Growing up in the Conservative Catholic school system, I was always taught that you should say your prayers and always respect your parents. I never quite understood prayer though. According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, "prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity." It was my understanding that God (or whatever higher power you believe in) already knows what requests you are presenting or what you are thankful for before your prayer even begins. Once I was old enough to really grasp what that meant, that God is a mindreader so to speak, I did not see the point in praying. After all, what is the purpose of doing something that has already been done?
Once I left the private Catholic school system and entered the public school "world" if you will, I was awakened to so many different cultures, religions, races, and more! I had never sat down and talked to someone who was of Hindu faith. I mean, I was surrounded predominantly by other Catholics from second grade through my freshman year of high school.
During this time period of meeting new people from all different cultures I had the opportunity to meet someone who was a devout Christian with a Buddhist philosophy. This was the turning point in my religious and spiritual life. I was able to see someone with an almost identical view as myself, except, better.
I never knew what was missing in my religious life but I definitely knew something was indeed missing. After seeing that you could incorporate more than just the basic Christian views into your daily life, I was awaked to a new feeling of spiritual excitement.
After about a year of reading and discovering more about the Buddhist philosophy, I discovered different types of meditation. I decided to give myself challenges using meditation. Just like when people at the gym try to max out or reach a new fitness goal, I wanted the same thing! I wanted to feel that deep inner peace and calm. That feeling you get when you see the ocean for the first time in a long time and you are just shocked by its grandeur.
Once I began setting meditation goals for myself like: meditate for fifteen minutes, half an hour, or one hour, I was then able to feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement and peace. Accomplishing these goals has decreased my anxiety, improved my mood, and made me more mindful of my daily interactions with others.
The type of meditation I use most regularly is mantra meditation. Much like praying the rosary or reciting an age old prayer, you are reciting whatever message you want to happen over and over. In order to keep my mind focused on the task at hand, I use mala beads. Mala beads are very similar to the physical rosary. They can be made of all different kinds of stones, woods, etc.
Reciting this mantra over again helps send out vibrations throughout the universe telling it what you are wanting. If you use mala beads for three months using the mantra "less stress and more joy," not only are you sending those messages through the universe, you are allowing yourself to hear what you want. Then, you incorporate meditation into your daily life. When you feel that school is getting the best of you, your new job is much more challenging than you expected, or your kids are driving you up a wall and you feel stressed out, that is when you recite your mantra "less stress and more joy." Just the simple mantra alone can help you work through challenging times.
Learning to be mindful can be quite challenging if you are used to the fast paced intense lifestyle that many Americans live. However, just like reciting your mantra, you can learn to become more aware and mindful by simply asking yourself the golden rule in life, am I using kind words and actions towards others? If the answer is no, congratulations, you are being mindful and that is the first step to making a change! If the answer is yes, congratulations to you as well, you are ahead of the game and are on your way to even more success with meditation and mindfulness!
Learning to meditate can be an intimidating process. Though, there are many misconceptions about meditation. Not everyone sits quietly in a dark room with zen music playing to meditate. For instance, while walking to class everyday I meditate using my mala beads in hopes for a better understanding of what I am about to learn and for a successful class.
Meditation success takes time and practice, just like learning to ride a bike, play soccer, or play an instrument. It is impossible to become "good" at meditating if you never practice. So, set some time aside in your day to clear your mind of worry and stress and allow yourself to be calm, clear headed, and peaceful.
You deserve it!