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I was at my day job recently — I’m a server at a diner currently — and one of my coworkers told me she’s struggling with anxiety and just went on a new medication.
I suggested she gives meditation a try because there are zero negative side effects. The worst thing that could happen is you fall asleep.
And she said, “Oh, no, I can’t meditate. I’m Catholic.”
I looked at her confused, and said, “Yeah…? And?”
“Oh, meditation isn’t allowed. It’s like praying to another God.”
I had to just shake my head and walk away because I didn’t have the bandwidth to get into this topic at the time.
My husband, my Dad, and my baby brother are all Catholics, and I myself attended a private Catholic school as a child. Beyond that, my Mother ran a Christian Brothers spiritual retreat centre that served monks and nuns in religious orders, and I used to spend a lot of time there with the participants.
I know a lot about Catholicism.
Where this coworker got the idea that meditation isn’t allowed if you’re Catholic, I have no idea. Meditation is highly encouraged by the Church, in large part due to the work of St Teresa of Avila.
Teresa was a Spanish Carmelite nun who lived in the 1500s. She believed that nobody who dedicated themselves to their meditation practice could possibly lose their soul. She was a strong advocate for meditating on prayers and the teachings of Jesus. She believed it was a crucial practice in her worship and devotion to God. Teresa meditated twice a day for an hour each time.
But because I predominately reside in my little hippie new age woowoo bubble, I forget that things like this are largely forgotten. I also forget there are a lot of misnomers out there about meditation, so I thought today it would be good to go back to basics.
What is Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a non-secular practice that focuses on being present in the moment. Mindfulness meditation allows you to connect to your breath, your body, your spirit, your thoughts, your emotions. Mindfulness is not about praying to a God, or worshiping anybody or anything. It’s purely about you and your relationship with yourself, your soul, and your essence.
There are many different styles of meditation, and meditation can be found across all religions, but mindfulness is what I focus on here at Sūvata.
Mindfulness, as a word, means you’re simply being present. You’re being mindful of what’s going on. Mindfulness meditation not only cultivates this ability to be present and focused on your meditation, it also helps you be present and focused when you’re not meditating.
Furthermore, mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to be seated. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced while you’re cleaning as we discussed on Monday’s episode, while you’re walking, or while you’re doing yoga.
As the University of Minnesota put it, mindfulness is merely a difference in brain modes. Your brain has a default mode that is noisy and chaotic. Your brain is continually making sense of events and filtering out events, not to mention the continual sensory onslaught your brain has to cope with.
Mindfulness is just a different mode. It’s allowing your brain to become less chaotic, less crazy, and allow you to become more connected and present.
We don’t have to take the benefits of meditation on faith or anecdotal evidence. There are numerous benefits to mindfulness meditation, which have been well documented in clinical studies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, evidence supports the effectiveness of meditation for various conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Preliminary research indicates that meditation can also help people with asthma and fibromyalgia.
Meditation can help you experience thoughts and emotions with greater balance and acceptance. Meditation also has been shown to:
- Improve attention
- Decrease job burnout
- Improve sleep
- Improve diabetes control
What do I need to meditate?
You don’t need anything to meditate. You just need to have a mind. Yes, it’s helpful to find a comfortable seat, and yes, it’s nice to have a good buckwheat meditation cushion, but do you need any of these things? Absolutely not.
In fact, some of the most beneficial and helpful meditative practices can be done while you’re in line at the grocery store. Instead of standing there getting frustrated by the people ahead of you, you can instead focus on your breath and bring a sense of calm and relaxation to your being.
Anybody, anywhere, from any culture, any religion, can meditate and benefit from it.
In today’s meditation, we’re going to go right back to basics with a five minute breath focused meditation.