Stress-related complaints are possibly the most prevalent in the work place, particularly among those in high-performance, high responsibility positions. Anxiety, depression and burnout, among other concerns, are common off-shoots of stress overload, and they take a heavy toll on the mind, emotions, and even the body. These states can affect creative, and even rational, thinking, impair decision making, reduce reactivity, create lethargy, and gradually erode away a person’s vitality and efficiency, not to mention enthusiasm, at work. The common response to such ailments is pharmaceutical drugs, but medication can place further strain on an already weakened system. Furthermore, these chemicals are often not without side effects, and can even lead to addiction in varying degrees.
At Prana Bali, we offer healthier, more sustainable tools and alternatives to our clients. ‘Meditation, not medication,’ is one of our favorite catchphrases, although in our holistic approach, meditation need not only mean sitting on a cushion. Studies have shown that conditions such as deep depression or grief have responded positively, and at times been completely healed, through daily, contemplative walking in nature. However, in a busy city, or when time is limited, the age-old practice of ‘simply sitting’ has untold benefits that require no further demonstration.
Although even five minutes of meditation can be of great immediate benefit, the real value of the exercise lies in regularity and continuity. As such, and though it may seem obvious, for meditation to yield fruit, there needs to be a willingness to engage with the process on the part of the practitioner, or at the very least an open-minded curiosity about it.
The first practical step is to find a comfortable position to sit in, traditionally cross-legged on a cushion, but the use of a chair is also fine, provided one is not leaning against anything as this would make it easier to doze off. The key to the exercise, something which is anathema to busy minds, or at best counter-intuitive, is to slow down and be still. By sitting immobile, the urge to move around or fidget subsides, and the mind too can stop squirming and wriggling. Possibly the simplest and best instructions we know for meditation, are those of the Tibetan Buddhists, who advise: “Put your body in your seat, your mind in the body, and relaxation in the mind.” We then focus gently on the natural breath, and when thoughts arise and the mind strays, we mindfully return our attention to that same, constant, breath.
Practiced in this way, for anywhere from five to twenty minutes daily, meditation can be of great benefit to anyone. But where illness or dis-ease have intruded, the real healing potential of meditation lies in the fact that during sitting, a safe space is created within, to allow things to be just as they are. We become comfortable with what is, there is no goal other than to let things arise without interfering. When this practice becomes a habit, it is frequent for what seemed like great, tangible, solid fears and concerns, to be seen as mere shadows, paper tigers, things which are not as threatening as they seemed. When we learn to step back from thoughts and emotions, and to remain established in our secure inner space, we learn to release our grasp on those things that trouble us, and disrupt our thoughts, emotions, and lives.
When practiced as therapy, although not a panacea, meditation is an invaluable and readily available tool to help support the journey to renewed wellness, whatever one’s present condition.