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How Important Is Meditation To Living a Peaceful Life?
By Art Ramsay, PhD

Virtually every person on the planet desires a peaceful life, even though most are not knowingly aware of it. Consciously we may feel our life is okay or even great when filled with nonstop activity. But at a deeper level we all long for peace. In a previous article I spoke of spiritual practice and how important it is as part of your day. I mentioned several actions and activities that empower us, but the one that stands out from the others is meditation. Why is that?

 We live in a chaotic world, and it controls our lives if we let it. Most people seem to consider this ‘active’ lifestyle as the ‘normal’ way of living; “it is just the way things are.” But it is not the way things are; it is the way we have created them to be. While it is true that society has been the creator of the ‘Western’ lifestyle, it is we who, as part that society, influence its growth and persistence.

 I sometimes shake my head in wonder at the excuses I hear about why a person cannot meditate or do some other spiritual practice, especially when they are in my class on inner peace. People will spend hours in front of a TV, spend hundreds of dollars and tackle heavy traffic to go to a sports or music event, but not five minutes in meditation.

 We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification; if living peacefully and happily came in a pill everyone would be popping ‘happiness’ pills. But that is not the way it works. If we are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars and four to eight years in college to learn a profession, it should be obvious that it takes time and effort to do anything worthwhile for our lives.

 What does your day look like? If you have a job then it most likely is part of the chaotic lifestyle mentioned at the beginning, especially if you are a woman with kids or single dad with kids. If you are retired or have a home-based business, then the traffic part is eliminated, at least. The point is we all live varied lifestyles oriented toward the society in which we reside and habits derived from that society.

 The American society and other Western cultures thrive with doing things; everything is based on activity. “Don’t just stand there, do something” is a well known American saying. If we have lived our lives with this kind of mindset, how do we change it? We first have to want to change it. Like any habit or addiction the desire to change it is paramount.

 Once you have decided to curve out a few minutes of your ‘busy day’, you will then need to choose a time or times to meditate. If you have never meditated, start with five minutes. A question you might ask is what will this meditation practice do for me? Begin to remove the ‘chaos’ I mentioned earlier, if that is part of your lifestyle, is one result.

 “Oh, but I don’t know how to meditate” is often said. Meditation is simple; it is not rocket science. Do you know you are actually in a meditative state while watching TV? Focusing on something for an extended period, even if it is active, will lower your brainwave frequency, and if focused long enough from beta (12-30 Hz) to alpha (12-8 Hz). Some say that you even go into theta (8-4 Hz) while watching TV for extended periods. When your brainwaves slow down you feel relaxed and calmer, one of the purposes of meditation.

 While a meditative state can be had through various practices, the one I recommend starting with is sitting meditation. Find a quiet place away from TV, the telephone, and other possible distractions. If you have kids the time might need to be more specific, but you still need to be alone in a quiet place.

Usually, breathing deeply a couple of times will help to relax your body while sitting in a chair with your spine erect. Once your body is relaxed, quieting your mind is the main event when beginning to meditate. The simplest way of doing this is to follow your breath; it is a point of focus. Once your mind is somewhat quiet, you can just continue to relax and be at peace.

 There is nothing I know of that will get you into a peaceful state simply and quickly then what I have described above. After you get used to this simple meditation there are dozens of ways to expand the practice, as well as other types of meditation.

 To answer to the original question and title of this article, meditation in some form is an absolute necessity to live a peaceful life. The information in this article is not even the virtual tip of the iceberg; it is merely a quick starting point to help you relax and come down from your energetic, active day. "But I can do it by sitting and watching TV, you just said so," might be your response.

 Yes this true, but when you get up from the TV and go back to your habit-filled life, nothing will have changed. The relaxation aspect of the meditation described above is a starting point, as I said. Once you move it into your daily routine and expand it beyond just relaxing, your world will change toward the peaceful state mentioned at the beginning. You need to start somewhere.

 I hope this article has sparked your interest in meditation, because to get to a point where your life is peaceful all the time you will need to meditate. If you read this article there must be some interest in living a life that is peaceful. By peaceful I do not mean you will be at peace when everything is going just right for you, even though that a great way to live. But more importantly, you will get to a point where you feel peaceful no matter what occurs in your outside world.

 

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