It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, and far too easy to slip into the frenzy that’s so prevalent in our society. The world moves at a rapid pace and it often seems that each day grows shorter while our To Do lists grow longer and more demanding.
I might be alone on this but it seems that the faster I move, the less productive I am. When inundated with responsibilities and commitments, I find that everything I aim to accomplish is done in haste, and time with my loved ones is only marginally enjoyed because my mind darts to the next task, and the next, and the next, from the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up to the important email that needs to be sent. My mind wanders more, and takes into account heartbreaking news around the globe, the issue my daughter is having at school, my past regrets, and the people I miss, until I can’t hold onto a thought long enough to do much with it. It’s enough to make my head spin. It’s enough to make me want to slink back to bed, hide under the blankets, and hope to wake up to a place and time in which everything has been magically resolved in my absence.
There is a solution to this of course, and I have to remind myself of it frequently: Meditation. Here are three reasons why this discipline generates serenity and allow us sharper focus and greater happiness:
1) Through meditation, one is able to quiet their minds to the point where all that’s left is a pure sense of Being—a current of energy that feels undeniably present and deeply comforting. The responsibilities we have feel less urgent, and therefore much more manageable. The immediacy of the drama we confront daily—whether at home, at work, or in the larger context of the world—diminishes, thus allowing us to see problems (perceived or otherwise) with clearer eyes and more expansive hearts.
2) Meditation silences external noises that contribute to jealousy, fear, anger, depression, and anxiety. We’re often caught up with staying on Top of It All, from aiming for financial success to reading the new, important book everyone else seems to have read but you. Our access to 24-hours of breaking news heightens our unease and breeds contempt and alarm. Finding a quiet place to refocus our energy reminds us of the innate goodness of humanity; it reminds us of all we truly need to survive: Nourishment. A roof over our heads. And, above all, love.
3) Mediation rewires our brains. As psychologist D.O. Hebb points out in The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory, the power of meditation and its results rest in our ability to restore and reshape our minds: “When neurons fire together, they wire together—mental activity actually creates new neural structures.” Or, as Dan Siegel says in The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-being, “The practice of looking inward, of reflection, activates the insula and the middle prefrontal regions, especially on the right side of the brain…long-term mindfulness meditators had not only increased middle prefrontal thickening, but they had enlargement on the right side of the brain.” In other words, through meditation we can sculpt our minds to increase compassion for ourselves and others, boost our resilience, and strengthen our capacity to handle problems with grace, logic, and courage.
It might seem ironic but in order to regain control we need to release control and fall into the quiet of our minds. To silence our brains we need to surrender our thought processes. It’s a difficult practice, but it comes with priceless gifts. When I emerge from a state of deep meditation, the impossible is possible, and pain and suffering are replaced with wisdom and tolerance. Liberate your mind, and you’ll be surprised with the numerous rewards you’ll receive in return.
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