Look around any city street or subway station—or any busy home, for that matter—and it’s obvious: we live in fast-paced world. We have meetings on top of meetings and gadgets to manage our gadgets. It can be hard to find peace amidst the constant chaos, but finding peace might be the one thing that actually allows us to keep up.
Meditation is one key to cultivating peace. We may live in a noisy world, but we can carve out a quiet internal space for ourselves.
What Exactly is Meditation?
Meditation is no longer an esoteric activity reserved for monks living high in the remote mountains. Meditation has gone mainstream. Meditation, also called imagery or visualization, refers to full concentration of the mind.
Meditation generally involves techniques designed to control and discipline the mind so that it is not overrun with useless thoughts, fantasies, and fears. Many newcomers to meditation misunderstand the technique and believe that the purpose is to clear their mind; they become frustrated when they are unable to do this. But creating a blank mind is not the purpose of mediation; rather, training the mind is the goal.
Meditation has been shown to strengthen the immune system, improve memory and concentration, reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke, improve sleep, improve general well-being, and much more. In a nutshell, it provides a simple escape from the stress and anxiety of the outer world. In fact, it has been shown to slow brain waves.
“Our brainwaves are usually on a beta frequency, for example, when we’re talking or doing something,” says Diane Crist, MA, a Jungian psychotherapist and proponent of meditation. “The theta frequency, on the other hand, is slower and wider apart. Meditation helps us to reach that theta frequency.”
Reaching the theta frequency allows us to calm down, focus, and think more clearly. In essence, it helps us to master the monkey mind—that restless, uncontrollable mind filled with worry and anxiety. We all suffer from monkey mind at one point or another; meditation is one way to subdue the monkey.
Crist has been meditating regularly for over 30 years. In fact, meditation has become an integral part of her psychotherapy practice. She introduces the technique to many of her patients. She believes that a daily meditation practice provides an important opportunity for balance.
“If you focus on the breath, you’ll hear your heartbeat. Every day, if I check in and focus on my heart, then I don’t get too off balance,” Crist says.
She advocates developing a consistent practice and making it a daily habit. Many people find that their meditation practice becomes as essential as a healthy breakfast or that first morning cup of coffee.