Updated: Mar 15, 2021
By: Lisa “Anjani” Olnick
Meditation has been the craze for years in American culture, but the truth is this ancient therapeutic practice is misunderstood by many people. When I ask you to recall a time when you saw someone meditating in a studio, or even a magazine, or tv commercial, it was probably a skinny woman in yoga pants and a tank top, sitting on a mat, beach or pillow, eyes closed and covered with symbolic jewelry. You might think, “wow - I wish I could have that much peace”. The truth is that the person you observed looked peaceful but their mind likely was just as busy as yours is from day-to-day. The bottom line - Meditation is a practice that very few people master.
A common complaint I hear when discussing meditation involves the difficulty of not thinking of anything. This is the expectation of many people and to no fault of their own. Most people are told the point of meditation is to let go of everything and think of nothing. I’m here to tell you, it ain’t gonna happen so you can let that expectation go.
There are several types of meditation. The most common, silent, is what you’ve most likely seen. The intention is ultimately up to you; some people “sit” to practice clearing their minds, others focus on the Deity or God in their religion (God, Ram, Jesus, Buddha, whatever), some will focus purely on their breath with slow, deep, paced breathing. There’s a ton of research out there regarding benefits of meditation like stress relief, minimizing the effects of Alzheimer’s or memory loss and a handful of other ailments. Google it. The point, ultimately, is to get out of your head, release the stressors you can’t control, and relax. Stop stressing about the Unknown and trust that a power greater than you will carry you through whatever you feel is impossible.
So if meditation is so amazing, why aren’t more people doing it? You can answer that question…why aren’t you doing it? My guess is, if you’ve tried it, you probably didn’t see immediate results and decided “it didn’t work for me”. Spoiler alert… it’s called a “practice” for a reason… you have to do it over and over. America is a society of instant gratification. Somehow not seeing instant results leads us to believe that something outside ourselves has failed us. In truth, we’ve failed ourselves.
Meditation is a practice. You have to give it time to develop and yourself forgiveness and grace because you won’t get liberation the first time. Or the second. Or the third. This is not an “add to cart” philosophy of happiness. Give yourself the time to explore different types of meditation and see what works for you. Sharon Salzburg is a practicing Buddhist and author; she may have some interesting instruction for you that’s inviting. Most importantly, she emphasizes the value in giving yourself the time required to figure this out. Per her instruction, you can always “begin again”.