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VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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Flossing, but for Your Mind
Arobed monk sits cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by candles. His hands rest on his knees, palms up with his index fingers and thumbs forming loops. Eyes closed, he empties his mind, breathes deeply and in a low register, chants om. For many people, this is what they imagine when they think of meditation. While it does represent a version of the practise, it’s by no means the only one. That’s like assuming the term exercise only means lifting weights. While meditation has amplified within mainstream media and general popularity, many are still reluctant to try it—some because of the misconceptions of what it is. We’re very used to the idea of regular maintenance. Whether it’s brushing our teeth or stretching, we engage in daily activities to keep our bodies functioning properly. Yet we often neglect to do the same for our brains. Meditating for even a few minutes a day can have countless positive effects including reducing stress, alleviating anxiety and depression, lowering blood pressure, reducing pain, increasing creativity, improving focus and emotional control, and treating insomnia.
Whether it’s brushing our teeth or stretching, we engage in daily activities to keep our bodies functioning properly. Yet we often neglect to do the same for our brains.
Before getting into what meditation is, let’s do an exercise—try it! Set a timer on your phone for 30 seconds. Close your eyes and try not to think any thoughts until the timer goes off. Did you do it? Even in 30 seconds you probably had too many thoughts pop into your mind to count them all. Meditation—at least the form we’re discussing here—teaches your mind to become more aware of the automatic nature of your thoughts and gives you greater control over them. Rather than allowing your attention to follow whatever shiny tangent happens to be churning through your mind, in time you learn to become more deliberate in your thinking and ignore repetitive thoughts that are harmful or unhelpful.

For those who’ve never tried meditation, it wouldn’t be adequate to try describing how to do it here—the easiest way to get started is by trying a short, guided meditation. You can find these free on YouTube or you can download a meditation app like Headspace. The key thing to remember when you start is that meditation is a skill like any other, and it takes practice. It’ll probably be difficult and awkward at first, but so was the first time you tried skiing—and like skiing, it’ll get easier and more rewarding as you stick with it. Consider starting with five minutes a day and slowly increase over time. As you practice and get better at meditation, you’ll begin to act as the conductor of your train of thought, rather than being dragged along behind it.
VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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