Consider exploration. If you stand outside a beautiful forest and think you want to know more about that gorgeous forest by exploring it, by experiencing it, you must move toward it. You’ll need to enter the forest and travel through it. Moving in a straight-line course will show you many interesting things about the forest, but you might choose to move in expanding or contracting circles, traveling around the center of the trees. Perhaps you wander without a plan. Nonetheless, you’re exploring the forest, encountering the plants growing there, what the soil is like, the smells, the taste of the air itself. You also hear and see the inhabitants of the forest. There’s a lot more to it than what you see standing apart from it. If you had always been inside the forest and never left it, you’d not have the perspective of distance, either. You can now integrate the outside appearance and inner experience of the forest.
Of course, this forest is metaphorical. Human beings are both inside and outside themselves all the time. As teenagers, we develop the “imagined audience,” that illusory feeling of being watched, of being on state all the time. As we get older, we do develop a real audience: our work colleagues, friends, supervisors, you name it. It can become tough to know whether we do what we do to please that audience or to please ourselves. Knowing ourselves becomes difficult. However, exploring ourselves is harder than picking a direction and moving toward it. How do we imagine ourselves to be? If we are both inside ourselves, yet influenced by the ongoing nattering of the outside world, how do we get inside our own heads, and if we do manage it, how do we examine ourselves? How do we experience ourselves? How can we learn to stand apart from who we are while learning to celebrate the best in ourselves?
Meditation and mindful awareness are the two premier tools for doing just this kind of exploration. They are reasonably simple skills that can be learned in a single week or even less, a little bit every day, yet keep unfolding and providing benefits for an entire lifetime. Those benefits increase the more you practice mindfulness and meditation, but they become apparent almost immediately. Still, many people confuse meditation with religious practices or formalized worship. It’s not. It can certainly be used in those cases, but practicing meditation only identifies you as a person interested in your good health—mind, body, and spirit.
While there are numerous schools of thought and practice on meditation, speaking broadly, it’s a state of relaxed, nonjudgmental focus. The focus in mediation is never on your problems. That sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? If we’re not thinking about our problems or our stresses, how can we fix them? Most of us over-focus on problems. We fixate on them to the point where simply thinking about the problem feels like we’re actively working on solving it. Worry and obsession don’t cure any ills of any sort. Merely thinking about a problem doesn’t cure its ills. So how does not thinking about it work? It's important to note too, that meditation is not a way to learn to ignore problems.
At the beginning level of meditation, you need to find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed at all. No rings from a phone of any sort. No beeps, chimes, or ringtones. No pets (or kids) demanding your attention. If you’re thinking that carving out such a spot even for five minutes would be hard or next to impossible, then stay right here. You’re the person who needs meditation most of all! In fact, in beginning meditation, we only spend about five minutes in the process.
Here’s how to get started:
The process in its entirety can take five minutes. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” amount of time for a meditative trance, but I find 30 minutes or so to be ideal for me. The above is just an overview, a slice of what we’ll be working with here. Our goal is helping you develop an empowered, and inspired life that also strengthens you to become more capable of dealing with life’s daily issues without having to invest so much of your energy is solving such details.
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