If you are a regular meditator, you probably roll your eyes when people assume meditation is about woo-woo living and cave-dwelling. Most of the people I know are high achievers who lead extremely busy lives. They juggle work, home, fitness, social commitments, and a hobby. But they understand that meditation is the oil that keeps the wheels running smoothly, so they consistently carve out quiet, alone time to floss their minds.
One of the compliments that I constantly receive at work and from my clients is, “Sweta, you are very calm.” Being around me makes them feel safe and centered. I always smile when I hear this because what they don’t know is that I work very hard to maintain peace within. Not all of us are born tranquil. But we all have the ability to access peace.
I am a high pitta individual, which means I am focused, intense, goal-oriented, accountable, ambitious, a go-getter… But without meditation, an Ayurvedic diet, and lifestyle management, my pitta can easily get imbalanced (especially during summer). When out of balance, my ability to pause and replenish starts to diminish. Burnout (in my case) can look like deep exhaustion, a sharp tongue or low on patience or self-criticism. The ruffled mind is a distraction.
I’d rather not get to a point where my emotions control my behavior. How do I do that? MEDITATION. Thing is that meditation increases our capacity for mindfulness and awareness. It increases spaciousness within. With a dedicated meditation practice, you start to discern what deserves your energy and what’s emotional hogwash. I can sense when fury is starting to appear or take over — when someone is being unreasonable. I witnessed the shift in emotions. And remind myself that I am not my mind. I breathe deeply and try to not personalize someone else’s behavior. The self-awareness in itself is a gift.
I practice Transcendental Meditation twice a day. On a tough day, I also do deep breathing or chakra-balancing meditation or walking meditation or some other kind of calming practice along with TM—be it focused-attention meditation or mindfulness meditation. But taking care of my emotional and mental well-being daily is non-negotiable for me… no matter how busy or chaotic the day.
I spoke with four women who have busy careers and personal lives, and yet keep space for meditation. They are testimony that yogis and meditators roam among us and don’t dwell in caves. They are also proof that it’s never too late to start meditating— and that there are many ways to meditate. Pick what works for you.
Jyotsna Saxena, who is into clinical trials management, lives in Athens, Georgia. She has been meditating for the past nine months.
“Meditation calms me and helps me find joy in life,” she says. “I am gravitating towards like-minded souls as I want to share my experiences. I can only do that with friends who believe in spirituality.” Saxena relies on taking deep breaths for a few minutes before an intense meeting. She follows the practice taught by the Yogananda Self Realization Fellowship.
Lindy Bostrom lives in northern California.
“I’ve my own business in branding, design and marketing. I also teach yoga,” she says. Bostrom has been meditating on and off for about 30+ years.
“Meditation helps me focus,” she says. “It exercises the part of the brain that keeps the chattering mind quiet. It also helps with stress, anxiety, and symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes! I find when I meditate every day, that I am better able to manage my emotions.” Asked what form of meditation speaks to her, Lindy said, “I follow seated silent meditation – clearing the mind with an internal mantra – following pranayama [breath work].”
Anna Almiroudis is a clinical nutritionist in Queens, NY, who has been meditating since 2011.
“My meditation practice has changed and evolved throughout the years based on my needs in that period of my life,” she says. “For the past month and a half, I have been following Joe Dispenzas guided walking meditations for a minimum of one hour a day. They have really helped me open my heart, cultivate a positive mindset, and connect to my inner stillness.”
Lisa Emery, who works in marketing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was first exposed to meditation in 2010, but began regular practice in 2014.
“I grew up with, what I have since learned, is a high expectation of perfectionism,” she says. “This led to high levels of anxiety. I also developed Type 1 diabetes when I was nine years old. Meditation has helped me respond to situations with a much more thoughtful approach. By doing so, my anxiety has decreased, and my average three-month blood sugar has decreased to levels that are closer to those who do not have diabetes.”
Asked what kind of meditation she follows, Emery says, “While I practice a variety of meditation practices, my consistent practice is five minutes of Pure Breath followed by five minutes of So’ham.”
When people tell me that they don’t have the time to meditate, I remind them that if they can breathe, eat, shower, they can also meditate. The commitment can be a few minutes to begin with. Because meditation can change your lives in more ways than you can fathom. It helps manage anxiety, stress, and depression. Research tells us that meditation can help with PTSD, IBS, and maintaining a strong sense of self. Meditation can make you happier and sharpen your memory. It gives you insights that you didn’t know were possible. It can help with sleep issues. It increases your attention span and so much more.
Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. It can be free and accessible wherever you are.
To know one’s own mind is nothing short of life-changing ~ Andy Puddicombe