“Meditation goes mainstream” shouted the headline in yesterday’s local paper. Then followed a lengthy article about the many benefits (some now proven by science!) and how the practice has become embraced by employers, schools, churches, and more. What timing: I finished my approximately-annual many-month class on meditation yesterday morning.
Meditation, which now also goes by other names including “mindfulness stress reduction” and “relaxation response” may not rank up there with golf and gardening as pastimes where those pursuing pleasantry go. But like yoga, countless too-tense individuals have added it to their repertoire to help pursue perspective, presence, and calm.
Let’s just call it an antidote to the many pressures to work and stay wired 24/7.
The class I take meets for two hours, but features meditation for only a small part of the time. The rest of the time fills with directed conversation, readings, writing, and all kinds of exercises (mostly not physical). Our teacher comes from a long and strong Buddhist background. Our sessions might be called Zen Lite.
Indeed, sometimes the two hours pass with lightness—laughter and silliness. But often, people open up and you gradually learn why they are there. And it’s not always the CEUs; our circle always includes Kleenex alongside the flowers.
The list reads rather like a therapist’s calling card. Depression. Anxiety. Abuse. Perfectionism. Insomnia. Unemployment or financial failure. Divorce or estrangement. Serious injury. Chronic pain. Chem-dep or recovery. Death of a child, parent, or spouse. Fill in the blank.
Meditation and the other things we experience must help. Because rarely is anyone absent or late. No one leaves early. And like me, many people come back for more now and then.
It’s true: Many meditation styles have exacting rules on nuances like sitting positions, music or silence, light or dark, short or long, morning or evening, and so on. Fortunately, at least for us “advanced” students, our homework now suggests daily meditation “in whatever form.”
That means the practice might be done most anywhere, any time. It might be sitting in that pretzel position. Or it might be in a comfortable chair. Maybe it’s walking, or even lying down. In fact, she often uses my kayaking as an example. (Please don’t tell her I often wear headphones blasting Led Zeppelin.)
Meditation can go by many names, but my favorite is Relaxation. It’s what the locals practice like a religion on Caribbean islands. It’s what fans most crave when they watch a long baseball game. It’s why most everyone wants a back yard, patio, or park bench to hunker down on. It’s why some folks fish.
Whatever you call it, it’s what the world needs now.