There is a meme circling the internet with a woman, hands pressed against her temples, eyes focused, yet tired, the muscles of her jaw tight—she is clearly overwhelmed. The text above her face reads: “I’m so stressed that relaxing makes me more stressed because I’m not working on what’s making me stressed.” Can you relate? Busy, tired, and overwhelmed. These are common responses to the innocent question, “How are you?” It’s as if we have conditioned ourselves to remain in a state of stress and high-performance that sitting quietly for a moment is laughable. Who has time for that? Or it seems improbable. How can you sit quietly, resting your body and your mind, when there’s so much to do? But practicing mindful meditation is crucial to your overall health.
What Is Mindful Meditation?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of your surroundings and circumstances without reacting to them. You have the capability to do this every moment of every day, it just takes practice. Naming your emotions without responding to them is practicing mindfulness. Being aware of your senses and your current state of mind is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose. Rather than moving through your day on autopilot, distracted, mind churning, mindfulness gives you awareness. This causes you to slow down your train of thought and deepen your breathing. These things will actually help you be more focused and more productive, however, that is not the point.
Meditation is a practice that has been adopted by religious and spiritual people for centuries. There is a false understanding of what it means to meditate. Most people think true meditation is to empty yourself, become void of all thoughts and emotions. When in reality, meditation is more about exploration. It is to empty yourself of distraction and noise so that you can clearly see your present reality. If you lack clarity, discipline, or focus in your life you will benefit from practicing mindful meditation.
What Are the Benefits of Meditation?
You may find it difficult to sit still, in silence for a period of time. But this may be one of the reasons you need to. When you remove yourself from your computer, your cell phone, your calendar, your work environment, your daily tasks with all of life’s interruptions, you can evaluate your emotional state and notice what triggers your stress. Those that practice mindful meditation regularly, are empowered to face their emotions rather than let them rule their life. Once you name certain issues, you are able to process them and are more prepared to deal with them effectively. Practicing mindful meditation ushers in a sense of calmness that is otherwise hidden. You learn how to harness this feeling of internal peace during times you would normally feel overwhelmed.
Meditation is known to help you sleep better at night, perhaps because you no longer toss and turn as your mind reels. Instead, during your time of meditation, you addressed your emotions, found a clear way to move through them, and steadied your anxious mind. Feeling inspired, and rejuvenated are two other benefits to meditating on a regular basis. Research indicates that mindful meditation uses different parts of the brain that are otherwise unused. In fact, researchers discovered that those who have practiced meditation over the course of years have reduced activity in their amygdala—the part of the brain that triggers your “flight or fight” response to stress. Students who participated in mindfulness courses for two weeks prior to their GRE (graduate school entrance exam), saw a 30% increase in their scores. And overall, those who practice mindful meditation are said to have more compassion for others and personal contentedness. If you feel overworked, overstimulated, and overwhelmed, taking several moments dedicated to silent reflection may be just what you need.
How Can Seton Cove Help?
If you are interested in practicing mindful meditation, join us for one of our free meditation and prayer groups. Our groups meet at various points throughout the day every week. Each session offers you a time to sit in silence, reflect, heal, or pray. The sessions are all held in community so you learn to draw strength from those around you. You can visit our website to find a free class that fits your schedule, or contact us for more information. The classes are open to beginners and do not require pre-registration. We hope to see you this week!