Many people turn their noses up whenever someone mentions yoga or meditation. They feel that it is “not for them” even though they’ve never really tried it, or brush it off as hippie-dippie mumbo jumbo.
Well, I’m here to try to convince the naysayers that meditative practices have a place in the Western world, and how we might be the ones who need them the most…
*Definition of meditative: “relating to or absorbed in meditation or considered thought.”
Synonyms for meditation:
contemplation, thought, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection, prayer, deliberation, study, rumination, cogitation, brooding, mulling over, reverie, and concentration.
Meditative practices (according to me):
- Yoga (of any kind, as there are many methods)
- Meditation (of any kind, as there are many methods)
- Mindfulness (of any kind, as there are many methods)
- Journalling (of any kind)
- Breathing exercises (of any kind)
- Stretching (of any kind)
- Mantras and affirmations (of any kind)
- Walking (without a destination, goal, time frame etc.)
For me, meditative practices means anything done with the intention of calm, quietness, relaxation, spiritual exploration, self-exploration, ease, breath, and mindful presentness and self-aware intention.
So, for example, you may find exercising relaxing, but I do not classify it as a meditative practice because it can be strenuous, it doesn’t intentionally involve introspection and calm, and it isn’t often quiet and mindful.
So, here is why our society needs meditative practices…
Our society is just so busy. Not productive, not hustling towards our goals, but downright busy. We seem to have convinced ourselves that being busy and stressed and tired means we’re going to be more successful than other people, or are better than other people.
I’m sorry, but no. Busyness is not productivity. Smart working will always be more beneficial to you than overworking. Which is better: 8 hours of tired, strenuous work, or 4 hours of actionable, healthy, focused work? I think the answer is obvious.
Successful people like Tim Ferris speak to the benefits of less work, more smart work. His book The 4-Hour Work Week demonstrates that our culture of working for long hours isn’t necessarily right for success, and I add that it definitely doesn’t help our mental wellbeing.
If we are able to slow down a bit more by being less busy, we can see more clearly. We can focus and prioritise and get things done better. Don’t aim for busyness and endless working; it’s not cool and it doesn’t make you better than anyone.
Many successful business people and celebrities are now advocating for meditative practices like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness, so can you really argue that they don’t help with success?
With your chosen meditative practice, you can get your head into the right place, break down your week, and be more productive instead of busy, which is a much healthier approach to working hard.
Don’t get it into your head that having a meditative practice, and being more intentional about your approach to work, means you’re not a hard worker – it’s society’s brainwashing that makes you think that, and it’s simply not true.
We are all tied to some form of screen for large parts of our day. Phones, laptops, computers, televisions, tablets, e-readers, or other; there are screens everywhere. And let me tell you, they’re not good for us. They can damage our eyes, affect our sleep, tire us out, make our brains lazy, and a plethora of other things that I won’t get into.
But if we appreciated and routinely used meditative practices in our society, then we would get that needed time away from the screens. Away from the things we see on the screens, too; things like social media, stimulating TV shows, and our work.
Meditative practices give us a break. They help us to focus inward instead of being constantly engaged outward.
Whether it is face-to-face or online, we are always talking. Always sharing information. We live in a time of information overload and it is both beautiful and damaging. There is value is quietness and stillness; value in appreciating and understanding our own thoughts and feelings, instead of constantly being attached and engaged in other people’s business and irrelevant information.
Meditative practices present us with that quietness and stillness. It allows us to switch off the noise of the outer world for a moment, and that is healthy and needed in the humdrum world of chatter that we live in.
Of course, I can’t deny that the world we live in is very complicated and layered. It’s actually wonderful how much our world has changed in a short period of time. There is no denying the fact that we have tools at our disposal that are beneficial to us. I just believe that meditative practices should be a tool on our toolbelt, too.
Meditative practices can help us to better deal with the world we live in by helping us to better multitask, focus, and be healthy-minded in more ways and for longer periods of time.
If you are someone who has trouble concentrating, multitasking, focusing and prioritising, or consuming information with perspective (and openmindedness), then meditative practices are not to be ruled out.
Many of us in this day and age need help to realise what is important. We need to be grounded. We can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and forget about what really matters. Meditative practices can help us to adjust our perspective, find clarity, and connect to what is important in our personal lives, instead of what we are made to think is important.
24/7 On culture
We are always turned on (not sexually, of course). We are alert, alerted, engaged, busy, thinking, planning, talking, doing, but not doing much of just being. Most people have heard of the popular book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which explores how being present in the Now (this very moment) is so important for our health and happiness.
With the world that we live in, it is normal to either live in the past or look to the future without being where you are presently (wholly and completely). We’re always switched on and it’s as if we are computers with hundreds of window tabs open at once, dividing our attention and keeping us from where we are. Add screens and attachments to technology, and our presence and attention becomes downright shattered.
With a meditative practice, we are brought back into the Now. We are made to consider where we are, who we are, and what’s going on inside ourselves, which has never been more important than now, in this culture of 24/7 on-ness and activity.
The rise in mental illnesses
Doctors now recognise that meditative practices and holistic healing have a place in everyday life and in gaining relief from the symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Our modern age has seen a rise in mental health issues in many individuals, but especially young people.
You can attribute this to a rise in awareness, thus a rise in recognition and diagnosis; or our culture of social media; or whatever else, but the rise is there and it is a problem. If meditative practices can give relief to even a small number of people, then it is relevant. It is important. It is worth shouting out about.
Meditative practices can help with stress management, too, another thing that is prominent in this busy culture that we live in. There is no way to know which meditative practice is best for you and your particular experiences with ill mental health, but I implore you to give them a wholehearted try if you are suffering.
There is a reason why CBT therapists suggest that we challenge negative thoughts in a journal: it helps us to gain perspective and feel in control of our thoughts and feelings; introspection is key to understanding and healing.
(See some resources below for further reading)
It’s ironic that we have never been more connected to other people and yet we are all more socially inept. Friends and family and even random people are only the click of a button away, but our relationships and real emotional connectivity are frayed. We text Lol as if we are laughing out loud, but in reality, we didn’t even grin. How sad is that? What have we become?
As I’ve said, meditative practices can help us to look within and see what is important. 9 times out of 10, at least one of those important things will be our loved ones. Many of us know that our relationships with our friends and family could be better, but in a busy culture with little self-reflection, this can go unnoticed and under-appreciated.
A big part of meditative practices for many people – hence the hippie-dippie comments – is spiritual exploration and truth of Self. Meditative practices aid in our ability to understand ourselves, find hidden truths, connect with our spirit/soul, and see things as they are, not as they seem. With little to no introspection, due to our attention being stolen and used elsewhere, we feel empty and unfulfilled – something that comes from our busy culture.
If you are someone who finds yourself questioning who you are, what you want from life, and why you keep feeling low, then a meditative practice could bring that clarity, truth, and self-awareness that you need.
Check out my post on self-awareness here for more.
If nothing else, meditative practices are a key part of self-care, self-love and relaxation. All of which we can find beneficial at various moments in our everyday lives. Baths, spa visits, massages, and time with our feet up on the couch are all socially acceptable and recognised means for relaxation. And we do know that we need time to relax in our lives in order to be happy and healthy, right?
I just wish we could get to the point where meditative practices are a part of that list, too, that’s all I’m saying.
Meditative practices can help with:
- Focus and attention
- Introspection and self-awareness
- Relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Understanding and clarity
- Relief from tension and stress (even pain)
- Breaks and relaxation time
- Self-care and self-love
- Physical health
- Truth, trust, and instinct
- Intentional, mindful living (important for those seeking minimalism, self-development and growth etc.)
All of which contribute to a healthier, happier you in this modern, somewhat flawed society that we live in.
If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.
If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!