by Ed and Deb Shapiro
We can’t imagine what life would be like without meditation. It has seen us through tough times and many life changes, keeping us sane and grounded and real. Life is challenging enough; we can never know what will arise next and only when our minds are clear and focused can we make the best decisions.
How are you able to deal with the madness and chaos that occurs daily? How do you deal with the challenges of life? Meditation is highly misunderstood and often under-rated yet is perhaps what it takes to be a truly sane person. How does meditation affect us? How does it shift our priorities, enable us to make friends with ourselves, to find answers to our questions?
Here are eight ways meditation can make your life more meaningful and enjoyable!
1. Living With Kindness
No one deserves your kindness and compassion more than yourself. Every time you see or feel suffering, every time you make a mistake or say something stupid and are just about to put yourself down, every time you think of someone you are having a hard time with, every time you encounter the confusion and difficulty of being human, every time you see someone else struggling, upset, or irritated, you can stop and bring loving kindness and compassion. Breathing gently, silently repeat: May I be well, may I be happy, May I be filled with loving kindness.
2. Lightening the Load
In a stressed state, it is easy to lose touch with inner peace, compassion and kindness; in a relaxed state, your mind is clear and you can connect with a deeper sense of purpose and altruism. Meditation and medication are derived from the Latin word medicus, to care or to cure. A time of quiet calmness is, therefore, the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind. Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, just bring your focus to your breathing and quietly repeat with each in- and out-breath: Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile.
3. Letting Go of Me
Stillness is always there between the thoughts, behind the story, beneath the noise. What keeps us from experiencing our natural state of being is the habitual and ego-dominated monkey mind. Meditation enables us to see clearly, to witness our thoughts and behavior and reduce self-involvement. Without such a practice of self-reflection there is no way of putting a brake on the ego’s demands. From being self-centered, we can become other-centered, concerned about the welfare of all.
4. Dissolving Anger and Fear
We do not accept or release our negative feelings so easily; we are more likely to repress or disown them. But when denied they cause shame, depression, anger, and anxiety. Meditation invites you to openly meet these places, and to see how selfishness, aversion and ignorance create endless dramas and fears. Beneath these is a quiet stillness where you can get to know yourself; this is a wondrous and beautiful experience. Whether you practice for just ten minutes a day or longer does not matter. You are releasing your limitations, while opening to self-acceptance and awareness.
5. Awakening Forgiveness
Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. As you sit in meditation and watch your thoughts and feelings moving through you, so you can observe that who you are now is not who you were just a moment ago, let alone a day, a week, or a month ago. Who you, or someone else, was when pain was caused is not who you are now. When you experience your essential interconnectedness you see how the ignorance of this creates separation and suffering, so that forgiveness for such ignorance arises spontaneously.
6. Generating Harmlessness
Simply through the intent to cause less pain you can bring greater dignity to your world, so that harm is replaced with harmlessness and disrespect with respect. Harm is usually caused unintentionally, whether by ignoring someone’s feelings, putting yourself down, reaffirming your hopelessness, disliking your appearance, or seeing yourself as incompetent or unworthy. How much resentment, guilt, or shame are you holding on to, thus perpetuating harmfulness? Meditation enables you transform this through recognizing your essential goodness and the preciousness of all life.
7. Appreciating Appreciation
Take a moment to appreciate the chair you are sitting on. Consider how the chair was made: the wood, cotton, wool, or other fibers, the trees and plants that were used, the earth that grew the trees, the sun and rain, the animals that maybe gave their lives, the people who prepared the materials, the factory where the chair was made, the designer and carpenter and seamstress, the shop that sold it—all this just so you could be sitting here, now. Then extend that deep appreciation to everything and everyone in your life.
8. Being Aware
Awareness is the key to awakening. Through awareness you can see your monkey mind and all its mischief. Almost everything we do is to achieve something: if we do this, then we will get that; if we do that, then this will happen. But in meditation you do it just to do it. There is no ulterior purpose other than to be here, in the present moment, without trying to get anywhere or achieve anything. You are just aware of whatever is happening, whether pleasant or unpleasant. No judgment, no right or wrong. Simply being aware. Enjoy!