A man was teaching his grandson about life.
The grandfather said: “A fight goes on inside people. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, ego.
The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, and compassion.”
The grandson thought about it and then asked: “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather replied: “The one you feed.”
You’ve heard about meditation. And you’re skeptical: “I’m too busy to ‘waste’ time.” Or, “I’m x-y-z religion. My religion doesn’t allow it.” [Christian traditions may call meditation Centering Prayer. Think of meditation as a listening form of prayer.] Or, “I tried it once. I didn’t get anything out of it.”
Examine your assumptions and excuses. Do they hold up to scrutiny?
For all the hype, meditation is not a cure-all. It doesn’t provide a quick fix or fast-acting relief. You can’t take two and expect to be better in the morning.
Why meditate? The holistic benefits rewards are well documented. It can increase emotional resilience and calmness. Practitioners learn to regulate knee-jerk reactions to situations by increasing the gap between stimulus and response. For the body, a regular practice can reduce blood pressure, heart disease, migraines, insomnia, and stress-related symptoms. For the mind, meditation can increase productivity, creativity, and concentration. It can help reduce anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking, and hostility. Maybe if you meditate long enough you’ll have a woo-woo mystical experience and levitate or visit the astral realm. If so, lucky you.
Getting Started: learning meditation is quick and simple. But, spoiler alert, the benefits only come with practice; that part’s not so easy. You have to actually do it, not just read about it or wish you did it.
I’m not a purist. Figure out what works for you. The meditation police won’t write a ticket or handcuff you to your chair if you disobey the “rules.”
- Set a timer. It keeps you from looking at the clock when it seems like an eternity has passed. [And, if you fall asleep, it will wake you up before you get caught “meditating.”]
- How long? Even a few minutes is okay. With children, the guideline is one minute for each year (e.g. a 7 year old meditates for 7 minutes). For mature audiences, meditating your age might be off-putting, so choose a more reasonable and doable length, especially as you are building a practice.
- Choose a comfortable position, but not too comfortable. [Meditation or nap – it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. If you sleep, you probably needed it …]
Essential element: breathe — intentionally.
Optional step: Close your eyes.
Optional step: Use a focal point or phrase. Some people find it helpful to look at a candle or hold an object to focus attention. Others use a mantra as a reminder to return to the present and Presence. Mantra sounds exotic, but it can be a simple word, like love, peace, or calm.
Breathe intentionally for a set amount of time. That’s all there is to it. Can you handle it? [If you’ve congested, breathe through your mouth rather than the nose. Lawyers insist on the liability warning.]
Caution: thoughts will still be racing around your brain. They rarely stop. The trick is: don’t focus on them. Think of watching a leaf float on a river. When it passes, let it move on. Thoughts swirl, unless you’re asleep or dead [Disclaimer: I’m making an assumption about the latter state of being, not from experience]. If you have a creative insight or remember an urgent to-do item, write the thought down and release it to paper.
Silence is the language of God. It is also the language of the heart. — Sivananda
Some resources you may want to investigate:
- Learn more: Contemplative Outreach’s mobile meditation app:
- Light a virtual candle: pray in silence with others from all over the world
- Listen: Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On by Jimmy Buffett
One way to think of meditation is like a cosmic Zoom session, except one requiring no equipment or internet connection. It can provide a still point during a turbulent time. Can you spare ten to ensure the wolf of serenity, kindness, and peace wins?
May all be well and may we be a healing light for the world.
© Joan S Grey, 21 AUG 2020 ∞
IndexCardCure™: Inward journey
2 thoughts on “Meditation: it’s not what you think”
This is beautiful, Joan. I’ve been meditating with my students for 20+ years and they always loved it.
I hope many people read this easy how-to and follow through.
Thanks for your kind comments, Karen. Take care, Joan