I’ve had the Simon & Garfunkel song Sounds of Silence in my head for a few days. I’m not sure if I heard it in the grocery store or if I subconsciously thought of it as I was brainstorming how to write this post. Regardless, it is a perfect fit for what I’m about to share!
I’ve been dabbling in meditation on and off for the better part of the last 18 months. When I first started I was very much committed and like any lifestyle choice or change, I went through periods where I lost interest. Last summer I joined a local movement in Des Moines called Meditation Around Town. This group meets once a month (every third Thursday) and there is a short presentation and then a 20 to 30 minute meditation or guided relaxation. Every session I have been to has been different as they have various people who lead the sessions. Sometimes we sit in quite and stillness and other times the leader is reading or helping us guide our energy and thoughts. Joining this group has been a great way to get me more interested and motivated to pursue my own daily practice.
Since January 23 I have been finding time for silence and stillness each day! After visiting the Zen Center last year I purchased Success Through Stillness by Russell Simmons. It sat on my bookshelf (actually a book chest) for the better part of a year before I sat down and devoted time to learning more about meditation. Simmons talks about the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, how to get started, and why stillness is important for humankind. Here are a few talking points that really resonated with me from his book:
“Dwelling in the past and future is a fundamental cause of suffering.” How many times have you regretted actions or words and replayed conversations in your mind over and over to the point of emotional exhaustion? If you’re like most people you have done that. I still struggle with this but now that I’m practicing meditation, where the focus is being present, I am learning to let go of the past because it is just that – the past. Nothing that has been done can be undone at this point. The future is not guaranteed. No sense in worrying about things that have not happened, right? Live in the present. Be present. The present is all we have.
“You always control how you react to your thoughts. You always have the ability to make a change in how you perceive and react to the world.” There are things in life that our very much beyond our control. We don’t always choose what happens to us in careers, relationships, and health, and we don’t have much control over the goings on of the world around us. One thing we can control is our thoughts and how we react and respond to life. Choose kindness. Be kind to yourself and others.
“When you move through life distracted, it becomes easy for those external voices to drown out the sound of your own dreams.” If anything, 20 minutes of stillness and silence is 20 minutes a day without the distractions of calls, texts, traffic, gossip, paying bills, making meals, etc. Simmons shared that some of his best ideas occurred as a result of quieting the mind. We live in a world of distraction and some people claim to thrive off distraction. We are not meant to be distracted, we are meant to be still.
Simmons recommends sitting for 20 minutes twice a day. I’m a big believer in baby steps so I started with 20 minutes once a day. I try to do this before my day starts because that is when I believe I need meditation the most. I find a spot in my home, usually my bedroom or office, and sit on the floor and try to focus on my breath and nothing else. Do I have thoughts running through my mind? Yes! Do I judge those thoughts? No! Meditation is a practice, it takes time to master. If you can’t be still for 20 minutes try five. I will say, I was very surprised at how quickly 20 minutes passes.
If you are interested in being more present, calm, and want to have a clearer mindset in which to make decisions, meditation is the best practice to achieve all of those things and more! Most of the books I read come from the library but I purchased this because I knew I would want to reference it and make notes. Simmons addresses many questions and concerns about meditating and gives you the resources necessary to get started. Like any behavior change it will take time so be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself when you encounter struggles, and know that one minute of silence is better than none.