by Michael Kimmel, Psycotherapist
It’s trendy to meditate. Movie stars do it, the Dalai Lama does it, even your next-door neighbor does it. But what is it?
Meditation is about taking time out from your day, stopping your activities and doing nothing but being with yourself. It is a great way to get rid of stress, worry and anxiety without the hassles and expense of medication.
There’s nothing mystical or magical about it. If you’ve ever sat quietly under a beautiful night sky, gazed up peacefully at a majestic tree or stood on top of a hill, looked out at the vista and felt calm and good, you were meditating. We all do it “accidentally” now and then, but what happens when we do it purposefully? What happens when you WANT to meditate? WHY even bother?
There are tremendous mental and physical health benefits to meditation – even magazines like The Advocate and Time say so – and it’s free, requires no equipment and has no side effects.
Well, if it’s so great, why don’t we do it? Many of us are afraid to meditate because we don’t want to slow down, go within and look inside. We’re afraid we’ll find a treasure trove of shit we don’t want to deal with, so we live in denial about all the crap in our lives and hope that, by avoiding it, it will all go away.
While it’s hard to tell yourself the truth, it’s better to know where you’re at, even if it’s sad or painful, because then you can do something about it. Meditation is a form of focused attention…you bring your concentration to yourself.
The benefits of meditation come not from how long you do it, but the sincerity of your effort. Five focused minutes can be more powerful than 45 half-assed minutes. Like yoga, there is no single way to meditate.
A simple and easy way to start meditating is to follow these three steps: (1) sit quietly, (2) focus on your breathing or on a phrase you repeat to yourself, like “peace”, and (3) notice what comes up (thoughts, emotions or physical sensations).
Other forms of meditation include mountain meditation, lake meditation, tree meditation, and meditating while walking or lying down. (For descriptions, read the extended article in the Health & Fitness section of outandaboutnewspaper.com)
Try these different kinds of meditation and see which ones you like. Let yourself have fun while you feel more peaceful: it’s a great combination.
An Ohio native, Michael Kimmel earned a B.A. in personnel and group development from the University of Cincinnati and a Master’s Degree in developmental psychology from Sarah Lawrence College.
After moving to San Francisco in the 1980’s, he was Clinical Director for the Homeless Children’s Network and Clinical Consultant to Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (aka "COLLAGE") while earning a second Master’s Degree from San Francisco State University. He now resides in San Diego, Cali., where he maintains a private psychotherapy practice and offer workshops for the Southern Californian LGBT community. lifebeyondtherapy.com