For this part of the semester I have decided to focus on meditation. Throughout my life I have suffered from anxiety and turned to activities like running and yoga to help with it. I have not, however, explored meditation directly and thus my interest stems from a curiosity about its practice and the potential it has to promote healthfulness and happiness.
This week I watched a few TED talks on the subjects of mindfulness and meditation. One that stood out to me was a talk by Andy Puddlcombe called “All it Takes is Ten Mindful Minutes.” Andy asks the audience when the last time was that they actually took time to do nothing. He articulates how we depend on our minds for everything — our happiness, performance, social interactions — yet we take no time to look after it. What happens as a result is stress. He touches upon the importance of being present and how we are so distracted all of the time by our phones, our work, our peers, that we do not take time to enjoy or be in the present moment.
Andy then reveals that he first tried meditation when he was eleven years old but saw it as “aspirin for the mind” rather than something that could be truly preventative. That changed, however, when he was twenty and a series of very serious things happened in his life that caused him to feel an overwhelming amount of stress. As a way to cope, he quit his degree, went to the Himalayas, became a monk, and started studying meditation. He articulated that of course this changed things for him. The experience gave him a greater appreciation for being in the present moment and mindful in the here and now.
One thing that particularly stood out to me was how Andy voiced that it seems like such a simple task to appreciate the present moment but we actually spend barely any time doing it. According to research done at Harvard, our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time. Furthermore, mind wandering is directly related to unhappiness. When pondering this statistic, it is pretty depressing to think that we spend almost half of our lives unhappy and lost in the web of chaos that characterizes the mind.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to make the mind healthier so why aren’t we all doing it?! If one spends ten minutes a day being mindful it may impact ones entire life. Andy discusses how there is a common misconception that mediation is about controlling the mind or stopping thought altogether. In fact, meditation is more about stepping back from thoughts/emotions and seeing them clearly coming and going without judgment. It is about being relaxed and focused and letting go, without the usual all consuming involvement. In this way, we can learn how to watch story lines through meditation rather than stop them. Meditation allows new perspective to take shape.
I loved that Andy said, “we cannot change every little thing that happens to us in life but we can change the way we experience it.” This is the major takeaway for me. I am not going to be able to stop the thoughts that penetrate my mind and that I ruminate over on a daily basis, but I can control the experience of thought and learn how to truly let go. My project for this week is to take ten minutes a day to find focus and clarity.