Sometimes there is a perception that practicing meditation is quite a self-indulgent thing to do.
A person might like the “idea” of meditating or cultivating more joy and happiness in their lives but it’s just not feasible. For many, the thought of carving out even ten minutes to sit and be with their present moment experience “as it is” provokes a feeling of anxiety. Their plate is already full with all of the demands of life and there is no space to stop and be:
I’m too busy. So many people at home and in work depend on me.
Does that sound familiar?
Do you often find yourself rushing to the next moment?
There can be a feeling that,
if I don’t keep going at 100 miles an hour, everything will fall apart!
I certainly relate to that feeling and I know how exhausting it is. I have noticed myself at times “rushing” to chop the vegetables for dinner… my whole body tense and rigid… my breathing shallow and fast… my mind already racing ahead to what’s next.
Meditation is not a selfish thing. Even though you’re diving in and experiencing the Self, you’re not closing yourself off from the world. You’re strengthening yourself, so that you can be more effective when you go back into the world.
Practicing mindfulness means we pause. Even for a moment we stop leaning into the future. We connect fully with this present moment. We notice our body, our emotions and our thoughts. We can take even one conscious breath. It’s not complicated. For me it feels like a snow globe which has been shaken vigorously… and then I just put it down for a moment. Try it right now if you like.
Pause for a few moments.
Simply close your eyes if you like and notice what is here in this moment.
Let go of effort.
Resist any urge to read ahead.
Maybe there was some time and space for everything to settle? It might feel like a relief or it might feel so unfamiliar, it feels a little bit uncomfortable? Maybe some tension melts away? Maybe you can see more clearly? Maybe you feel impatient? There is no right or wrong.
As a practice it’s not self-indulgent and you are definitely not the only one who benefits.
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who is really stressed and anxious? You might be speaking with this person but there is a sense that they are not really listening to you. They seem preoccupied with their own thoughts. There is no sense of connection. You might leave the interaction feeling a little more anxious than before. Stress, it seems, is contagious.
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who is calm and grounded? What is that like? Maybe you feel a real sense of connection? This other person really sees you. There might be a feeling of safety. Maybe you feel a little bit calmer yourself? If stress is contagious, so is calm and so is joy.
There is science behind all this. We have “mirror neurons” in our brain so we can feel what the other feels. I think the science is interesting and you can read more about it elsewhere if you like but I always try to come back to my own experience. I distinctly remember as a child noticing a very different feeling in the house on Thursdays when my Mum would go to her yoga class. She was less reactive. She seemed to listen more closely than usual. There was a feeling of ease.
Maybe my Mum felt a bit self-indulgent going off to her yoga class every Thursday when there was so many other things for her to do? She was a “busy” person!
I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back now I know I benefited from her practice.
Knowing that others benefit can be a powerful motivation to practice.