Meditation: If Not Now, Then Never

In this historic time of economic shutdown, and social distancing, if you can’t find time to start meditating, then your doomed to never experience the best thing that you can do for yourself.  These are troubled times, for many obvious reasons, but the biggest, is that this can not be compared to anything.  This is a unique time in the history of the world. Despite all the predictions, and talk of what is going to come, nobody knows what is going to happen, and that is the main reason for this high anxiety  people are feeling, right now.  Getting Covid-19 is bad enough, but add to that the uncertainty of when things may get back to normal, and we can resume  daily activities. This is an unknown virus, and only time will tell, if it will behave as some other viruses.   The crisis has brought out thoughts of, is the cure worse than the disease, and our grandparent are willing to die to save the economy. Give me money or give me death, just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it, as give me liberty or give me death.  The health of the country and the economy have never clashed so violently.  It shows how ill prepared we were for such a crisis.  We have heard on the media, that we are going to try and open up by Easter,  and others stating that it will take until August, for things to get back to normal.  This may be the highest anxiety levels that the nation has ever felt.  The future is now unknown territory.  We hear of worst, and best case scenarios.  Now is the time to embrace your inner being and soul.  It is time to first find it, and then get inside and revel in it.

The outside world, that many of us live to see and feel, is coming apart and there is really  no end in sight.  This is the time to visit the inner world, and find yourself during this world crisis.  If you do not do it now, then you will never do it, and it will be your loss. It is easy to think that there is a finite end to this, but there may not be. Improving yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  That is the great thing. You give yourself this gift. You do not have to depend on anybody to move forward on this. The world will go on in some form no matter what. You have no control over that.  You can control much of your system, and how you respond to all the chaos, that is going on around you.  By spending a few minutes everyday, and then slowly expanding to 15, 20, even 30 minutes a day in meditation, can be the one good thing that will come out of this health crisis.  It can make your life better, far beyond your wildest dreams.  The time has come. It is now or never.

The next few weeks will be even more unique than the last 2 weeks.  Out of all the comments and inane remarks that have been said during this crisis, there is only one that rings of any truth.  Dr. Anthony Fauci said, it will be the virus, that sets the timetable, of when things will get back to normal. Yes, the virus is in charge.  We can only stay inside, and maintain a safe distance for ever how long it takes.  We can only hope and pray that it will not be too long, but there is not a hell of a lot any of us can really do about it.  What will we do?  I do not have any idea, what is going to happen. I do know, this conflict between our health and the economy is going to get worse.  Which one will our leaders and the people of the United States choose.  No matter which one they choose, it will affect the rest of our lives.

Meditation: Is it Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are often considered synonymous, and seemed to be interchanged frequently.  There is something called mindful meditation, but to me that is like saying meditation meditation.  Websters dictionary defines mindfulness as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. It also says that it is the state of being mindful. Mindful is define as inclined to be aware.  When you are meditating you can be aware of certain things from your breathing, how your body is feeling and relaxing,  and your thoughts and surroundings.   Can meditating help you be more mindful during the rest of your day, and is this really a good thing.  Being mindful is being in the moment of what ever you are doing, no matter how mundane.  If you are drying dishes, then you should only be thinking of drying dishes, according to people who advocate being mindful all day long. Should that be all you are thinking about when you are walking is putting one foot in front of the other, and feeling every part of your body, as it moves.  I guess you should, if you are walking along the edge of a cliff.  For me, when I am walking, I have come up with some of my best ideas, to help make my life better, and more enjoyable.

Mindfulness is associated with Buddhism and Buddhist monks in particular.  The monks meditated 2 to 3 hours per day.   They got rid of all their material possessions and tried to stay mindful for the entire day.  In the modern world, this is something that is not possible, or really necessary.  I am not sure that being mindful, helps  you deal with some of the problems, of everyday life. Yes, when you have a particular task to do in life, then you had better pay attention, or be mindful during the process of doing, and completing  the task.  Trying to be mindful of every single little thing that we do, may create more stress, than what it is worth.  There are some people that believe there are benefits from being mindful. They feel that staying in the present, which is a result of mindfulness, can keep us from stewing over past mistakes, and worrying about the future. The feeling is it  can also help in dealing with change, that is inevitably going to happen. In order to learn and to plan for the future, we are going to have to think of the past and the future.  Let’s look at some facts of life, that every one of us has to deal with.   Change is going to happen, whether we want it or not.   Worrying about things, has never accomplished anything.  Will being mindful help any of this.  Will meditating help any of this. I think the former will not and the latter will.  Being mindful is more of a life goal, while meditating is a process that requires 20 minutes a day minimum to receive the benefits.

There are many people today that are strong advocates of being mindful during your entire day.   They feel that meditating will help you become more mindful, the mindful meditators.   There is only one way to become more mindful during the day and that is simply to be more mindful.  There may be a benefit but it still may not be practical in this world today.   When at home, don’t talk to me I am drying the dishes.   When at work, don’t talk to me, I’m getting a soda out of the machine.   I do not think mindfulness leads to a better life.  Mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing, not even close. In fact this relationship that mindfulness and meditation supposedly have,  can discourage people from meditating, if the goal is to become more mindful.  This should not be the goal of meditation.  I have written before about what meditation can accomplish and mindfulness is not one of them.  If you want to become more mindful, go ahead and give it a go.  It can be a daunting task, however. There are many other daunting tasks in life, that we have to deal with, in order to survive, and provide for our love ones.  Why add another one?

Meditation: What It Won’t Do

We have all read or heard about the benefits of meditation.  Meditation is not like CBD oil,  where it can do everything. Even meditation is given many attributes, that may not be true.  I have written previously, that meditation will do two things. It will give the body the necessary time to relax, and renew. It helps you  discover your inner self. If meditation is done everyday for enough time, for at least 20 minutes, it can relieve stress, anxiety, and help deal with the every day challenges of life better. This can make life easier, and help  all areas of your life.  It will allow you to be able to control your response to the ups, and especially the downs of life.  Some people look at meditation as a cure all, for all of life’s problems, and it is not.  Just because you meditate every day, does not mean that all your problems are going to be solved, and everything is going to be fine.  There are many things that meditation will not affect.

Meditation is not going to make you a better person. It can help you understand why you behave the way you do, but it is still up to you, to make a positive change in your life.  Meditating will not automatically make you a more mindful person.  You may be more mindful, while you are meditating, but mindfulness is something you will have to work on for the entire day.  Meditating will not help you break any unwanted habits.  Meditating is not hypnotism.  Again understanding why you do things may help you change some bad habits, but it will take more than meditating to do this.  Meditation will not help you make any major life decisions.  Any decision you make has consequences.  This is not to mean that all the consequences of any decision will be bad, but anything you do or change, will have some effect on your life, and people that are close to you. Meditation is not a way to improving performance at work.  Being less stressed about things, or having a better understanding of your behavior, may indirectly improve your abilities at work.  Meditating is not going to cure a disease, improve your eating habits, or get you to go to the gym more.  Meditation is not a direct means to an end.

Meditation is a necessity of life.  It is as necessary as sleep, eating, and drinking.  One could argue that if you don’t sleep, eat, or drink, that you will die, in a finite period of time. One can live for a long time without meditating, so how is meditation a necessity.  You are technically alive, if you don’t meditate.  Without meditating you really do not know what your life is about. You are more or less just going through the motions of breathing air in and out of your lungs, and there is a real question if this is living. Is being in a coma living?  On of my favorite axioms is, that everyone is doing the best they can, at their level of awareness.  If you do not meditate then most likely your level of awareness on a scale of 1 to 10 is close to 1, with dead being 0.  If you really want to feel what living is, then it is time to start meditating.  Meditating is not a cure all, but without it, you just exist.  To be alive, you must meditate.

Meditation: Perception

Perception, even trying to define the word can create a challenge.  Let us see how various sources of information do this.  On Wikipedia it states the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment. Merriam-Webster dictionary states awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation. The Free Dictionary states, the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors. This is how we develop are belief system, through are senses. Some of us develop very strong beliefs that can never be changed, by an outside party.  It is through these perceptions that people think our President is great or is horrible. No matter how the person thinks about the President it is unlikely that anybody is going to change his or her mind.  There are many subjects that can create very broad opinions and debates. On most of these subjects the way a person thinks or feels is not going to be changed. This is all brought about, on how each individual, perceives the subject.  Are any of our perceptions that we feel, hear, smell, taste and see, really correct.  Is our world something that we just create, to make ourselves feel better, or worse. How would we even know?  Let us look at one thing that we know is constant, and how we perceive it.

Everybody knows that time is a constant.  A second is a second, a minute is a minute, an hour is an hour, and 24 hours is a day.  But does it really feel that way?  Is that what your senses are telling you?  The answer is no.  When you are waiting in line, or for someone, 5 minutes can see like an eternity.  How does time feel when you are stuck in traffic?  How about when you are spending time with someone you really like or playing a game on your phone? Before you know it, 30 to 60 minutes is gone.  Seeing a very good movie, that takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, seems like nothing, but spend that same time waiting for your delayed flight, and you might think, you are never getting on board. You hear people talk about time even in the long term. It was a short summer and a long winter. No, it is the exact same number of days, each year.  I can’t believe that he’s 5 years old already, when talking about children or grandchildren. I don’t know where the time went.  I can’t believe its been x amount of years, when talking about any life event.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Maybe that’s why, we don’t want to have fun more often, just so we can slow time down. You can argue that these are just sayings, and people really don’t feel this way, but people do lose all concept of time, depending on what they are doing.  Our perceptions of time, can be way off on what the true reality is.  This is a fact, Jack.  If our perceptions of time can be this far off, could our perceptions of other things, be just as far off.  Most people would say, I know what I am seeing and feeling in other areas, and I know this is correct.  Well, I would not be too sure.  Having strong beliefs, will limit your thinking. It may be time to step back, and try look at situations from all sides, and double check, what you think may be going on around you, and other people.  Robert Burns said it best in the 1700’s when he wrote” O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us”. Since that is unlikely to happen, we need to take that inward look and check those perceptions.

Meditation: Breathing and Control

Breathing and control, two things that seem to be very different, but can have a strong relationship, if you understand them.  Breathing is something you have to do, to stay alive.  Control is something that you strive for, in managing your life.  Well meaning friends and relatives,  will often say get control of your life, when things may not be going well for you personally, or professionally.  This could mean trying to control an unwanted behavior, or making a decision concerning your career, to time manage your life better.  Trying to set aside more time for your personal life, and not letting a job or business run you.  Is control something we should strive for? Is it even possible?  Before we answer those questions, let’s look at breathing to see how unique it is, and how it applies to getting control of our lives.

Breathing is a function of the lungs, where we take in the oxygen from the environment, and expel carbon dioxide into the environment.  We breathe without thinking about it. We can control our breathing to some degree.  We can hold our breath for a certain amount of time. Some people are better at this than others, but most of us can hold our breath for at least 30 seconds.  Eventually, we all have to start breathing again. Under stress, our breathing may become very short and rapid. If allowed to go to an extreme, we may start to hyperventilate.  This is when we are told, to take a deep breath, and try to relax.  You will see athletes take a deep breath, as a way to relax, before they perform a function, in their sport. They are exerting some control of their breath.  When we start to exercise, our breathing will start to increase, and as the exercise becomes more strenuous, the breathing will become more rapid.  There will come a time depending on how good of shape we are in, that the breathing will become so labored, that we will have to slow down, or stop altogether. All of these things can be beneficial when dealing with everyday situations in life. Even though breathing is a natural and spontaneous function, there are ways we can inflict our control over how we breath, but only to a certain degree.

The same thing can be said, when we try to control what is going on in our lives. We all might think we have control of our lives, but in reality this control does not exist.  At times, we can control some aspects of our lives, but over all, it is circumstances, that are in control.  For many people this is a hard pill to swallow.  Trying to get control of your life, or certain situations, can lead many people to have debilitating frustrations. In order to gain control of your life, you must give up control of your life. When you realize this, your life will take on a whole new meaning, and it will free you from not only trying to control yourself, but other people as well. Just like breathing ,there are certain elements of your life you can control, like what time you might want to eat dinner, go to bed, and get up in the morning.  Even those things can be fouled up, by unforeseen circumstances.  Trying to set goals and not accomplishing them, may be seen as failures, in getting control of your life.  Even trying to improve personally, and not achieving a desired result can be more devastating, when it is tied in to the ability to control one’s life. That is why, when you give up control, that you get back control of your life.  When you realize, that life’s circumstances, whether seen or unforeseen, is what controls your life, you will become more flexible in dealing with day to day life.  It’s when you let go, allow things to evolve in the proper time and place, that your life becomes easier to live and accept. You create a new awareness, that will enable you to deal with life as it happens, not as you want it to happen. When things seems to be getting out of control, remember that life, like breathing, can only be controlled so much. Sit back and take that deep breath, dig in, and make the best of it.  You will be doing yourself your biggest favor.

Meditation: Ten Minutes Don’t Bet On It

There are many meditation apps available today, and they all have some positive things to offer.   They help with sleep, relaxation, stress management, and show other benefits of meditation. There is one area, where it seems they have all gone astray.  They seem to feel that 10 minutes a day of meditation is acceptable, and with this  amount of time, one will receive the full benefits of meditation.   I do not agree.   Maybe they feel in this day and age, with time being of the essence, that 10 minutes is all you can expect from the modern world. They are trying to make life a little easier by only requiring 10 minutes per day to meditate.  Whatever the reason, this has become a popular viewpoint. To me the minimum time for meditation, has to be 20 minutes.  Considering that there are some people that meditate for one hour or even longer, 20 minutes does not seem to be very unreasonable.  There are some things that need to be accomplished during meditation, and 10 minutes is not enough time. It is like any part of life,  how much can you accomplish in 10 minutes.  Do you eat lunch in 10 minutes.  Are you even able to complete any task at work in 10 minutes.  Now some people may argue, that there should not be any goals in meditation. These same people will use the term benefits when advocating meditation, but to achieve these benefits more than 10 minutes will be needed.  If you are a starting to meditate, naturally you will have to build up to 20 minutes.  Meditating for even one to two minutes per day will get you started.  Gradually increasing the time every 4 to 5 days, will eventually get you to the 20 minute mark.  Let us look at two important reasons to meditate and why 20 minutes is necessary to get the best result.

The first benefit of meditation is to relax the body.  It is a process of scanning the entire body, and relaxing each section.  This is going to take some time.  Think of other ways to relax the body.  One of  the common ways is to get a massage.  Most massages are going to be at least 30 minutes to do a good job.  I don’t think the 10 minute massage is going to sell anytime soon.  The hot bath or steam seems to be another method to relax those tired and tense muscles.  Does anybody take a 10 minute hot bath? In meditation not only are you trying to relax the muscles of the body, but also the mind. We should all know by now, that sleeping is not relaxing for either, the mind or the body.  Sleep is a necessity in order to function at your best.  It has nothing to do with relaxation. The second  benefit or function of meditation is to discover your inner or true self.  Sometimes journeys of self discovery are aided by health professionals.  Does anybody have a 10 minute session with them. If you are going to have a substantial benefit from meditation, then you must commit the 20 minutes per day per session.  Ten minutes is simply not going to do the job. Maybe that is why there are all the extras, such as sleep aids, relaxation music and coaches for success, on these sites, to make up for the fact, that they seem to think that 10 minutes is enough. Remember morning meditation is always nice, but you can meditate anytime during the day, and it will be just as helpful in finding your true self and well being. I know we live in a busy and hectic society, which makes it even more essential  to set aside that 20 minutes, to do the most important thing, that you can do for yourself, meditation.

 

Meditation: Death

Death took center stage this past Sunday, when Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash.  Anytime a well known person is suddenly killed, especially at a young age, the shock and sorrow is felt nationwide.  A tragedy of this significance, seems to bring out the best and the worse in the populous.  We hear of not taking any day for granted.  Give your love ones a hug, and appreciate them everyday, because you never know what is going to happen.  All of this is good advice, and it is a shame when something this sad has to happen to make people verbalize something, that should happen as a natural part of life. There is the saying, I believed attributed to Ben Franklin, that the only two things certain in life, is death and taxes.  However, in this day and age, with a good tax attorney, you may not have to pay taxes.  That only leaves the certainty of death. No matter how much we may think that we have  a lot in common with other  people, there is only one thing that links all of us, and that is death. There is not one day that goes by that someone from every age, from birth to 100 years old, will die.  Anytime, when someone young dies or children die, we try to make sense of it, or ask the age old question of why. There is no reason or explanation for when some people die.    For something that is going to happen to all of us, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the subject.  When somebody loses a loved one, whether young or old, people will say they have gone to a better place.  Is there any place after death? People like to thing so.

Let us look at some of the more popular beliefs of what happens after death.  The most common one is of heaven and hell.  If you are a good person you will go to heaven, and if you are a bad person you will go to hell.  This was started by the church in my view to help keep people in line.  The other belief was, that no matter how many bad things you did, you could be absolved by the church, at the time of your death, and still make into heaven.  Again, something the church made up, to keep people coming and giving. If you want to believe in such nonsense, I won’t try and dissuade you. There is no absolute proof that you are wrong, but you are.   There is no heaven or hell.  Then there is reincarnation, where we come back in a different body or form, maybe even an animal.  Again a nice fairy tale, but there is more of a chance of this being true, than the heaven and hell theory.  Then we have the belief of the spirit world.  This is where we become spirits, and roam the world in a totally different form.  Movies, like Ghost and Hereafter, depict  what the spirit world may be like.  Then, there are people that believe that this is it baby, we are born, and when we die it’s over, we are nothing. This one is always the hardest to come to grips with, if they are right.  But if they are wrong, and let’s say there is a spirit world, do they get to participate, because they do not believe?  Does what you believe in life, have any relevance at all, after you die?  Say there is a heaven and you have lived an exemplary life, but do not believe in God or heaven.  Do you get in?  Does a contract killer get in, because he believes and the church absolves him of his sin? Does your life have any affect on the so called after life, if there is one?

The questions about death are pretty much endless because nobody knows what exactly happens when you die, except the obvious, you no longer exist, in the living world. There are all kinds of way to die.  Death can come suddenly or it may be slow in a prolonged illness.  Is it worth fighting to stay alive.  I do know one thing, there are a lot of things in this world that are worse than dying. What some people have had to go through in their lives, whether it be through illness, actions of other people, or losing love ones, can make death seem like a blessing.   I wake up everyday knowing that this could be my last day on earth and go to bed every night thanking the higher power that my life is still good and my love ones are alive and safe.  I know I have no control over either situation. Like any one who has lived a number of years, I have had my close brushes with death.  As a 12 year old I fell through a ceiling and came out virtually unscathed, except for a small abrasion on my arm. I have had other close calls as an adult.  When people live to be 100 years old, there is always the reporter, who wants to know the secret, to the persons longevity.  They go through a few things, and some may make some sense. They all seem to leave out one very important thing.  Luck, in my view is the number one reason for longevity, just good old luck. What happens after is anybodies guess.  I will do my best to let you know when it happens to me.