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The How and Why of Meditation

Such a simple concept, such a challenging practice.

Mindfulness and meditation are quickly becoming main stream, but not long ago, it was considered very fringe. Within the last five years or so, we have seen mindfulness practices being implemented in classrooms, hospitals and corporate offices. Research shows that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus and attention, promote mental and emotional health, improve sleep, increase self-awareness and even improve age-related memory loss. And although the numbers are growing, research shows that only 12-14% of US adults have a meditation practice. Why?

I often hear from people that they don’t know how to meditate, or they are “not good at meditation.” The first myth that I think we can dispel is that meditation is some kind of competitive sport, with winners and losers. It is not, and if we approach it this way, we are missing the value and benefits that it has to offer.

I recently discovered this app by Sam Harris called Waking Up. As a fairly seasoned meditator, I am always interested to know what other techniques are out there. This app is unlike any other I’ve tried. Whether you’re a beginner, or someone who has been meditating for years, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. Just stop reading this and download it, do the free 30-day course, and tell me it didn’t change your life.

I recently received the following email from Waking Up and I couldn’t have said it better myself.


The Invitation: Show up and relax.

When you’re struggling with the practice, it can be easy to question the value of meditation. Perhaps you’ve read that meditation can help alleviate your stress and anxiety. And yet here you are, still feeling stressed and anxious. Or perhaps you’ve heard Sam talk about the self being an illusion, and have decided that you must experience this for yourself. And yet, despite sitting diligently, no breakthrough has occurred. This can be very frustrating. And it’s at this point—where the apparent benefits of meditation seem totally elusive—that we may falter in our commitment to practicing. Or worse, we may abandon our practice altogether. After all, what’s the point of all this? How do we know if we’re making any progress? Just what is supposed to happen here anyway? If you find yourself feeling this way, we can only urge you to do two things: Keep showing up. And relax. Show up to your next meditation session with no expectations and no goal. Simply sit down and let whatever happens, happen. Come back to your immediate experience of being alive. Feel your body resting in space. Feel the raw sensations of movement, temperature, and energy. Feel the rise and fall of your breath—just now. Yes, there is likely more progress to be made here. But you won’t make it by worrying about it. And you certainly won’t make progress by not practicing. So right now, however you’re feeling, recommit to practicing for just 10 minutes each day. Give yourself the opportunity to make meditation work for you. Go Deeper: Listen to What is Progress in Meditation? Now.

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