Whenever I feel myself getting stressed and overburdened by the demands of work and/or life, I often come to a sudden realization: I haven’t been meditating lately.
It’s weird how this very simple act—and meditation is simple—has the almost magical effect of calming you down and making you better prepared for the day ahead. It’s a way to get your chattering “monkey-mind” under control, so you’re not captive to your brain incessantly jumping from thought to thought to thought. Meditation allows you to be more mindful and fully present to the series of moments that are your life.
For those who say they can’t meditate, know this: the important part about meditation is NOT how well you do it. It’s about how consistently you do it. The fact is you can have a stinky meditation session, where your thoughts keep intruding in on your attempts to quiet your head, yet you will still come away feeling better for having done it. The effort alone seems to help.
Plus, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Saying you can’t meditate is the equivalent of a sedentary person deciding to take up jogging and quitting after 2 or 3 attempts because they’re having trouble catching their breath. You get better with practice—and it is worth practicing because of the benefits you will receive.
The author and creator of the Waking Up app Sam Harris, explained the importance of meditation, and its benefits, this way in an interview with Leapsmag:
Until you have some capacity to be mindful, you have no choice but to be lost in every next thought that arises. You can’t notice thought as thought, it just feels like you. So therefore, you’re hostage to whatever the emotional or behavioral consequences of those thoughts are. If they’re angry thoughts, you’re angry. If they’re desire thoughts, you’re filled with desire.
The 10-Step “God Loves You” Meditation
This meditation is based on a practice I read about in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation email. Rohr adapted the meditation from the book Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God by James Finley. I have modified it further, by editing it down to a series of steps and adding a few additional thoughts.
Finley sees meditation as a way of slowing down and settling into a deep awareness of your oneness with God. Yet, if you talked to Harris, he would leave the God part out. I think this is a personal choice. Either way, you wind up at the same destination, a place where your mind is clear and you are better able to be present to others and more tuned in to your own life.
- Sit down. Quietly focus your attention on your breathing.
- Breathe out slowly and be quietly aware of breathing out. Breathe in slowly and be quietly aware of breathing in.
- Begin counting each in-and out breath. Breathe in-ONE—breathe out-ONE. Breathe in-TWO—breathe out-TWO.
- Each time you realize you have drifted off into a random thought or memory, simply return to your breathing and start your counting back at one. Try to anchor your attention in the present-moment.
- Once you feel anchored and your mind is relatively clear, stop counting. With each exhale begin repeating the simple phrase “I love you.” You are directing this love to God or whatever higher power you believe in.
- As you inhale, listen to the incoming breath intently and imagine hearing a silent “I love you” from God. In this moment, God loves you in return and is flowing into you.
- As you exhale, breathe out a silent “I love you” back to God.
- As you inhale, be aware of the air as being that of God flowing into you, as a divine gift.
- As you exhale, allow your silent “I love you” to be your very being, flowing back into the depths of God.
- Continue to be open to God breathing love into the depths of your being, as you breathe a gift of love back into God.
Like most meditations, you should devote about 15-20 minutes to each session. Daily is best. It’s okay to miss a day or two, but when you first start try going a few days consecutively to get the hang of it. Finley believes the benefits of this meditation are substantial. In his lightly edited words:
This one practice alone, engaged in with heartfelt sincerity and devotion, can awaken you to God’s total and complete oneness with you. As this realization grows, you will begin to realize how foolish it is to imagine that God is, in any way, distant from you. You discover how foolish it is to imagine that you could in any way, hide from God, who is wholly one with all that is within your mind and heart, your very being.
For a variety of other meditations you may want to try, click on the links in this story. They lead to additional meditations or meditation-related activities.