We are such an active society. From the moment our feet hit the grounding the morning we’re off and cooking, cleaning, grooming, eating, checking our mail, off to work, taking the kids to school, picking them up, multitasking, groceries, exercise. Our minds get started even earlier waking us, against our will, sometimes hours before we need to get up, fantasizing about possibilities and perils of the day to come. What a life? Than why is it that out of all the lifestyle suggestions I make to patients, the one most resisted is when I suggest that they sit down and do nothing i.e. meditate, for 20 minutes every day.
I am told that there just isn’t time and I think that in some cases this is legitimate. We work hard and many of us are not getting any support. Some find it nearly impossible to find any time for themselves. I am commonly told that there is some crucial thing that has to occur before they can start, “as soon as I get the meditation cushion or the relaxation CD” or “We are going on the vacation next week, I’ll start when we get back; I’ve got finals this week; big project due on Monday at the office; it’s boring”. Some feel they are just not cut out for meditation. They feel it will lead to incense, yoga and eating organic food.
Beneath all of the myriad excuses for not beginning meditation practice I think that the real reasons lay deeper in the subconscious, amidst all of the suppressed painful emotions, We invest a lot of energy avoiding an authentic experience of ourselves possibly because we instinctively feel that experience to be unsafe. As soon as things get quiet and spacious, alarms, unnoticed by our conscious mind go off signaling us to turn on TV, read something, call someone, for god’s sake don’t just be there … DO SOMETHING or better yet, leave. Some of you may be feel that you would welcome having nothing to do but in most cases as soon as the spaciousness in the schedule presented itself, something would be done to fill the space. I realize that we all have hobbies, things that we like doing whether it be listening to music, gardening etc. but why can’t we spend a little time each day simply being present. Simply doing nothing. We have a tremendous resistance to doing nothing. If it’s true that time just doesn’t permit then, how sad is that?
Some may ask, “than why practice mindfulness meditation?”. From a purely physiological perspective we can look at the effects of stress on the body. We have inherited many survival instincts from our ancestors that include the release of adrenaline and other hormones along with other changes which help them respond to life threatening situations. That same response is continuously triggered in our daily lives in response to routine stressors. This stress response is root cause of many chronic illnesses both physical and emotional. The connection between stress and health is well documented. I’d like to quote John Kabat-Zinn Ph.D., founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Having seen over 16,000 medical patients in our stress eduction clinic over the past 24 years, we can safely say that pretty much any individual with adequate motivation can learn to be less reactive and less stressed by cultivating mindfulness. In the process, one’s interior world can be influenced and modulated to one degree or another – whether we are talking of blood pressure, the functioning of the immune system, emotional balance, or even self compassion and making wiser and healthier choices in one’s life.”
We all want to move beyond our physical, mental and emotional problems to a healthier and happier life but it is our habitual tendency to create distraction of one form or another to avoid being with ourselves this very moment that is very much at the root of. Through mindfulness meditation we learn to have a genuine experience of ourselves with no resistance and it is that experience that will allow us to become who we were meant to be.
It is not the intent of this article to give psychological advice or to prescribe meditation as a treatment for any medical conditions. Please consult your physician about your medical concerns.