Many of us resolve to “do better” at the beginning of each year and for some that means losing weight, getting more exercise, or quitting an undesirable habit. What can happen though is that we dive into our new life style in a full-tilt manner only to find out (again) that most of us live lives which are subject to disruption and change. Too often, we experience a setback, see this as proof of our failure and then give up. It’s happened to me often enough that I resolved several years back not to make resolutions.
Well, this year has been a little different. It isn’t that I’ve made a bunch of, or any, actual resolutions, but I have decided that I want to slow down and be a little kinder to myself. One way that I’m doing that is by starting a meditation practice. Already I’ve been impressed with what a difference it’s made in how I feel – and more importantly – how I react not only to everyday stresses but the little surprises that life has a way of throwing at us. It is a practice that I can recommend without reservation. I’d hesitate to say that it has changed my life except it kind of has.
Do you think you might be interested in exploring meditation for yourself? If so, DCPL has resources to help.
Mindfulness: an eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian
Quiet Mind: a beginner’s guide to meditation compiled and edited by Susan Piver
Wherever You Go, There You Are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Real Happiness: the power of meditation by Sharon Salzberg
If you have specific needs or concerns around meditation, be sure to check out the following:
In this country, African Americans overwhelmingly face issues and concerns that other people will rarely, or ever, be confronted with. Free Your Mind: an African American guide to meditation and freedom by Cortez R. Rainey addresses this reality with specific meditations and visualizations that encompass this reality.
Parents face specific challenges especially around helping children find mental health, happiness and security. If this is your situation, don’t miss Christopher Willard’s Growing Up Mindful: essential practices to help children, teens, and families find balance, calm and resilience.
Although all of the world’s major religions feature spiritual contemplation as a component, devout people can sometimes feel that the practice of meditation might run counter to what they believe. Christian Meditation: experiencing the presence of God by James Finley and Connecting to God: ancient kabbalah and modern psychology by Abner Weiss are two examples of resources available from DCPL that can help you explore these concerns.
Finally, let me wholeheartedly recommend Dan Harris’s wonderful 10% Happier: how I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works. Harris, a co-anchor on Nightline and a longtime professional in the pressure cooker that is network news, has a very active brain – a quality that many of us share. He was able to rise to the top of his profession yet at the same time developed ways to mask his anxiety to the extent that he finally experienced an intense, and very public, panic attack while he was on the air. If you’re curious about meditation, but remain skeptical, then this is the book for you. Harris is a very funny writer and utterly convincing as he chronicles his journey toward greater happiness and focus all by way of learning to quiet the voice inside of his head that he was convinced would never shut up.
Now about the title of this post – Buddhist tradition has a term for the mind that is restless, confused and inconstant from which comes many of our mental and spiritual anxieties and that term is “monkey mind.” Well, meditation is starting to turn my own monkey (i.e. busy brain) into something more closely resembling a sock monkey. It isn’t something I’m not cuddling up with it every second of the day, but it sure doesn’t keep me from falling asleep at night. Try it for yourself…and do let me know how it goes.