Image Courtesy of mindful.org
By Chris Carey
Our 10th grade theology teacher turned off the lights, and spoke to our class of about 20 sixteen and seventeen year olds. “You gotta show up to the workout,” he said, as we sat with our eyes closed and firm but relaxed upward postures. “Let go and let God.” Someone in the back giggled.
Needless to say, my first experience with meditation and mindfulness was different and much more interesting than I expected. Not only did I feel a little ridiculous regulating my breathing right after lunch period and next to my peers, but I felt cheated. In my mind, meditation was reserved for old bearded men on mountaintops who repeat a baritone ohmmmmmm, never descending from the peaks and crossing to a new state of Nirvana – and I’m not talking about Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Once I fought past the initial awkwardness, I began to look forward to our first five minutes of class, when I could take a mental reset, focus on a centering phrase, and let go of the bad grade, petty drama, or upcoming deadline that – although minute – seemed so megalithic at the time.
Since those days, I have committed to regular mindfulness and centering prayer. Five or ten minutes a day, I regulate my breathing, try to clear my mind, and undergo the emotional and mental equivalent of rebooting the TV receiver in my head.
Meditation is a time old tradition often tied to religious practices; for example, the centering prayer exercises I learned from my theology teacher and child of “The Sixties” who urged us to “just let it go, man.”
For each person, it can be integrated into a yoga routine, a morning prayer, a brief calm before a major exam, or just before going to sleep in order to clear one’s mind. There are hundreds of formal and derivative meditation techniques at our fingertips, and many only take a commitment of that same five or ten minutes.
The reason that so many through history have found it exceptionally difficult to define meditation is due to its intentional ambiguity and personalization. My meditation practices must look very different from the guru on the mountaintop.
However, this ability to personalize and move away from the beaten path allows so many more people to engage in beneficial meditation. Although the exact definition of the practice is largely unavailable, the tangible pros of engaging in regular meditation cannot be ignored.
According to Insider, “benefits of meditation include better focus and concentration, improved self-awareness and self-esteem, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and fostering kindness. [It] also has benefits for your physical health, as it can improve your tolerance for pain and help fight substance addiction.”
In other words, why put off meditation any longer? Take that mental reset and use the mindful clearing of worries as a time to grow in self esteem and self confidence, to work through whatever problem in your way, and to be more at peace with your own mind and the world you live in.
In the stressful world of COVID-19, the true value of a meditative and centered life cannot be undervalued. It helps me and it can help you, too!