Why Meditate: Understanding the Benefits
Most of you are probably familiar with the word meditation and/or have practiced it. There are many different kinds of meditation and I always recommend that you have to find what works for you.
When I was 18, my dear Mom introduced me to yoga which included meditation. For quite a long time, I practiced yoga and yogic meditation as taught by the Yoga Institute in New York and California which was begun by Swami Satchidananda. Prior to that, a friend introduced me to the book by Paramahansa Yogananda entitled “Autobiography of a Yogi from the Self Realization Fellowship” at age 17. I was always drawn to Eastern mysticism and practices to help me understand the duality of life and the dichotomy of joy and suffering. Like others, I wanted to know what peace of mind really was.
Fast forward four decades later, and I began practicing mindfulness meditation as taught by the well known Jon Kabat Zinn who began the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts hospital in 1979. There is an extensive article on The Mindful Revolution in Time Magazine, February 3, 2014 issue. His program became a part of the UMass department of medicine and became the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction curriculum now used by hundreds of teachers across the country.
What separates mindfulness meditation is the practical application of learning to LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. This was accomplished over an 8 week period of my taking the course and learning to breathe consciously in each moment when I was off the mat. What this translates to is when I am washing dishes, wash dishes, and when driving not miss my exit, and when parking the car, know where I left it. Such simple things have caused people undue stress because of the time wasted by not living in the present or wishing things were different than they are.
Add to this all of the wonderful books I have read by author Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun who wrote such masterpieces as “When Things Falls Apart” and “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change“.
For years, I believed if I set my intention long enough, something would change and used meditation for that as well as letting go. That in itself was counter productive because everything changes and nothing remains the same. So, part of mindfulness meditation practice is accepting that things are the way they are only in this moment and as we all know each moment changes into the next.
There are mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques being taught to children and adults in schools and universities to help overcome test taking anxiety. We live in an age of information overload and learning to practice and live mindfully creates a lot of peace of mind and good will.
The mantra I live by now is Do no Harm, Receive no Harm.
Simply put, meditation is not about escaping the world, it is about living in it as it is without being attached to it. That in itself is a great gift.