to take one just prior to meditating.
5. Despite what you may have seen in the television series Kung Fu, burning incense and having a candle are not necessary, but they can add a little extra inspiration.
6. It is good to meditate early in the morning to set the pace for the remainder of your day. Like exercise, it’s better that you fit the 15-20 minutes into your day whenever you can accomplish steps 1-5.
About the Author: James Hackley earned a B.S. degree in Physics from Longwood College and an M.S. degree in Engineering from the University of Virginia. He's the founder of Omega Consulting Enterprises, chaplain of a local chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and faithfully attends Holy & Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne, Va. His latest book, Body, Mind & Spirit: The Awakening can be purchased by visiting him at www.jameshackley.com , www.Amazon.com, and http://www.barnesandnoble.com.