Meditation Generation

MeditationOnMountainInSunshine

I meditate daily and have done so for more than a year. As promised in my previous post I will now share some of my experiences with meditation with you. What started as a remedy to feel a little bit better while going through some difficult stuff has become an amazing sanctuary that has surpassed all expectations from a year back. I really had no idea what would come of it or where it could take me.

So what is meditation really? There are several ways of describing it: -Cardio for your mental stamina. -Stretching for the soul. -Relief from the mind’s perpetual chatter. And much more.

My first real experience with meditation was in Hong Kong several years back when a friend told me about a meditation teacher she had heard of. For quite some time I had been curious about what meditation was and wanted to learn to do it. I did however not get a lot out of the two sessions I had with this teacher, which probably was not the teacher’s fault. I wasn’t really ready and besides, the style she taught was not something that really resonated with me. Meditation is not really a skill you learn, and so, there are no rights or wrongs. Each must find his own way.

With meditation really not being a skill anymore than lying down or relaxing, it is something everyone can discover or rather remember. Although being a natural state of the non-physical part of us, it is a state that most of us forget as we grow up and are assimilated into the hectic mindset of modern society. Meditation is re-connecting with your inner self, which quite frankly is an amazing resource that most people are more or less oblivious to. Meditation can help you access your intuition in a way that is impossible if your mind is active. I am not talking about hunches about doing this or that, I am talking about a reliable and consistent connection to your intuition, inner being, sub-consciousness or whatever you choose to call it.

MagicFlowerOnWater1When  I meditate I generally prefer to use guided meditations that fit my mood and life situation at that time. There are several good ones to choose from, and I personally recommend the ones from Meditation Oasis simply because they are the ones I used in the beginning. They can be downloaded for free as podcasts from iTunes and there is one to fit your every mood: breath awareness, patience, grief, gratitude, opening of the heart, relief from stress, accessing intuition, Chakra meditation etc etc.

I prefer lying down when meditating but you can also be seated if you prefer that. Personally, I don’t like to meditate when I’m so tired or sleepy that I drift in and out of sleep, simply because I find it confusing when the surreality of the dream state is mixed with the consciousness of the meditation. There are however no rights and wrongs here, what is important is that you find a way that works for you.

So what does it feel like? Well, it is more or less an exercise in not thinking thoughts, but to allow the mind to go quiet leaving space for everything else that is inside of you to come forward. By gently focusing on your breathing or just enjoying the gentle stillness of the mind you can experience inner peace, emotional ease or just a comfortable feeling of well-being. By all means, thoughts will appear in a meditation. This is completely normal, especially during stressful or emotionally challenging times. The trick is to not follow the train of thoughts but to allow them to drift out of your consciousness from whence they came.

It is not about making something happen, or trying to induce a particular experience. However, when you get more and more used to meditate, extraordinary things can happen that could leave you baffled and eager to delve deeper into your inner self. To many this may sound scary, I have however never found anything that has not been to my benefit. (However, if you know that you have a lot of unresolved junk in your past, seeking guidance from a professional may be a good idea before trying to fix things on your own).

I think my most “tangible” weird experience with meditation happened a few weeks back. I had meditated for about 25 minutes, finished and went to watch TV afterwards. After about five minutes I realized that I hadn’t put on my glasses after finishing the meditation (I normally wear contacts) but to my surprise I could see everything clearly. Completely astonished I checked if I could see clocks and other stuff far away that I normally need glasses for. And I could! When putting on my glasses it was as if they weren’t mine; I couldn’t see clearly with them. This lasted for the rest of the day until I went to sleep and woke up with my regular -1.5 nearsightedness the next day. When telling my optometrist about this he had no good explanation as to what might have happened here.

Meditation and relaxation on an empty roadI know that many people are curious about meditation, but don’t quite know where to start and how to go about it. By all means, it is not a quick fix for anything, but instead offers a more soothing relief over time. It is however an exciting path where you can reap fruits in areas that you never imagined you would. Meditation could give benefits such as self-confidence, self-acceptance, patience, stress management, self-love, peace of mind and much, much more. Please don’t lose your courage if you feel you cannot get the hang of it straight away. Practice makes perfect and remember that continuity is of the essence here.

So if you feel like trying this, you are not alone. More and more people are discovering the world of meditation, and hopefully in not a too distant future meditation will be as normal as brushing one’s teeth or reading the newspaper. I am absolutely convinced the world will be a better place for it.

Meditatively Yours,

Kristian

When the going gets tough

Disastrous Business

I recently heard that one in three people will suffer from anxiety, depression or both at some point during their lives. That’s a lot, but hardly surprising. Almost everywhere I turn I see people struggling with life. Not saying that life should always be easy, but for many it seems to be a bit too gloomy and scary for comfort.

Few things are more stigmatizing in our society than psychological illness, even the relatively mild cases that a large number of people suffer from in silence (Just to clarify, I am not talking about heavy cases of mental illness in this post). You hardly ever meet anyone who openly talk about their problems with anxiety unless it is someone very close to you. Because no one must know that the perfect façade hides a person who is afraid. This is very different from physical conditions that (too?) often seem to be excellent topics for social conversation. People enthusiastically share their problems with migraine, aching backs or cancer with whomever wants to hear, even complete strangers. This is taken to the extreme when people even go on TV to have their hemorrhoids and verrucas exposed and broadcast to the whole world in British reality show Embarrassing Bodies.

Suffering or having suffered from  psychological conditions is oftentimes something that people carry with them as a shameful burden for the rest of their lives. A bit like a broken vase. It may well be whole again, but it is forever scarred and considered more fragile compared to one that has never been broken.

I believe one reason we have trouble dealing with anxiety and depression in a healthy way is that these problems by many are not considered health problems, but rather character defects. Sufferers and bystanders alike may therefore think that these are simply weak-minded people who even also may be partly to blame themselves for their problems. Well-meaning advice often includes solutions like pulling themselves together, just cheering up or to not worry so much. Gee, I am sure they hadn’t thought of that already!

Why is it so hard to view this for what it is, namely health issues? You would not tell a cancer patient or someone with chronic back pains to pull themselves together and get well. Yet, telling a teenager struggling with anxiety and depression to do just this seems legitimate to many.

HandsHoldingGrowingPlantIf one in three develops anxiety or depression during their lives it goes without saying that the causes are numerous. It may be traumatic experiences, stress, substance abuse, abusive relationships, simply being genetically predisposed and lots of other things. My point is that I do not think that the average sufferer from mental disorders is any more responsible for their own condition than patients with more physical troubles. So why the taboo and stigma? Why do people wait in the longest to seek help for their constant sense of impending doom? Or even worse, why do people tolerate this as a natural part of life and deal with it themselves instead of seeking professional assistance? Dealing with this oneself may include self-medicating on drugs and alcohol, becoming abusive themselves or holding it together until total collapse. These are all things that would almost inevitably affect family, friends, colleagues and everyone else around the sufferer.

I am not a health professional and am therefore not really qualified to give any advice on psychological problems, apart from encouraging people to seek help if they feel that life is a bit more difficult than it should be. Seeking help could start with talking about it to a friend or seeing a doctor or therapist. You may be surprised at how many who have experiences to share, either from their own lives or through someone close to them. Experiences that can give hope, guidance and the knowledge that things will get better.

Life is way too short not to be happy. And I am convinced that a lot of people could improve their quality of life if they only would give themselves a break and respect their own limits. Because we all have limits, and depression and anxiety may be your body and mind’s way of telling you that you are pushing it. If you keep pushing it chances are it will say stop in a big way a bit further down the line. And let me tell you: No one will be thanking you the day you hit the wall! Neither your friends, family nor your boss.

I don’t see anxiety and depression as signs of weakness and I don’t think that people who have suffered from this and recovered are more fragile than others. The contrary may actually be the case. In fact some of the most sorted people I know have made their very own personal experiences in this area. People who have felt their own limits, and are aware of them may in fact be living healthier, happier and more sustainable lives in the long run.

As for the vase-metaphor mentioned above, I rather like to think of it as a seam. For isn’t a seam that has been repaired often stronger than the original seam?

Mentally Yours,

Kristian