Sometimes the best place to find an agent of change is within. And you get there by simply doing nothing.
If you think meditation is just for chanting monks or new age hippies, think again. This practice whose DNA is derived from ancient spiritual practice, has gone mainstream. Meditation is now attracting on-the-go urban socialites, celebrities and maybe even your neighbor. Growing in popularity, everyone from the Mayo Clinic to Jennifer Aniston is singing its praises (or chanting its Oms). Some use it to discover health and happiness, while others say it helps their careers. Corporations, such as Marriott and Hilton, use it in stress-relief programs, while NASA even incorporates it to keep their employees productive and help them become better leaders.
Although there are no hard numbers on how many Americans meditate, we know that over $10 million is spent annually on meditation research by the National Institute of Health. There’s even a course called “Meditation for Millionaires” offered at a posh Florida resort.
The jury is in for judge Roland Steinle III, a retired Superior Court Judge in Maricopa County. “I got into it when my cardiologist told me to reduce my stress, he says. “Since I started, I am calmer in a chaotic world, and I sleep better. Soon I will go to meditation retreat and take it to the next level.
An architect in Fountain Hills, Arizona agrees. “Practicing meditation allows me to better access my innate creativity as it applies to my own health and wellness,” says Thomas Bohlen of Oracle Architecture and Planning. “It helps me make better business decisions.”
Our writer heads to a chic desert retreat looking for high thread counts, but finds luxury of another sort—one of inner peace
I had been to retreats before—some for renewal, some for relaxation, others for detox. But none helped me reconnect with my inner peace and discover a new enthusiasm that would inspire and sustain me for so long as this one—a retreat focused on the practice of meditation.
Everyone in our group of about 15 came with his or her own idea of what the weekend would hold. I wanted R&R and the Eat, Pray, Love experience crammed into 48 hours. One came to get away from her teenagers; another came to find balance; and a couple came because they were moving to Sedona.
I expected to deepen and enhance my meditation practice and spiritual connection in the perfect red rock setting. However, I didn’t know that going for three days without meat or junk food would be part of this process. (All of the food featured at the retreat was vegetarian, organic and prepared by Ayurvedic chefs.) With our daily addictions fighting a slow death, a group of us had a mini-breakdown in our hotel room and devoured an entire bag of Cheetos and a bottle of wine, but the next morning we got up bright and early and were back on the mat downward dogging.
In addition to reviving my meditation practice, I engaged in several mindfulness exercises. Each experience was designed to heighten the senses, from hikes through the Coconino Forest and vortexes to quiet journaling exercises, I increased my awareness and learned how to bring balance into my life.
I’d hear it before, but it finally made sense to me. When you learn to appreciate the moment you’re in, rather than worry about the past or future, life gets better. When I returned home, my husband was happy I’d found my chi (even thought I reeked of curry).
- Take a meditation class. If you’ve ever tried to sit in silence for longer than a few minutes with your thoughts racing around, you’ve realized that most cannot learn it alone. We recommend McLean Meditation Institute for workshops and retreats. Mcleanmeditation.com
- Experiment with different types of meditation. The three major types include: mantra, breathing and visualization. Not all will work for everyone, so figure out what’s best for you.
- Commit to make the time for meditation. You can meditate anywhere, and even people who are extremely busy have plenty of time to meditate: in the shower, while walking down the street, eating a sandwich or sitting at your desk. It’s persistence and consistency that will bring you benefits.
- Create a ritual for yourself. Have a symbol for your routine that works even when you’re traveling, whether it’s lighting a candle, sitting on the floor with your legs crossed or drinking tea. What is important is that it happens quickly, effortlessly and simply.
Text by Jeanna Valenti. This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of Desert Living Magazine.