It can feel like now is a particularly difficult time to be a citizen of the World. The news is full of stories of insecurity from the violence and terror that continues to occur at a global scale both at home and abroad, fear of disease through the spread of the zika virus, economic uncertainty from the recent “Brexit” referendum and a political and popular environment that continues to become more bizarre and unsettling by the day. I thought that perhaps the most useful thing that I could write about would be a way to find quiet and stillness in the midst of all of this noise and chaos- meditation. If the idea of meditation makes you think of hippie communes or monks who have dedicated their lives to silent reflection then there is a lot of recent science to encourage you to give it a try.
We all know that we have very little, if any, control over our external environment. What we can control is how we react to and think about our environment, and changing how we take in and process the chaos on the outside can have significant benefits to us as individuals. There are lots of ways to meditate and the basic idea is to focus your attention on a single thing whether that is your breath, an action, a single thought or noise or an external object. Research has shown that this one act of focusing attention on a regular basis can decrease stress, anxiety and depression and even make us more empathetic and understanding people in our interactions with and thoughts about others. There may even be health benefits as well such as increased immune function and the capacity to reduce pain. Meditation can also help you improve memory, creativity and attention span- all in sessions that can be as short as 10 minutes.
If you have never meditated before and you want some guidance on how to start, there are lots of free tools. One app that I use is called Simply Being and is on the Apple Store- it allows you to set a meditation for a certain amount of time based on what is happening in your day. You don’t need classes, books, apps or equipment to get started, you just need to give yourself the time to be quiet and focus your attention however you choose. This long weekend, try and take some time to switch off the constant flow of chaos, news and worry and find a moment or two for a deep breath and some quiet time for yourself. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised at the way it will feel!