In the iconic Cohen Brothers movie The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges plays The Dude, a simple guy who’s the victim of mistaken identity. Some rough characters are out to get him, and his friends are not much help. Through all the weird things and plot twists that happen, as our anti-hero puts it, “The Dude abides.” No matter what he goes through, he is himself, unshakable—confused, afraid at times, definitely wishing things were different. But no matter what happens, at his core, the Dude calmly abides.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about meditation—different approaches, and how to deal with the stuff that comes up in the mind, and what gets in the way of you actually meditating. Now that you’ve faced down all those obstacles, there’s the “why” that will get you on the meditation cushion and keep you on the path: Meditation helps us calmly abide. The more we meditate, the better we can deal with what’s going on when we’re not meditating.
Meditation is no longer considered a woo-woo waste of time; science has taken it seriously, and the results of thousands of studies prove why even skeptical Western medicine recommends a regular practice. Meditation lowers anxiety, which has a positive benefit on overall health, particularly for people dealing with stress-related illnesses. Meditation increases focus, memory retention, and recall; builds better cognitive skills, creative thinking, and problem solving; and it can help manage ADHD. Meditation improves your immune system and energy level. A regular practice lowered depression in women with high-risk pregnancy, and it helps manage PMS symptoms. The list of benefits goes on and on, and new benefits are being found every year.
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I’m not going to lie; meditation isn’t easy. But life is harder without it. I’ve tried it both ways, going through rebellious periods when I thought, No more of this meditation stuff. I’m too busy. (Gandhi once said, “I’m so busy today, I’ll have to meditate for two hours instead of just one.”)
During these times without meditation, I’d get mugged by my own mind. My thoughts would be all over the place, but never in the right place. I attacked myself and judged others. Obsessive circular thinking went on a continuous loop.
Does meditation stop all this? Actually, no. Yeah, not what you thought you were going to hear! But in my experience, it happens less. The volume is turned way down, so I can barely hear it. And the most important part? I don’t believe any of that mental chatter. Meditation lets me separate reality from the crazy idea that I’m never going to figure life out. I’m actually not going to figure life out, but with meditation, I understand that I don’t have to. There’s nothing to figure out; there’s just life, one thing at a time, one breath at a time.
With meditation, we can experience all of our own weird adventures and plot twists, not buy into the mistaken identities our minds try to push on us, and deal with whatever comes our way. Throughout it all, we can calmly abide.
Suzan Colón is the author of Yoga Mind:Beyond the Physical: 30 Days to Enrich Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life From the Inside Out