Some people still associate meditation with kung fu movies and 1960s hippies, or at least New Age spa resorts. But the last few years have seen meditation practice steadily growing in “mainstream” popularity. What's that about? Could meditation make sense as a part of your busy urban lifestyle?
High profile meditation enthusiasts keep cropping up, from the artists like Jerry Seinfeld and David Lynch, to board members of Goldman Sachs Group and Exxon Mobil Corp (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-22/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit.html). “Mindfulness Training” workshops offered for employees at Google Headquarters (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/technology/google-course-asks-employees-to-take-a-deep-breath.html) regularly have wait-lists of up to 30 people. And U.S. government-funded neurological studies have reported that meditation causes significant improvement in brain and immune function. (http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/65/4/564.short) But still, the philosophical language used to talk about meditation can seem pretty irrelevant when just getting through the day's “to do list” can be so overwhelming.
After a basic introduction, though, many people find meditation more helpful in everyday life than initially expected. Meditation starts making sense when it stops seeming like a vacation activity, and instead you can begin to use it as a tool for getting through the workweek with a sense of spaciousness! The premise is that taking time to work with your mind can actually help you go further into the other projects and passions you care about. Everyone seems to agree that it's worthwhile to take some time to train and care for the body. Why do we so rarely take the time to train and care for our minds?
When we've got a big project to complete, and the temptation to stay up late working on it, we've all learned by experience that at some point it's actually a more strategic, effective choice to take a walk, clear your head, or get some sleep. Then we can dive back in, refreshed and ready to work efficiently. This is the logic of taking the time to show up for a meditation class. But it turns out this logic applies not just for efficiency, but also for enjoyment. A refreshed capacity to listen and think clearly helps us get work done. But the most compelling part is that quieting down our habitual stress patterns gives us the possibility to experience a basic sense of contentment. We can start to enjoy our own lives!
Every teacher I've ever learned meditation from has said something like “Don't believe anything I say - test it out for yourself, in the laboratory of your own daily experience. If it works for you, use it. If not, toss it aside.” Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in religious contexts from Christianity and Islam to Hinduism and Buddhism, but it is essentially non-religious: compatible, but inherently separate from any system of beliefs. Mindfulness practice - which has gotten so much attention through scientific studies proving its transformative effectiveness - is nothing more than noticing what's going on.
There are many ways into meditation - many different techniques. But the heart of mediation practice is actually very simple. It has to do with relating directly to our own experiences in any given moment. Stillness and stability create a container in which we can start to understand how our own minds work. By showing up for something as simple as sitting on a cushion and watching the breath, we can become more able to show up for the rest of our own lives. Don't learn to meditate because you're curious about meditation, learn to meditate because you're passionate about enjoying life.
Want to learn more? Come join an Intro to Meditation class at the gorgeous new Urban Yoga studio in Business Bay, Dubai. Class happens three times a week, and you can check out the schedule HERE. Each session introduces the tools you need to get started, some discussion on meditation in modern life, and then guides you step-by-step through the meditation practice itself. Careful though, in addition to better focus and more efficient working patterns, you might even enjoy yourself!
Urban Yoga have kindly offered our Glowpeople community a FREE FIRST SESSION (choose any class you like!) and 10% off the first package. Book online at www.urbanyoga.ae, select the 'Drop in' payment option, and simply mention Glowpeople when you get there! Please note that 'Introduction to Mediation' classes resume on October 18th, 2013.
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