High on my list of coping mechanisms is meditation. It’s difficult to say which of this list I have compiled is the most important, but this is one I could not live without. I started meditating off and one about 15 years ago. My practice is not always great, but I try to get in at least 15-20 minutes a day every day with my goal being 30 minutes.
There is a lot of misconception about meditation particularly among the religious and the anti-religious. Meditation can be part of a religion, but mediation really doesn’t have to have anything to do with “spirituality” per se. You can be an atheist and benefit from meditation. You can be a Christian and meditate. I first started meditating when I was looking for a way to calm my mind and came across “contemplative prayer” which is Christianese for mediation. I mentioned meditation to a friend the other day and he asked me if I am Buddhist. Well, no… Yes, Christians you can meditate. Do not be afraid of your mind or opening up to demons. Open up to your own innate goodness. Sit with it. Get to know it.
Many people say they cannot mediate. Anyone can meditate and everyone should. I rarely make absolute statements, but I will say everyone should meditate in one form or another. If you can’t sit cross legged on the floor in silence for half an hour, spend five minutes sitting at your desk with your eyes closed. If you can’t sit in silence, do a guided mediation or listen to nature sounds or gentle music. If you can’t sit, lie down. If you can’t do 20 minutes, start with 2 minutes.
Meditation is about me getting to know my mind. Meditation allows me to have greater control over my thoughts as I sit and observe how they flow and how I can choose to go with them or just watch them float by. Mediation helps me understand the nature of my mind which is to wander and to fixate on the negative and to just constantly chatter. Meditation helps me slow my thoughts to learn there are space between my thoughts and how to expand those spaces. Meditation allows me to realize that I truly cannot multitask. People think we multitask, but what we actually do is jump from one thing to another and then back to the first thing very quickly. We are like computers who can only process one program and one instruction at a time, but the processor switches between programs and instructions so quickly that it gives the appearance of multitasking. Once you understand you can only hold one thought at a time, you have a powerful tool. Now you have control over your thoughts. If you don’t like a thought, you can replace it and it has to go because there isn’t room in your tiny little processor for more than one thought at a time. And you can learn to hold onto a thought or to let a thought go- with practice.
What this means to me is I have learned to identify what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it and I can choose to continue down that path or to take another path. This is a tool that has to be used wisely though. Grief must be processed. Grief will not be denied. I can choose to ignore my grief, to never allow myself to feel “bad”, but another thing I have learned, not from meditation but from Buddhism, is that no emotions are “bad” and all must be treated with gentleness, acceptance and respect. I allow myself times to feel grief, to sit with the sadness. I allow myself times with my anger treating it as a child and allowing it to express itself.
Commercial plug here. If you can’t get started meditating, try this app I use called Insight Timer. In addition to being a meditation timer, it has tons of guided meditations on it from a couple of minutes to over an hour. Some talk you through, some are music, some are drums. Or if you need a visual go to YouTube and start searching for guided meditations. They’re free.
I’ve got half an hour right now. I’m going to finish my cup of coffee and go sit as I prepare for my day.