There are times when I would just be so tempted to shave my head and go to Tibet and be a monk and just simply forget everything I have to deal with. But then I would ask myself "Can I really live wearing nothing but robes?!"
I'm just so amazed by the way monks live. No meat, no hair, no wardrobe, no earthly possessions, no status symbols, no road rage, no envy, no discrimination, no small talks~ nothing. Hakuna Matata!
They don't need the things normal people would kill themselves to get. I've always been curious about their freedom from anything the society and media tells us we 'should' have. I have always wondered HOW I could get that, even just a bit of that!
Every now and then, I would Google inspirational or motivational quotes. I just need tiny bits of wisdom and encouragement especially before I start to work. For the last few years, I've been reading some Buddhist teachings and quotes that totally makes sense. Of course, I came across 'meditation' several times. If you have seen The Last Air Bender and other movies that involves meditation of some sort, you would have an idea on how it looks like from a viewer's perspective. But I'm telling you, it's different once you actually do it.
Meditating has a LOT of benefits, but I'd.like to share my top 5 favorite reasons for meditating.
1. It reduces stress
With great anxiety, comes great depression. I'm serious with this! I may have tortured myself way too much at a very young age. I made family problems MY own problem. I cared way too much about what others would think of me. I'm always scared that they might see through me. I'm afraid that they would know my life is a total mess and that would mean eternal embarrassment. I took life too seriously, I literally carried the world on my shoulders when I know I didn't have to. And it came with a price when I hit my early 20's - about two nervous breakdowns in one year!
Yes, I have been embracing the hippie life around that time wherein I trying to slowly detach from material things and complicated stuff, but I was not immune to stress yet. That's when I learned about 'grounding meditations'. I also found out I am sort of an empath - sometimes the anxieties that I feel are not even mine. I had to learn to block negative emotions (read: negative people!) if I would like to keep my inner peace and happiness. But, sometimes we can't avoid mingling with other people, so, the only thing we can do is to learn how to protect ourselves through 'shielding'.
A quick way to ground yourself is to hug or touch a tree. You let go of all the negative emotions that you have within you and imagine them flowing out of your hands and into the tree. For some people, a simple walk in a garden or forest would be enough to regain their lost energy and calm their minds.
2. It helps us stay focused
I first heard about Mindfulness or Mindful meditation from a friend who recently got her degree in Psychology (Hi Jenny Csecs!). That time we talked about it, I was already practicing grounding and shielding but not on a regular basis. When she mentioned about Mindfulness, of course I got curious. I mean, isn't meditating a form of mindfulness already? But apparently, this form of meditation could be done with your eyes open and instead of focusing solely on your breath, you focus on your body and environment too. The key point is to stay in the present moment. You don't try to run away from situations but instead, you learn to deal with them and be with them at the moment while gaining some clarity. One thing I have learned about minds is that they wander, really! We are capable of thinking of a thousand thoughts but then we get overwhelmed and that's when we lose our focus. Mindful meditation guides us back to what we're supposed to do. It frees us from distractions such as fear of the future, painful past, loan sharks, presentations or speeches, unpaid bills, your mother, the society's expectations and so on. You would realize that soon after meditation, life gets so much easier and you learn to organize your thoughts and remove unnecessary thoughts. You become aware of the important things in life.
3. It makes us happier
Nobody wants to be miserable. I don't know about you but I never wake up telling myself "I'm going to hate the world today and suck the fun out of everyone's life before sunset!"
Yes, there may be things that could upset us from time to time or on a daily basis, like traffic or long queues, but believe it or not you can't control traffic! (Unless you are a traffic enforcer?!) And no, you're not allowed to shoot people's kneecaps just because they are moving slow when you are in a hurry. Some things are beyond our control, and cliche as it may sound, the only thing we can do is change OUR way of thinking. We have to change our perspectives, try to see things from a different angle. Yes, there is a heavy traffic, but for all you know someone had a nasty accident and it could have been you, but since you are okay, you should be thankful about it! That's what meditation does~ it turns you into a more understanding, compassionate, loving human being you never thought you could be.
I would like to share my favorite line from the happiest man on Earth, Matthieu Ricard...
"Anyone can be happy if they only train their brain"
4. It improves our sleeping pattern
It's not easy to live in a sleep-deprived society, I totally get that! I actually came to a point in my life wherein I can't tell which day it is because it's like I was living my days in cursive. Today, tomorrow and yesterday are just the same when you don't get a good sleep. It feels like a show without an end. Why can't I sleep? There's just too much stuff inside my head and I get frustrated when I can't find an outlet for it.
Now, whenever I find myself tossing and turning on weeknights, I just try to light up a candle, sit in silence for a few minutes, stretch my neck and shoulders a little bit and try to focus on my breathing. I choose to do this instead of wasting hours lying on my bed wondering why I can't sleep. Soon enough, my eyes would be heavy and the next thing I know it's already morning and I won't have to force myself to open my eyes. Yes, it sounds magical and the first few times I have tried that, I couldn't believe it only takes a few deep breaths to have a good night's sleep.
5. It helps us enhance our creativity and unleash hidden talents
You might think you're not an artist but you could be wrong. Everyone has skills and talents that they can discover at any age and any moment in their life. I never liked the idea of playing guitar until the age of 16 and I certainly never thought of writing a song before that. I wrote poems, yes, but back then I didn't know how to create music. I was tone-deaf! (Still am!) I have been writing almost all my life but I never thought one day I would be seriously sitting down in front of a computer, writing and sharing my thoughts to the world. I thought it was impossible to communicate without making eye contact and I never thought I would like the idea of being behind the camera. But, I have discovered all of these when I started meditating. Yeah, I felt like a totally different person but somehow still the same. Haha! You become like an upgraded version of yourself. You discover things you're actually passionate about since you tend to stay away from anything that doesn't make sense. It opens your eyes to things that have always been there but you never actually noticed. I'm always skeptical whenever I hear someone saying "I don't have a talent". You DO have a talent, you just haven't discovered it yet! Take some time to just be with yourself and your thoughts.
All I'm saying is that, I didn't really have to shave my head and put on nothing but robes during my toughest days. I didn't hop on a plane to Tibet to find some clarity and peace. (Though I'm still not closing my doors on Tibet, that's still a dream!) From wherever you are, you CAN meditate. It is FREE! All you need is your breath and a quiet and comfortable place to meditate. Stop saying you don't have time to relax and do stuff like this. Trust me, you will find more time the moment you learn to let go of toxic things in your head!