I come home from work, but I can’t quite let go – my thoughts are still preoccupied with the day’s conversations and thoughts playing in a loop. In the shower I barely notice the rush of cold water over my body – I’m too busy configuring what I should have said in some situation. Sitting to eat, I barely notice the taste of food. Talking with my wife, my mind is elsewhere, and I’m emotionally unavailable for her.
If there is one thing that can be said about the modern man it’s that he is constantly stressed out – that’s the price we pay for our fast and busy life. Stress is the result of “a racing mind” – mind in a state of agitation that produces thoughts, plans, memories, ideas and imagined conversations that accumulate, intensify and feed back into the emotional snowball of stress. When a colleague says something nasty about us, we suffer more from the countless replays of it in our mind hours and days afterwards, than from the event itself.
That’s why I meditate. By focusing the mind on the present moment meditation helps to let go of the residual baggage of the day. Even a short 20 minute meditation session can be enough to significantly reduce stress and feel refreshed.
But although meditation is simple, it’s not easy. Meditation is very different from relaxation, and it requires a very particular state of mind.
When I sit to meditate, I take a posture that embodies dignity. For me it means holding the head high and uncurling the shoulders. Even if I don’t feel especially strong or deserving self-respect at that moment, taking such posture is a statement. A statement that says that I am willing to face my life in this moment, in this body, as it is.
We can’t fully control what happens in our life, but we can choose how we relate to it. Whatever blow life deals us, we can at least meet it with dignity. And since it’s a power pose – it works by affecting the mind through body.
The Present Moment
I sit with closed eyes and watch the breath coming in and out of the body. After a few moments I notice my mind has wandered somewhere, remembering or planning or commentating. I acknowledge that, and without blaming myself for this, I bring the mind back to breathing.
Over and over bringing the mind to the present moment – either to breathing, body sensations, sounds or thoughts and emotions gradually reduces mind’s agitation. Like stirring a bottle of water, and then holding it still, returning to the present moment limits the amplitude of the waves and allows them to settle down.
Resting in Awareness
After a few minutes of meditation I often notice that I get worked out – focusing on the breath, bringing the mind back to the present moment, keeping the posture – it all becomes a tiresome effort. And then I realize it’s a wrong approach.
Meditation isn’t about doing, it’s about being. Being present in the moment, but without so much striving. So switching the mind from “trying hard to do it right” to “resting in awareness” mindset brings calmness and equanimity.
Stress is part of our live, but it doesn’t have to control it. Meditation allows us to manage and reduce stress, and discover a new dimension to life, where our happiness isn’t so volatile and dependant on external events.