It has taken me nearly 32 years of living, but I’m finally coming to fully appreciate the importance of stillness. Just being. Doing nothing.
When I start class, students are invited to participate in a mindful breathing meditation. When I drive home from work now, the radio is turned off. I’ve even begun practicing a simple breathing exercise for 15 minutes a day.
So far, count me in as someone who believes in the power of mindfulness, which is covered in depth in this story from The Atlantic. For fifteen minutes every day, I lie down and pay attention to my breath. There are times when I’ve gotten restless and don’t quite reach 15 minutes. There are times when I have to gently redirect my thoughts to my breath hundreds of times (or so it seems that way). But more often than not, I feel refreshed, calm, and focused after the practice, even after a stressful day mentoring and teaching my 110 students.
The initial results of structuring this simple, but challenging, contemplative quiet in my life has been overwhelmingly positive: I’m sleeping better, generating more ideas, and feel less busy: for many of us, myself included at times, I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing thoughts of busyness manifest themselves as reality.
Think about the last time you felt like you had too much on your plate: to what extent were your emotions and thoughts causing feelings of being overwhelmed? Right now, maybe you’re skimming this blog post, wanting to read it carefully, but automatically triggered impatience or anxiety causes you to think about the e-mail you must compose. Or what happened yesterday in a frustrating meeting. Or what you’re going to cook for dinner.
While I do have dozens of items on my “to-do” list most days, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming when you’re truly tackling one thing at a time. Some days, I’m tempted to tell myself I don’t have time for this. But the truth is: if I’m able to be calm and focused with whatever I may be going, I’m more efficient. I’m less worried about what isn’t being done and more in tune with what I am engaged in.
It might seem trite, but the idea of being in the moment, aware of what’s going through your mind, is at the heart of being mindful. It’s certainly easier said than done. The practice is cognitive exercise; if I wanted to run a mini-marathon, it’d take weeks of training for me to simply be in a position to finish the race.
Liz Kulze concludes in The Atlantic: “The practice may have great potential, but its advocates are quick to note that it will only do for people as much as they decide to put into it…Like fitness of any sort, seeing benefit from meditation takes time, discipline, and dedication.”
Readers, do you have any experience with meditation? How’d it go? If not, are you intrigued?