I first learned about meditation when I was a teen in the 80s. Yes, I know. It is very hard to believe that I was a teen in the 80s. True story.
My dad took a course at work and, all of a sudden, he was ordering self-help books and meditation tapes. He would sit in his chair after work, read and meditate to a guided tape. I couldn't believe my eyes. He was not exactly a yogi or even remotely spiritual. But, he became much harder to rattle and had a more relaxed, calm way about him. I equated this with him getting older. Little did I know that meditation had really changed him.
Every once in a while, my girlfriends and I would sneak into my parents room to listen to the tapes. Mostly, we would giggle and make fun of how spacy the teacher sounded (well, one of the girls would actually fall asleep - you know who you are!). I thought it was just some sort of new age thing that only hippies (and my dad) did when they had too much time on their hands. Hey - I was 15, a teenage girl and clearly had other things on my mind.
A few years ago, I was properly reintroduced to meditation by a teacher who took us through a guided meditation before each class. At first, it was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever done. I could barely sit still, my back hurt and so many connected thoughts would pop in my head. I found myself getting more and more frustrated because I could not turn off my monkey mind. I could not imagine that 3 years later I would be doing it every day.
I finally decided to take a course at the Art of Living in NYC. I learned that meditation isn't just used to clear the mind. It is also very effective in easing health issues - emotional and physical. I also learned that being frustrated because you can't turn off your mind is a very common feeling when one first starts. The important thing is to stick with it and to recognize that you may not have a deep, meaningful meditation each time. But, by setting up a daily practice you will feel much better over time - more relaxed, rested and grounded.
Because meditation is an ancient practice, there are dozens of techniques. My favorite is Sahaj Samadhi which involves the use of a sound mantra for 20 minutes, 2x a day. However, I continue to explore other methods from guided tapes to loving kindness to transcendental meditation. One google search alone generates hundreds of tapes, books, websites, blogs and experts and I feel like I have barely scraped the surface.
The reason I am sharing this with you is because meditation has helped me in profound ways. I start each day feeling more centered and relaxed. It has also given me a safe place to go when I am feeling sad, lonely or grieving. Sure, I still get stressed out and don't always handle it well. But, I know that I can turn to meditation any time I need it and it will help me get back on track.
Sometimes, days will go by when I won't find the time to meditate at all and I will feel completely out of sorts. But, I no longer beat myself up. I just sit, right there and then, and practice for 20 minutes. It really is as easy as that. And, it is during these times I am reminded of a very wise, old zen saying... "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy then you should sit for an hour!" Wise words indeed.
Here are just a few of the excellent resources that I found when I first began to study meditation. If you haven't already, I hope you give it a try.
Article - "Meditation Found to Increase Brain Size" Harvard Gazette