There are many good reasons to meditate, but I have to admit that there’s always a little ego that comes up when I think about having my own meditation practice. I think of the anecdote of the researcher who monitored the brain waves of “experts” in different meditation practices. Once these people were in a meditative state, the researcher would make some sort of sound, (I imagine the obnoxious clang of pot lid on pan) and then see what happened to the brain waves. The Zen monk’s brain waves would fluctuate, noticing the noise, and then the waves would settle in again. The second meditation expert, maybe a Buddhist, had a quiet awareness of what was going on around her, but stayed in the low brain-activity state. The yogi’s waves flat-lined and stayed that way through any clanging. It’s just bad ass, right? Having that kind of intense focus and control is so cool. Even if you can appreciate the metaphor of being aware of what is going on around you and noticing but not reacting, like the Zen monk, the flat-lining yogi has the hook.
I’ll tell you, the glamour of the bad ass meditating yogi really isn’t the thing that can keep my meditation practice going. I haven’t gotten anywhere near one-pointed focus in my month of practice. Honestly, I think I’ve only been able to quiet all the mental chatter and hone in on the breath for a second or two at a time. The payoff doesn’t happen very quickly and there isn’t some researcher showing me a printout of my brainwaves. I have to notice the subtle changes, or I just have to keep going because I think I’ll start to notice the changes. Meditation is one of those things you begin and then stick with so that you can slowly improve the quality of your life. Focus improves, stress has less power over you because it is balanced by stillness of mind and body and the practice develops patience.
Here are a few hints for beginning a daily meditation practice:
-sit at the same time every day
-find a place with few visual distractions
-start with only a few minutes of meditation and add on as you are ready (a timer can be helpful)
-focus on your breath
In my month of meditation, I have noticed some changes in my ability to focus and in my level of patience. I look forward to having a quiet moment at the start of my day. I like to breathe. Even if I’m not instantly finding complete stillness of the brainwaves, I am beginning to appreciate the practice.