For some reason, the thought of practicing meditation and mindfulness carries a stigma for many people. Once, I was approached by a young man who requested some advice regarding a fitness program. We discussed efficient cardio workouts, balanced resistance training, and implementing flexibility training and foam rolling into his weekly routines. He was appreciative and mentioned that he was eager to try new things.
As a result, I followed up by asking if he had ever tried yoga or any type of meditation. I mentioned the benefits such as improving flexibility, focusing on breathing, and potential stress reduction. He looked at me like I had two heads. He conceded that he needed to improve his flexibility but he scoffed at the notion of performing any type of meditation.
In fairness, I harbored similar thoughts about meditation for a long time. Of course, I held these thoughts without ever having honestly attempted any form of meditation. At one particularly stressful juncture in my life, I decided to practice guided meditation at the advice of a colleague. My colleague even directed me towards a Meditation Music playlist with sounds that help promote relaxation.
I’m not sure if I meditated for five minutes or twenty-five minutes. I am sure that I felt much better after I took my meditation break than I did before. I also know that it was the impetus for me finally taking a yoga instructor up on her offer to join her class whenever I wanted (the class was free so it wasn’t like she was trying to profit from my participation); additionally, it was the impetus for me agreeing to lead a series of guided meditation sessions for a corporate wellness program. I had experienced the benefits of taking some time to relax and reflect and finally parted with any preconceived notions that I held about meditation.
Not all meditation practices are identical. There are several ways to meditate. Guided or unguided; transcendental meditation or yoga; mindfulness or mental silence. Despite the many different forms, the goal is generally the same: to achieve peace of mind.
The introduction of many prominent meditation apps has made meditation more convenient than ever. Many of these apps offer guided and unguided sessions in various time increments. Whether you want to meditate first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or at the end of your night, these apps make meditation easy.
Headspace uses a variety of useful metaphors in explaining the benefits of meditation. Usually, the metaphors revolve around the concept of allowing thoughts to come and go rather than battling any unpleasant thoughts or sensations. The practice of constantly fighting against or repressing unpleasant thoughts only creates more stress.
Sharon Salzberg discusses the value of loving-kindness meditation in this mindful.org post. The idea is to introduce positive phrases into our thoughts and ritualize them so that our mind can rest within these phrases. Much like the themes at the core of the Headspace sessions, loving-kindness is about taking time to give our minds a break and, as Salzberg writes, to “[let] ourselves off the hook once in a while.”
Give meditation a try. Resistance training and cardio are key components of a fitness program. So too is regeneration. Foam rolling, stretching, and recovery days help with physical regeneration; meditation and mindfulness help with mental regeneration.