I have been a teacher of meditation and stress reduction principles and techniques, and a professional speaker for over 35 years. I have trained and worked with leaders in my field. This includes best selling author and mind body medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the teacher that the Beatles sought out for meditation instruction in 1968.
Perhaps you know someone like my mother. She was a poster child for worry. She worried about everything; anxiety about what might go wrong in the future dominated her mind. And there was plenty to be anxious about. What if …?
There were medical bills, rising food prices, jobs that didn’t pay enough, home and car repairs, relationship concerns. It was a long list. Her mind was distracted by all the pressures of daily life, and yet this seems all so normal, or is it?
As a child, I naturally thought, this is life. If you didn’t worry about the future, you’d be unprepared for what would come your way – vigilance is needed. Right?
Somewhere along the way, as a teenager, I found myself thinking that life should be better than this. My parents were taken back when as a teenager, I proclaimed that I would never live like they did – always worrying. I didn’t have a plan, I just thought my adult life had to be different, better.
Magic occurred. Forty-four years ago, at the age of 26, I stumbled upon and was introduced to meditation – a technique to culture the experience of inner peace and wellness. My teachers told me that anxiety, fear, stress and tension exist on the surface of our minds. They said there is a place deep inside the mind where this angst does not exist. Meditation, they proclaimed, is a tool that we can all use to reach this sweet spot; and reacquaint ourselves with our birthright – our calm, peaceful, balanced, stress-free nature.
Hearing this, I chose to give it a try. Looking back, I had little to lose. Sure, there was a course fee but it was a reasonable modest investment. I also had to stretch and try something new – there were no guarantees that this would work. And my life wasn’t filled with encouragement. When I told my mother that I was going to learn to meditate, she said, “Oh, you’re not!” I immediately laughed because she had no idea what meditation was.
The decisions to learn and then become a teacher of meditation were two of the best choices I’ve ever made. No matter how much stress or chaos is in my environment, because of meditation, I know how to go back to my true self and not get swept away by the turbulence.
Similarly, a recent client said that she feels like she has a thicker skin since she learned to meditate; the stresses of daily life are not penetrating her well-being as before. She feels more resilient. Another client, a physician, said, “Meditation is like a mini-vacation, and now I’m vacationing every day.” To that, I’ll add that as we continue to taste vacation every day in meditation, life after meditation becomes more vacation like.
If you are not meditating, this is a good time to start.
Sprinting to catch up with my 2-year old grandson as he ran down the driveway toward the street, I was stressed, however this was “good” stress. The stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline provided the energy I needed to respond quickly to a potentially dangerous situation. I also recovered quickly because he didn’t run too far or too fast; and this stressful event occurred during a relaxed weekend family outing.
Stress, however, turns serious when we are exposed to stressors with a high degree of frequency. Our body and mind are not designed to be handle chronic stress well. We need breaks in order to recover and recharge. Without intervention and healthy lifestyles, stress accumulates mercilessly.
To minimize our exposure to the impact of negative stress it is helpful to know and identify its developmental stages. They are:
• Burn through
Some simple analogies will help you identify where you stand. Burnout is like having a flat tire at 1:00 am, and you’re sitting on the side of the road without a spare or cell phone. Burn through, the second stage, follows. You’re burnt out, however there doesn’t seem to be any options. You’re certain that you can’t do anything about it. You decide to keep driving with a flat tire, pushing ahead on your wheel’s rim hoping that you reach safety. Burn through is not sustainable. Without intervention, it usually proceeds to the final stage, Meltdown. Here, medical costs skyrocket as our health tanks, relationships suffer or end, and jobs might be lost. It’s not pretty.
Where are you? Most of us have been at the Burnout stage at some point in our lives. I certainly was early in my work life. I found little if any satisfaction from the work that I was doing as an engineer working for a Fortune 200 company. I’d come home tired and frustrated, make some dinner, go to bed and wake up the next morning to do it all over again. Then one day a good friend invited me to accompany him to a talk about meditation and its benefits. My life was never the same after that evening.
First Things First
During the presentation, I decided to enroll in the course that the teacher was promoting. He said that there was something missing in most people’s lives, and its inside not outside in the world. I was intrigued and realized that I had nothing to lose by giving this a try.
My meditation teacher used to say: Water the root, to enjoy the fruit. A skilled gardener knows that the plant or tree needs nourishment in order to thrive. And the place to nourish it is at the root. Meditation does this by taking our conscious attention to the deep quietest levels of our awareness. It was a game changer for me.
I found myself looking forward to returning home at the end of the workday to meditate. I would sit, then close my eyes and begin this effortless mental technique. My awareness settled down and my body began to rest. After 15 – 20 minutes, I’d open my eyes and feel refreshed and happier. The entire evening was more satisfying. The trauma in my life and the heaviness that it brought was melting away in each meditation. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I was so much happier.
My meditation experience also stimulated an interest in reading self-help books. One of the excellent books that I read was written by Stephen Covey, Ph.D. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Without intending to do so, I was developing one of the 7 habits – doing First Things First. Dr. Covey suggested that we decide what is important to us and then put that high on our priority list, i.e. take action on it.
When I assessed what was important to me, I put my health at the top of the list. You might have something else at the top. That’s OK. We’re all different and have different values and interests. Having made and prioritized the list, I took the next step and wrote action steps that would help me be healthier. Meditation was at the top of my good health list, and I was already doing that twice every day. It was obvious one item on my health list needed attention: exercise. From that day forward, I exercised more regularly and enjoyed it more. I committed myself to doing things that are important to me.
Now, here’s a challenge: how do you find time to do the things that are important? For example, people often ask me how I find the time to meditate twice a day. Well, it’s easier than you think.
First, take an inventory of the activities of your life. Then, identify what’s important and what’s of less importance. Also, look at the urgencies of your life. The things that are shouting at you to do them now. Make some lists. A key to finding time for what’s important to you is to minimize the things that have less importance to your life. For me, to make the time to meditate 10 – 20 minutes twice a day, means less TV, less shopping, less social media, web surfing. Is it worth it? You bet.
To get started, take it one day at a time – it’s a process. When you stumble, pick yourself up and begin again. You have nothing to lose by doing First Things First. Oops, I must correct myself, you will lose something – much of the stress in your life!
According to an international team of health experts known as the Global Council on Brain Health, more than half of Americans over 50 report waking up too early and not returning to sleep; and over 40% say they aren’t getting enough sleep. And yet, it’s a myth that adults need less sleep as they age.
Research validates that most adults need 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep to be at the top of their game. Skimping on shut-eye can lead to a host of serious disease such as depression and dementia. Without proper rest, we cannot adequately cleanse our brain and body of toxins let alone sustain the energy needed for the day ahead.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., a pioneer in mind body medicine, states that restful sleep is the foundation for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Rest heals and restores our body and mind.
To understand how to get better sleep, it’s helpful to recognize what gets in the way. Few of us would dispute that we live with chronic stress, hurry, hurry, hurry. Life today is fast paced, rapid fire. Turning it off at night is problematic for many. While everyone’s body is tired in the evening, we are more than a body. We also have a mind, and it’s in charge! The stimulated, overworked mind fights our body’s natural need for rest.
In order to gain restorative restful sleep, the busy thinking mind needs to disconnect at night. The good news is that we can help it disconnect and relax by bringing balance into our day.
This is key. According to Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of natural medicine, dis-ease results from imbalance with nature’s rhythms and cycles. To restore balance in our life, let’s explore antidotes for our sleep concerns.
Try these 12 simple practices & routines for restful sleep
• Early to bed and early to rise is timeless wisdom – wake up with the sun.
• Think of sleep as an appointment with yourself. A regular bedtime and waking schedule is important.
• Meditate early in the morning, if possible, before you engage with your day. The day’s challenges are much less stressful when you start with a calm clear mind.
• Eat a light and healthy breakfast.
• Breathe – when feeling stressed, just a few conscious breaths will help restore balance.
• Lunch –Your digestion is strongest around noon. If possible, make this your largest meal. Not eating lunch, or multitasking through lunch is stressful to your body, mind, and emotions.
• Outdoors – Try to get outdoors and in sunlight every day. That’s not so easy in winter months in the Northeast, however spending as little as 20 minutes in the sun and in nature helps keep us in sync with natural rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
• Meditate after work. When I began doing this years ago, I started looking forward to decompressing after the work day. It changed everything; life with less stress is calming and satisfying. Sleep comes more easily when we are relaxed and content inside.
• Eat dinner before 7:00 pm. Keep it light. If your body is digesting food in the late evening, it will be more difficult to fall asleep.
• Take an evening walk after dinner, wind down with some gentle exercise.
• Put away electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. It will prepare you for sleep. The brightness of their screens is counter-productive to settling down the mind.
• Close the eye’s to sleep by 10:00 or 10:30 pm. If this seems unworkable, move up your bedtime by 30 minutes and notice the difference in how you feel over the next few weeks. Then, bump it up another 30 minutes when you feel comfortable doing so.
Start from where you are
If this list is way too ambitious, not to worry. Start with what is workable. Chunk it down. Commit to implementing one or two items for a month, and see what’s changed. Then adjust, and build from there. Perhaps, you will want to add to your practices. We all want to wake up feeling refreshed, mentally focused, and energized for the day ahead. Implementing these healthy lifestyle routines will help significantly.
The rewards of restful sleep are profound. It will be well worth your while to make some of these adjustments to your lifestyle. If you care to, I’d enjoy hearing your feedback on what’s working. Sweet dreams…
Most of us have seen the effect of cognitive decline in a loved one. As a child, I lived with a grandparent who repeated some of his life experiences over and over. The adults in my life said this unusual behavior was due to hardening of the arteries. Today, we see far more serious forms of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the incidence of its occurrence is overwhelming our health care systems. What can we do?
Maria Shriver, author and correspondent for NBC News recently said it well, “Talking about cognitive health is a conversation that we need to start having in our country, across all ages.”
Avoid Anything that Hurts Your Brain
The good news is there are practical steps that we can all take to protect our brain. Yes, we do have power over brain disease. You may have heard psychiatrist, brain researcher, and author, Dr. Daniel Amen speak on his insightful PBS-TV specials. He advises us to avoid anything that hurts our brain such as:
• Recreational drugs & alcohol • Diabetes
• Obesity • Chronic stress
• Lack of activity • Emotional trauma
• Diet low in nutrients • Unhealthy peer group
• Insomnia • Denial: Ignoring your brain’s vulnerability
• Nicotine/Smoking • Environmental toxins
• Excess caffeine • Head injury
Lifestyle Choices to Heal Your Brain: an Action Plan
As you can infer from the above list, there is much that we can do to heal our brain through lifestyle choices. It’s never too late to take these important steps. Today we know that the brain grows new neurons (neurogenesis), and it adapts by rewiring itself (neuroplasticity) to reshape the mind and our life.
I consider myself fortunate to have I stumbled into a healthier way of life 43 years ago when I was introduced to meditation. One evening a good friend told me he was going to an introductory lecture about meditation, and I accepted his invitation to join him. To my surprise, I was excited about what I heard in the evening’s discussion and decided to enroll in the meditation course.
Within just one week of adding two short periods of meditation to each day, I was feeling less tired and more alert. I looked forward to the end of the work day so I could sit down and meditate. I was also happier, and more confident and enthusiastic. I was sleeping better, and in the coming months, I realized that I was making healthier food choices. This frequently happens; when you heal in one area of your life, you begin to be drawn to other healthy behaviors.
Positive change begins to snowball. Some people for example, after learning to meditate, begin to exercise or move more. They may go for walks, do yoga, or work out in a gym. Others, like me, begin to eat more nutrient rich foods, and less sweets and processed foods. Stress levels decrease as a result of such positive lifestyle changes; we grow calmer and handle the challenges of life in a healthier manner. Spontaneously we begin making better decisions, and negative influences such as smoking, overeating, and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs become less attractive.
These lifestyle changes are simple action steps leading to a healthier brain and improved cognitive health. I say simple, however behavioral change does requires discipline or commitment. Be patient, it’s about progress not perfection. A good place to start is with a meditation practice because it a mental technique dealing directly with the brain. Whatever we choose, however, we begin where we are, and progress one day at a time. So, if sitting 15 or 20 minutes to meditate seems unworkable, go for 5 or 10 minutes. After a month, you may find yourself adding to your meditation time as you experience the value of that quiet time.
The good news is that you will have a healthier brain and life by embracing some of these strategies and thoughts. The rewards will be gratifying. It is after all, cool to be healthy.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
These powerful words sound simple enough, but what is it that you love? For many, it’s not so obvious and we get stuck in a less than fulfilling life. Sound familiar?
The clock watcher – a life without passion
In the beginning days of my working life, I was a clock watcher. Frequently glancing at the clock to see how much longer till quitting time. I lived for nights and weekends. Work was a necessary evil, something that I did for a paycheck and nothing more.
Wasn’t this the way it was for everyone? It was for most everyone I knew. There was a growing dissatisfaction with my life. Did I struggle through college for this?
For me, life bottomed out a few years after college. I was bored and frustrated with work, and my marriage was difficult. Then, one evening, my young wife of three years died tragically. Any passion in my life was gone.
Transformation – finding your way
Surprisingly, things turned around just one month later when I stumbled into an introductory meditation lecture being given near my home in Reading, PA. The meditation teacher explained that most people lacked a basic element in their life. He called it our true or higher self that we experience at the source of thought. While these were new terms, he ignited a spark of wonder inside me. What if this actually worked like the teacher said?
I took his course and continued to meditate daily. Within a short time, I was experiencing brief moments of bliss and delight every day. It was obvious that meditation was having a good influence. It became a part of my daily personal hygiene – cleaning up the inside of life. Then one evening a teacher hearing me complain about my engineering job, said “you know you could become a teacher of meditation.” That was 40 years ago, his comment was a total game changer because I acted on it.
Nature has a way of pulling us in the direction of our passion and love. Listen. Passion is there for you, and as Rumi states, the strange pull of what you really love will not lead you astray.
Pay attention to what brings you joy, to that which you love and have passion for. Look for ways to include those things in your daily life. Meditation practice, if you choose to do it, will aid you in your quest. And be patient, this is not an instant fix but one that will uplift every day of your life.
Do you remember the days when a 40-hour work week was standard? We all know those days are gone. Wayne Muller, in his classic book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives states that we live in a world where overwork is seen as a professional virtue. A badge of honor, and yet with it there’s often exhaustion and a resignation that you are helpless to do anything about it. Life spinning out of control is seen as the norm. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are strategies for working more efficiently. It’s often possible to scale back those hours without reducing the amount of work that gets done. In my earlier life as an industrial engineer, I saw lots of people resigned to working long hours, and many were wasting a lot of time at work. There are lots of distractions that can fill up our days if we allow it. Try focusing on what’s important and minimizing or discarding the rest. Hint: How much time do you spend on social media, TV watching, shopping, personal email or texting?
Awareness and performance: Breaking out of prison
Change does not come easy for most of us. Overwhelm from working long hours or obsessive thinking gets hardwired in our brain. And the problem gets worse the longer we maintain negative routines. These become habits of thought and action.
So how do we move in the direction of positive change? It starts with awareness. A spiritual teacher once asked his students what is the first thing that you need to know if you want to break out of prison. Some said, befriend the guard who has the keys. Another said, find where the keys are kept. The answer however was, the first thing you need to know is that you are in prison. Without that awareness, breaking free won’t happen!
Change is only possible when we have the awareness that we are stuck. Until that moment, we aren’t ready to change and will resist it.
Lifestyle changes: Meditation …
For many of us, our lives took a dramatic turn for the better when we learned to meditate. Sitting with our eyes closed in the deep effortless calm of meditation for 10 – 20 minutes twice a day is a game changer over time. Awareness expands in every meditation. One of the first signs of change that many new meditators experience is, after just a few days of meditation practice, they begin to respond to situations in a healthier way. They realize that they are more relaxed and patient; they are seeing things from a broader perspective.
By adding meditation to our daily life, such positive changes in thinking and behavior occur spontaneously without effort. The calm awareness of meditation integrates seamlessly into our lives after meditation. For example, I began to eat healthier foods after learning to meditate. I wasn’t looking for ways to change my diet, a healthier diet sort of found me. Many others begin to get more exercise, and those that have had a regular exercise program find that they enjoy it more. Some quit smoking, and with much less effort. The desire to be well grows.
Beating burnout is a lot easier than you might think. It just takes a commitment and action to move in a new life enhancing direction. That commitment will probably, but not in all cases, need to follow the awareness that you are exhausted – a recognition that your fatigue negatively impacts the quality of your home and work life.
When I learned to meditate and started a daily practice of it in 1974, I was not aware how tired and burned out I was. I was like the prisoner who didn’t know that he was in prison. I was, however, open to trying something new to uplevel my life. What I found through my decision to learn to meditate was that the deep rest of Effortless Meditation is an antidote for fatigue and so much more. Every meditation revitalized me for the day ahead.
Steps of progress
Begin with one step in a positive direction, lean toward progress. Then take another progressive step. A few were discussed in this short article. As you continue to move forward, you will gain a momentum that will sustain you. If you stumble, just get back up and lean toward progress. Life was meant to be lived with enthusiasm and well-being. Burnout be gone.
When I graduated from college with an engineering degree, I thought I had arrived. My joy was short lived; I had to find a job, and in 1971, they were in short supply. To insure that I’d be happy, I got married immediately upon graduation. Surely, being married would bring lasting happiness!
Neither of these worked so well. As it turned out, engineering was not a good fit for my interests and adjusting to marital life was difficult at best. For me and many others, searching for happiness was much like looking under rocks. There had to be something under one of them to fulfill us.
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t too many years later that someone pointed out that there was a better way. I met a wise teacher who told me there’s a deeper truth to finding happiness and inner peace.
Happiness is inside
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to accompany my five year old granddaughter to story time at our local library. The story teller had the children mesmerized by a tale of frogs and pollywogs. She had them hopping, dancing and wiggling with joy. The kids were in ecstasy.
And this is with them every day. My granddaughter is delight personified. She doesn’t need to be given a gift to have joy, her happiness just is. She’s excited by life – a silly expression, a new idea, a song, almost anything brings her delight.
I’m grateful to have her in my life, her joy is contagious. The good news is that it is a memory or state of BEING that we can nurture even as adults.
My first meditation teacher often told us that the nature of life is bliss. He explained that stress blocks the flow of energy and bliss in our nervous system. By releasing inner stress and tension, meditation allows us to reclaim the well-being and joy that resides inside all of us.
States of being
I see the evidence of it with every Effortless Meditation™ course that I teach. As we progress through the series of seven sessions, the mood gets lighter and more joyful. Frequently, couples who express relationship concerns notice after only a few days of meditation practice that they are more patient with each other. They also recognize they are happier and at peace for no apparent reason.
Eureka, happiness, inner peace, and delight don’t need a reason to exist! They are states of being that occur spontaneously and effortlessly when our brain and nervous system are functioning more normally/optimally.
In his delightful book, Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats, author Eckhart Tolle states that “true happiness is found in simple, seemingly unremarkable things.” You may experience it when watching your dog run playfully through a meadow. “But to be aware of these little quiet things, we need to be quiet inside. A high degree of alertness is required. Be still. Look. Listen. Be present.”
To get there, try this…
Meditation is rapidly growing in popularity. It is simple to learn although it helps to have a skilled teacher and good technique. Meditation enables us to experience our “quiet mind” and be present. With regular practice, the simple pleasures of life become a growing part of our daily experience.
Walk mindfully through a forest or city street; give in to listening. Observe your surroundings as you stroll silently without trying to get anywhere. Don’t try to quiet your mind, your mind is already quiet just not on the surface or conscious thinking level. To get to the deeper quiet areas of the mind, meditation is helpful but just walking quietly and mindfully is a good start.
Finally, beyond the sounds and stirrings of nature there is something greater, a sacredness that cannot be understood through thought. This is the world of wonder to which my granddaughter and her playmates have access. The world is a delight to them. And it can be a delight for adults as well. Just learn to experience your quiet mind using the suggestions above. Become child-like, if only for a few minutes each day.
This is perhaps one of the most helpful questions to ask yourself when you are feeling stressed out or
Wayne Dyer and Greg
stuck. Whether you’re upset about your boss, spouse, a problem at work, or world news, changing your perspective will empower you to find creative solutions and relief.
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Author Wayne Dyer, affectionately called the Doctor of Motivation by many of his millions of fans, often said “When you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at change.” So, let’s consider the mechanics of how we can change the way we see things.
Our perceptions reach our brain through the nervous system. Neurologists, the scientists who study the nervous system, have discovered that stress, pressure, fatigue, poor diet, alcohol and drugs damage neural connections between the brain’s prefrontal cortex (the higher thinking CEO) and the rest of the brain.
With chronic exposure to these toxic influences, our higher more evolved rational thinking brain circuits get bypassed due to the impaired neural connections. Then to our detriment, the brain reverts to using its more primitive stimulus/response pathways. This is why we tend toward rigid thinking and reactive behavior, worry, anxiety, distracted attention, and low self-esteem. At these times, even the smallest of challenges can overwhelm us. So what can we do in our pressure filled world to see things differently, broaden our perspective and gain relief?
I know of no better way to change the way we see and respond to the world than to incorporate a regular meditation practice into our life. While there are many styles of meditation. I’ll discuss the one with which I am most familiar – Effortless Meditation or EM. During EM, we experience a deep state of rest that releases stress in our nervous system.
This is transformational because the nervous system is a conduit for all information coming to and from our brain. Stress, which has been called health enemy #1, is a major impediment to the proper functioning of the nervous system and brain. Therefore, when we reduce stress in our nervous system, we see and respond to things differently because our nervous system and brain are functioning as nature intended.
The evidence of this beneficial change is seen in responses from people who meditate. Frequently they report that they look forward to meditating when they return home from work. Before they learned to meditate, they felt that they took all the stress of the day home with them. Now, after work, they sit in meditation and release their perception altering stress before engaging in family life. They are calmer, relaxed, more patient, and revitalized from the deep rest in their meditation. Many say that their families encourage them to meditate.
The world is as we are. After meditation, without effort, we see things differently because we are different. The benefits we experience are rooted in the change in our brain and nervous system brought about by meditation practice.
“Love is my gift to the world. I fill myself with love, and I send that love out into the world.” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
I offer this article with gratitude to author, speaker, and thought leader Wayne Dyer, PhD. We met 25 years ago when he enrolled in a meditation course that I was teaching in a Massachusetts health center. He’s been highly influential in my life and in the lives of millions around the world. Wayne became one of the world’s leading advocates for practicing meditation. It was two years ago this week that he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 75. We were blessed to have had him with us.
A good friend and business colleague, Wendy Kershner, sent me this wonderful story that I’d like to paraphrase for you. It comes from a book with the above title written by Gregory Knox James (2001).
During the colonization of India, the British settled in Calcutta. They missed their game of golf tremendously so they decided to build a golf course. Once it was ready for play, the monkeys moved in as this area of India was home to many of them. They quickly disrupted the golfer’s pleasure by picking up the ball after it was hit and moving it.
Not to be undone the British built a high wall around the golf course to keep the mischievous monkeys out. But, this was just a game for the monkeys – scaling the wall, was no problem! The Brits then decided to trap the monkeys and transport them far away. This was impractical as there were far too many monkeys, so they gave up.
Then came a creative thought. They decided to change the game. The new rules were that you would play the ball where the monkey dropped it. This turned out to be a “win” for both the golfers and the monkeys.
When life doesn’t go your way…
Maybe you have noticed that life does not always go as we plan. Others do not follow our script or direction. They seem to have a mind of their own. How dare they? Anyone with children, a spouse or significant other probably sees this playing out quite often.
So what do you do when the monkey drops the ball far from where you hit it? Do you grumble, get angry, sulk or worry yourself sick? Or do you make lemonade, when everything is turning up lemons?
A friend told me that he and his wife were a good match because she liked to be right and he liked to be happy! Their relationship thrived because of flexibility and adaptability. Learning to stretch both physically and mentally is a good thing.
I’ll suggest that you create some “space” in your brain so that creative solutions can come. An excellent way to do that is with a daily Effortless Meditation™ practice. As you begin to make some time to be still in meditation, the pressures of daily life will reduce. Then, like the British golfers, you too will begin to see new possibilities and opportunities. And you’ll have more fun.
Life is good, just as it is, when you learn to let go, relax and be resilient.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., author and pioneer in the field of mind body medicine, quotes a study of risk factors for heart disease done by the Massachusetts Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Surprisingly, the #1 risk factor was job dissatisfaction, and #2 was a low sense of personal happiness.
Many years ago, both of these risks were very much a part of my life. The year was 1974. I was 26 years old, and my wife of three years had died a sudden tragic death. And at the time, I was employed in a career that brought me little satisfaction.
How to grow happiness
Fortunately, things turned around. One evening, a month after my wife’s passing, I went with a friend to a lecture that introduced us to the nature and benefits of meditation. It sounded promising and I realized that I had little to lose so both my friend and I enrolled in the course.
We attended a 1.5 hour meeting on four consecutive days. It didn’t take long for the effects of meditation to show up. Just a few hours after my first meditation experience, I found myself spontaneously skipping through a restaurant on the way to the cash register after eating! I felt exhilarated and didn’t know why.
What was happening? This unexpected feeling of euphoria wasn’t preceded by any accomplishment or achievement. And I wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sometime later I learned that these experiences are not uncommon when people begin to add meditation to their daily lives. Now not everyone experiences such exhilaration after one meditation; most however begin to soon notice moments when they are happy for no apparent reason. They are just happy with life.
The ancient cultures from where Effortless Meditation™ comes explain that the nature of life is bliss. Life is not meant to be filled with chronic stress and unhappiness. And yet today, many are so overwhelmed trying to accomplish everything on their “To Do” lists that they’ve lost the ability to enjoy life. To the rescue comes pharmaceutical companies who make billions annually on medications for anxiety and depression.
The good news is that we have the power within to find lasting happiness. The remedy: Tap into the reservoir of happiness and freedom that already exists in your mind with the addition of a simple personal hygiene practice.
This reservoir of well-being isn’t found on the surface, the conscious thinking level of your mind. That’s why most people are not aware of it. It exists at the depths of the mind, the source of your thought.
A short example might help. Do an online search of tsunamis in Southeast Asia, and you’ll find articles about people scuba diving during some of the most horrific storms. They had a splendid day diving and when they surface, they were shocked to see wreckage and chaos. Like that, peace, joy, relaxation and well-being exists deep below the surface of the conscious thinking stress filled mind.
A Key: Subject vs. object referral
With repeated EM practice, we begin to identify more and more with the relaxed freedom and well-being inside us rather than identifying with the turbulence and worries on the surface of our mind. The ancient traditions of knowledge call this as subject vs. object referral. Object referral is said to be at the root of all disease and suffering. We’ve lost ourselves and our inner peace to the world that we see.
If experiencing the bliss and peaceful nature of the inner mind can have me skipping with delight after just one meditation, it can work for anyone. Some new meditators that I have instructed have said after a few days of practice that they were convinced that Effortless Meditation would save their life. For many, however, the initial benefits are more subtle but still obvious – they often realize they are sleeping better, or they’re less anxious, more alert, more patient, and less stressed.
We’ve all found that lasting and real happiness starts inside. The world needs more happiness, so let’s dive in. And if you don’t know how to meditate, or if you feel that you can’t do it, find an experienced teacher that you respect to assist you.