We go through our days checking off to-do lists, accomplishing and achieving, but we all know we also need days off and vacations. Meditation is like a daily “day off,” a gift we give ourselves that becomes a gift we give others .
If you put dirt in a jar full of water and cover and shake the jar, the water becomes cloudy. Put the jar on a table and let it rest: the dirt settles to the bottom, and the water becomes clear again. A daily meditation practice gives much the same kind of rest to both our minds and bodies.
This rest is different from what we get when sleeping. In meditation, we sit upright, and, although we’re “doing nothing,” we remain aware of what we’re meditating on, which, for me, and many others, is usually the body and especially the breath.
What happens in meditation isn’t exactly like what happens with the jar of water. Clarity of mind occurs for a few moments but rarely persists. Thoughts come streaming back, and that’s perfectly normal. If we let those thoughts and the emotions we may be feeling after a long day—frustration, sadness, joy— and “just be,” clarity of mind returns in a cycle that repeats again and again.
This rejuvenates us much like a day off or a vacation does, enabling us to go back into the world and do more, happily, and with renewed focus. It’s not necessary to take a whole day off: try to meditate consistently for ten or twenty minutes, once or twice a day. Anyone, no matter how busy, can work an activity like this into their schedule, especially given its tremendous benefits.
The practice is a simple one, although it does require patience and discipline. This is not easy for many people, but what you get out of committing to be with yourself without distractions for a short part of every day is well worth it.
Consistency is critical. Meditation helps reduce stress especially if you meditate every day, not only when you’re feeling stressed out. There is a saying, “Stressed? Meditate. Not stressed? Meditate more!” Cultivating the practice over weeks, months, and years is where the benefits of regularly reframing your mind begin to kick in.
Not only will you feel these benefits, but so will everyone around you: your family, your team members at work, the barista, the grocery bagger. It is contagious. People see your actions and want to understand how you are making the world a better place. I genuinely believe our society is close to reaching a “tipping point,” where we are beginning to understand better how interconnected we all are . . . everywhere in the world.
Life is made up of interactions. I enjoy keeping up with my friends and family on social media. However, at a certain point checking and rechecking your Facebook page, or responding to texts as soon as they are received, become yet more time-consuming “things to do.” When your device buzzes during a meeting, you lose focus, briefly, on something probably more important than what your phone wants you to pay attention to.
A reaction to this is starting in Silicon Valley: tech executives have taken to turning off their devices on weekends. I’ve similarly been putting my device on silent for much of the day.
Scaling back on the screens that take up so much our mindshare allows us to give more attention to both smaller things—the bird flying by or the insect on the back porch—and the larger wonder of the nature that surrounds us. It also allows us to reconnect with one another more deeply and live our lives with more significant attention.
Taking ten to twenty minutes a day to meditate and become more aware will give us the confidence to silence our devices, and more importantly to pay attention to what’s happening to and around us. Meditation is a gift we give both first to ourselves, and then to everyone we come into contact with.
I’d love to get any feedback or questions you might have. Please connect with me! LinkedIn and Twitter are two great ways to do that . . .