The Gift of Meditationby: Gerald Lee Jordan
date: 11 August 2021 (NZT)
edit: 11 August 2021 (NZT)
A Huge Secret
More than 2,500 years ago, a man discovered what he considered the causes and cure for suffering. He believed that suffering was all in our minds and that we could end suffering by learning to be with our minds in a thoughtful way. After he had this moment of clarity, he was hesitant to tell others, as how could he really convince people of something so very, very simple? For the last two plus millennia, people have struggled to understand this very simple concept. Some have succeeded and known great peace. To be clear here, what I am discussing is not any organised religion, but simply focusing on an object - such as your breath - to bring peace.
What this man figured out centuries ago, is finally being discovered in the West, including in scientific circles. Check out Oxford University's Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, if you want to see but one example of how this focused attention process is being used in modern clinical environments. (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is another example.)
The secret? One of the most powerful things you can do for your own mental health does not involve counselling or pills, but simply having enough dedication to yourself to sit with your mind for minutes a day. This is called a practice precisely because you need to do it regularly to develop competency. It sounds easy to focus, but actually it is not. Our minds wander constantly. When you commit to a practice, you will see results.
I sit in meditation for one hour each night before bed. It not only provides long-term mental health benefits, but it also settles my mind for sleep and I have almost no nightmares (I used to have many). I reward myself for practice - giving ourselves small rewards encourages us. I have a meditation bench made of Ukraine Ash, I have a blanket I got here in México, I have beads from India. Basically, I set up a place at home which is my space for focus. I look forward to going there. It helps motivate me for my daily practice.
Starting for Yourself
Two things first:
1. Start gentle and slowly progress. If you can only do 5 - 10 minutes at first, great. Add a minute a week and in a year, you will be meditating an hour. Keep up the practice! Starting slow can help with this.
2. Your mind will wander. This is normal. Try not to beat yourself up mentally when you get distracted. Noticing this distraction and returning to the focus item (breath, candle, etc) is exactly the point of meditation. When you notice and return to focus, you are being successful. Rather than saying negative things because your mind wandered, say positive things to yourself because you noticed and have returned to your focus. This is success, not failure! If you do this, you won't dread your practice, but look forward to it.
Meditation is a beautiful gift to yourself! I hope it brings you as much peace, insight and joy as it has me and many others.
Gerald Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns ❤️