By Norma Harris, Ph.D.
How do we stay healthy and strong given all that we do and the rapid pace with which we do it? We know the basic answers: a good diet, routine exercise, friendships. I am advocating for you to add another. (“Please, no,” you say.) Yes, something else that is basic; one more thing you don’t have time for; one more thing that you “should” do. You probably know what it is and/or don’t want to know: You should meditate. (“Oh no no!”)
Why should you?
You should meditate because if you are blessed with an intelligent mind, you should take care of it. You think that your mind is going to take care of itself, but does it know how? Wouldn’t you like to experience just a little rest amidst all of that thinking you do? The constant planning, reliving, anticipating, ideating, comparing, problem-solving, worrying, judging… Do you know how to truly rest your mind? Not entertain or anesthetize it.
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation is a technique for training the mind. It is simple; I mean it is really simple! It consists of four basic instructions: Take a good posture, feel your body and your breathing, realize when you are not doing that, and come back to it. If you follow the instructions, you notice what basic aliveness feels like and you also notice what’s going on in your mind, all your thoughts and feelings, how you love to be distracted, how judgmental you are as you forget or resist the instructions, how you yearn for entertainment. If you do this for even five to 10 minutes several times a week, you begin to see these same habits of mind show up throughout your day. You also start to notice subtle things about your life that you never noticed before. You start to know yourself.
Is this a self-help venture?
I suppose it is, at least it begins with yourself. I am glad to say, though, that it is also much more. Once you begin to know yourself, you notice more about others and the world. You become more mindful and more aware, more available, more curious, more connected, more lots of things.
What’s the best way to learn?
There are lots of apps these days and many excellent books. But the best way to learn is person to person from someone who has done this for a long time and who is trained to teach it. This way someone can help you with posture and answer questions specific to you.
Is there a place nearby where I can go?
Yes. The Atlanta Shambhala Center has recently opened a space at 1030 Grant Street in the white Café of Life building across the street from the new Beacon development. Services offered include meditation instruction (free for donation), public sitting (free for donation), Buddhist chaplaincy, and various classes and programs. Please check out our days of operation and our programs at grantpark-sun.org or call 404-370-9650.