Despite the fact that meditation is supposed to be this groovy, relaxing thing, I used to feel somewhat intimidated by it. I’m not necessarily a spiritual person, and I’m especially not very good at taking spiritual things seriously. Meditation seemed to require both spirituality and seriousness.
Maybe I thought I lacked the discipline to sit still for several minutes at a time with nothing to interest me. I’m usually writing or playing guitar or cooking or gardening… building something, fixing something, researching something. The notion of simply shutting my mind down, preventing it from wondering somehow back to the list of things ahead of me seemed impossible.
Maybe I thought it was a time-suck, and there was already so much on my schedule. I spend a good part of most days outside, in the garden or in the forest, soaking up nature and peace and tranquility. I walk places when possible to slow the world down, and my wife and I cook every meal we eat from scratch. In other words, was adding mindful meditation really going to add something beneficial to the mix?
It turns out that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. I’ve been meditating regularly, which is to say just about every day, for the last three months, and it has been an extremely beneficial way to spend 10… 15… 20… minutes both for relaxation and productivity.
Fortunately, I’m a morning person. At least, I like to wake up early. That’s not necessarily to say that I’m yearning to be social in the wee hours; rather, I enjoy the peacefulness of daybreak, the routine of a cup of coffee, the satisfaction of a good breakfast, and a chance to ease into the day. I’d rather wake up an hour earlier for the opportunity to do this than hit the snooze button.
So, morning meditation suits me very well. Before the day is off to the races with whatever tasks await, before my brain is lost in the labours of life, I can give myself a moment to not necessarily do that. It still seems a strange occurrence to me that this simple act becomes so transformative. In fact, when feeling the most rushed, the list of tasks exceptionally daunting, pausing for meditation (about ten minutes) makes a huge difference in getting me in the right frame of mind.
I’ve tried meditating before I get out of bed in the morning, a precursor to doing anything, save the can’t-wait-for-it bathroom trip. I’ve tried meditation before coffee or before breakfast, which are two separate occasions for me. I’ve waited for my wife to finish work (she teaches online from 5am-10am every day) and meditated with her. We’ve eaten breakfast together then meditated. We’ve meditated just before walking out the door, when it felt like we were just on the cusp of not meditating because the movement the day had already gathered momentum.
Regardless of when it has been, never once have I opened my eyes and thought that was a waste of time.
Evidence for Meditation
The evidence supporting meditation as a useful practice is overwhelming, or as I like to put it, it’s not just sitting around for hours aiming to reach a higher plane. After meditating for a while, though, that possibility seems much more realistic to me than it once did. But, studies show that layperson meditation, the kind that take 10-15 minutes, is highly beneficial, too, and that’s were I’ve nestled in comfortably. Here’s why:
- Meditation is proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. While I probably don’t have any of these on a worrying level, anyone with a full schedule—and permaculture keeps mine full in a wonderful way—inevitably feels overwhelmed from time to time. Stopping to meditate puts the urgency of that to-do list in perspective: More often than not nothing is absolutely dire. But, prolonged stress contributes to headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions, and all sorts of other physical ailments, not to mention the emotional effects.
- Meditation enhances my awareness of myself, other people, and what’s around me. My daily outlook is much more positive because of doing it, and I’m more patient with others, including my wife. In terms of what’s around me, practicing regularly makes me more observant. In fact, some of my favourite mindful meditations are tapping into the five senses, and I love doing this from the edge of the porch where nature can seep into my being, so to speak. Observing well is, of course, a great asset in permaculture lifestyle.
- Meditation increases my attention span and sharpens my focus. While we see the benefit of physical exercise throughout our lives, many of us forget that the brain benefits from it, too. My brain often wonders to places that aren’t on the agenda when meditating (That’s allowed), but practice makes perfect. With meditation, particularly before something mentally taxing such as sitting down to write a long article, I am able to zone in on what I’m doing and persist. In fact, studies show these benefits extend into old age, when brains start to tatter a little.
- Meditation decreases pain and inflammation while strengthening the immune system. When we view the body holistically, the advantages stack and relate to one another. Decreased blood pressure correlates to less inflammation, less stress equates to a boosted immune system, and a positive frame of mind contributes to reducing physical pain. All of these things, of course, increase quality of life, and that then reverberates into relationships, social interactions, and productivity.
Ultimately, though, what I’ve relied on is my own observation, and I feel better from doing it. The effects are both immediate and, when I keep up my practice, lasting. I don’t need this study or that article to tell me because the fruits of my practice are there for me to enjoy.
Getting Started with Meditation
By no means has a few months of meditating and no formal training in the matter made me an expert, but that’s precisely why I felt entitled to write this article. I’m not an expert in meditation. I’m no guru or medical doctor. I’m just a guy who practices permaculture and has begun to incorporate meditation into my practice. Just as I’ve shared information about swales and trees and pizza ovens and secondhand shopping in the past, I’m sharing something that has benefited my practice of permaculture.
For me, permaculture is lifestyle, not just a design science, because it has much broader influence than how the homestead is put together. It has changed the way I eat, shop, travel, cook, garden, use energy, work, recreate, socialise, feel, and hope. In other words, I don’t want to limit it, and I don’t want to limit how I write about it. We grow and eat certain foods because they are nutrient-rich. We avoid agrochemicals because they are destructive. We cultivate parts of our ecosystem to benefit the whole, and we cultivate relationships to benefit our community. We do certain things to take care of ourselves, and meditation can help.
With that in mind, here are some short guides (in addition to the video links above) by folks with more authority than I have, about how to get going. Set aside ten minutes in the morning and try it for a month.
- How to Meditate on Mindful.org
- Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind on Zen Habits.
- 8 Meditation Techniques to Try: Simple and Effective Strategies on verywellmind.