How meditation can help you
Are you looking for contentment? Would you like to be happier? Would you like to sleep better? Would you like skills to untangle conflicting emotions in your life?
What if there was one skill that could do all of that? There is. It’s meditation.
These are just some of the benefits that have opened up for me from over three decades of meditation and mindfulness practice. One of the beautiful things is that meditation grows and deepens through your life. You can enjoy the highs and successes of life and you can learn to accept the down periods without having to run away. It’s a skill that continually refreshes, that continually inspires and is probably one of the most valuable skills that you can learn as an adult.
But, where to begin? Like any journey, it begins with a first step.
The starting point of all meditation and mindfulness is learning to be able to calm your mind. It’s this one skill that lets you disentangle from the inner storms or general restlessness that can pervade your life. There are times when your mind is well directed or focused – this is not the issue. The issue is about when you’re in the grip of emotion or can’t turn off a busy mind.
In those situations a very simple, but profound, thing has happened. You’ve become caught in a story or expectation about what should be happening, losing contact with what is happening. It sounds so simple as to be irrelevant.
Why not just drop the story or expectation? Here’s the issue, the story or expectation is a part of the very fabric of your life. You can’t ‘just drop it’. It would be like losing a part of yourself. To deal with this issue you need somewhere else to go. This is what meditation provides – a safe place where you can rest and let go of those stories. Behind the scenes, by learning to calm your mind you are building a skill in dropping those stories. When you drop those stories, you can rest in the abundant clarity and stillness of your senses. It’s a relief. It’s blissful. Like returning home after a long journey, your mind can finally return home to the here and now. This is the first step.
But calm is not the only thing that you need in life. As much as you can rest in the gentle bliss of a relaxed body and calm mind, you’ll still need to move at some time. There are still issues to be sorted. Decisions have to be made.
This is where another aspect of meditation opens up – accepting and working with the many thoughts, emotions and feelings that pervade your life. This is the mindfulness side of meditation.
On what do you base your decisions? What values are important in your life? Are there skilful ways to face fears in your life? What about your ambitions too – can these be accepted and integrated?
What I’ve found is that meditation can give a handhold while patiently working through the many facets of life. There’s no point in denying your hopes and ambitions to achieve some ‘higher plane’ of living. If a discipline is real, then it has to have the strength to deal with all of what life can throw at you. Meditation offers this.
If you take up a practice of meditation, you may find that it helps in many other areas. Contentment. Accepting all aspects of your psyche – what you like, what you dislike, everything. And from this a greater happiness arises. It’s not about chasing happiness, but rather getting on with what is needed and letting the happiness arise itself. Plus there are a few other side effects – better concentration, better focus and better sleep at night. Plus more, but perhaps better if you find out for yourself.
Are you ready to take the first step?