“Meditation is a not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there.” —Deepak Chopra
Meditation is widely known across the world and dates back to about 5000 BC in the form of wall art in India (see image at right). It is a long tradition within Hinduism and Buddhism. Although the practice has ties to many different religious teachings, meditation is less about faith or religion and more about becoming fully aware, conscious, and present to help us find calm, peace, and stillness in our lives.
In the book Strength in Stillness, author Bob Roth compares our minds to the ocean. There are active, often turbulent waves on the surface, but a calm at its depths. In the same way, the mind is active on the surface but deep within is a level both calm yet alert—silent yet awake. The purpose of meditation is to access this restful alertness within us.
Research notes some specific health benefits to meditating including improved sleep (enhanced REM sleep and increased levels of melatonin), reduced stress and burnout, increased thickness of prefrontal cortex associated with attention and self-awareness, decreased pain levels, improved anxiety, and more.
Many people worry that they cannot quiet their mind during meditation, but the goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts or emotions. It helps us gain awareness of our minds and we can become less identified with our emotions and thoughts, which help the thoughts lose power. We learn to move through those thoughts and emotions without getting stuck.
So I challenge you to try to sit in stillness for 5 minutes—perhaps you want to do a guided meditation to start if that makes you more comfortable. But whatever you choose to do, just remember to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Our breath reminds us that we are still here, still living in this moment, always in control of our thoughts and emotions.