Meditation is often associated with Buddhist monks or beautifully peaceful women on fluffy cushions. Individuals may be uninterested in exploring the benefits of meditation because they cannot relate to the meditative archetype, a transcendent and serene being. Recently, a client inquired about learning how to meditate but was skeptical about whether she would be a good candidate.
Meditation isn’t about expections, I started to explain. It’s like, like a …maybe think of it as an adult time out! At the time, I blurted it out in jest but when I started thinking about it, it isn’t a bad comparison.
Many of us who have had children know about the all-powerful time-out when a child is behaving badly. It’s a actually too bad that time-outs are often used as a punishment rather than an important time to settle down before returning to the scene with a clearer mind. In our house, it was called “The Thinking Chair” but it was almost always used when I had had enough of their antics. If I known then what I knew now, I could have expanded the Thinking Chair into an opportunity to teach early self-regulation. The Thinking Chair would be a wholly positive experience. Oh well.. lost opportunity. They are all grown up now.
Anyway, one of the many benefits of meditation is to train your mind to notice when you are off track, or when you are relying on unhelpful cognitive patterns of the past to respond to the present. Certainly it always helps to step away from a stressful situation to gather your thoughts in the moment. However, most of us don’t notice when we are in that chaotic or rigid state of mind in the first place so we just keep going. Meditation prepares the brain to notice those situations unfolding so we can take a step back and achieve clarity. Another good analogy to describe meditation is that it is like going to the gym to lift weights so you can lift something for real later.
I meditate but do not I head into the woods to contemplate the sound of one clapping hand. I use that phrase as a caricature to describe what meditation is not, especially for the average participant who might feel that they aren’t “the meditating type.” There are enormous benefits to the regular practice of meditation and one should not judge themselves to be a poor candidate to do it due to misconceptions about what it actually is.