While it may not be news to sober folks dutifully practicing their 11th step, meditation has been proven to help on a number of levels: with stress, with mindfulness, with health issues and of course (though the general news stories don’t tend to mention or emphasize this much) with connecting to some sort of a Higher Power. But now the media’s caught wind of the med trend and determined that being in the now has never been trendier.
According to The LA Times, hospital execs and managers are currently getting in on the act over at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Whether it’s the numerous studies out there about the benefits of meditation or the fact that Oprah started paying for mantras for all her OWN employees, the tip has officially pointed when the University of Massachusetts Medical School as well as a bunch of UC’s are offering meditation programs.
Love the Message, If Not the Messenger
Fair warning for anyone reading that Times piece: there are a number of gag-worthy bits in there. There’s the meditation teacher quoted who offers that she learned to meditate from Beatle George Harrison “when they happened to meet in Fiji,” as well as a focus on a guy from a Forbes list of Top 40 Earners Under 40 who also began the practice.
Look, I get it. Wish fulfillment—fancy people meditate and you can be just like them!—helps any trend story. But what the piece doesn’t seem to get into is just what meditation can do for the Fortune 500 CEO and non CEO alike.
So What Is it?
I am certainly no spokesperson for meditation, nor can I entirely articulate what has changed in my life since I began practicing a little over a decade ago. The truth is I was dragged to a meditation lecture when I was about two years sober and had every intention of zoning out until it was over. I perked up a bit when I walked in and saw that the entire room was filled with people I knew from 12-step rooms, a fact which shouldn’t have surprised me but did.
Then I heard the teacher talk about the stress that builds up in our bodies from the fight-or-flight instincts we once needed to need to fight off, say, wild boars, and which now just stores up in our system every time we slam on the brakes or do anything that raises our adrenaline. The only other thing I remember hearing that first night was something about how meditation slows down the aging process, which may alone have been my incentive for signing up.
The meditation I practice is Vedic, an offshoot of Transcendental (but without the $1,000 mantra price tag). Here’s what I do: every morning I get up, read a daily thought newsletter from Jeff Kober (LA-based meditation teacher, all-around fantastic guy, previous AfterPartyPod guest and oh my God you need to go sign up for his newsletter now). The I sit quietly for 20 minutes; later in the day, I do it again (confession: I have been known to miss the afternoon ones at times) (but mostly I do it). While sitting, I repeat in my head the mantra my teacher gave me. It involves not worrying about the thoughts that pass through my head as I meditate and just gently bringing my mind back to the mantra.
I remember hearing in the beginning that once I’d been practicing meditation for a while, people would often ask me what it is I was doing to stay so calm. While “a while” can be a relative term, nearly 12 years later I can say with assurance that not only has no one ever asked me that question but also that they probably never will. Of course, I have no way to compare how I feel now with how I would feel had I not been mediating all these years. I just know that I enjoy it. Sure, I can be irritable when doing it in a group. But wherever or however I do it, it helps me connect with something larger than myself, if only because I can briefly quiet my mind enough to hear something besides my own inner dialogue. It has given me a fuller life. And I didn’t need to be someone who might learn by randomly encountering a Beatle in Fiji or make a Forbes list to learn it. Meditation is probably, in fact, the one thing that can help me to accept that fact.