Peace and Clarity
A midlife crisis is often described as a period of emotional turmoil that can happen anywhere in a person’s thirties, forties, or even fifties. Like puberty, it is different for everyone and usually contains a period when one questions their self-confidence and identity. For some, the change can be subtle or an awakening of sorts, for others it can be very pronounced and unsettling. People often need to develop new coping mechanisms or skills during this upheaval. Surviving your midlife crisis with meditation can help you bring peace and clarity.
Meditation has many benefits and over the last fifteen or twenty years, there have been many scientific studies about what happens to our brains and bodies during meditation. But so many people in our western culture don’t even think of meditating. If you ask someone that has never meditated what comes to mind when they think of meditation, many will pull up thoughts of sitting on a cushion, legs twisted into the lotus position, and chanting Om.
Other images it often conjures are stereotypes of hippies in tie-dye in front of flickering flames talking about their zen, man. I often ask people what they think of when I say meditation and I have yet to hear anyone say, “A man in a suit, sitting quietly in his office, clearing his mind before a big presentation.” And yet, I have a friend Dave that does just that. He often meditates at work and will confess that he often forgets to do so on the weekends and while on vacation.
Giving It a Go
Unless you currently practice meditation, or have given it a really good go in the past, throw out what you think you know. Meditation comes in as many different forms as soup. There is a flavor and type for everyone. You will probably develop a favorite and often want to switch things up every now and again.
A basic recipe for seated meditation:
- A place where you won’t be disturbed
- A comfortable seat
- Something to focus upon, like a sound, a picture or a recorded guide
- A predetermined time limit and timer (I suggest 15 minutes)
For someone new to the practice, guided meditations are awesome. I often suggest Burt Goldman’s Daisy Pond, which is available on YouTube. Just get comfortable and listen to Burt guide you through a relaxing and visual trip to the Daisy Pond. If you are apprehensive about a guided meditation, listen to it when you are active (not driving a car or operating machinery) so that you can hear what you are going to experience. Often people don’t remember much past getting to the daisy. My sister once complained she never knew what happened once she got on the daisy, it would seem like she would just come to when Burt brought her back at the end of the meditation.
If you are not doing a guided meditation, take a few deep breaths, pausing between the inhales and exhales. Focus on your breathing for at least three or four cycles. If you are using a sound as your focus, switch to the sound and hold your attention upon it. Your mind will wander, so when you realize it has happened, gently redirect yourself back to the sound. And it will happen. Over and over, and that’s okay. It’s called Meditation Practice for a reason. If you have to shift your body to be more comfortable, shift your body. If you have a slight itch, scratch it. The trick isn’t to lose focus or be rock still, it’s to recognize that you have done so and return your focus to the sound (or picture or whatever).
Am I Doing It Right?
You might find that in the beginning, you find some fleeting quiet only once or twice during the fifteen minutes. That’s great! In fact, it’s awesome. After more practice, you may find that it takes thirteen of the fifteen minutes to reach a nice, quiet state. That’s fantastic too. Some days I find that I hit a couple of minutes two or three times during my fifteen minute goal, with periods of mind wander between them. Those are pretty great days.
Be gentle with yourself when start meditating. If you get agitated and it feels forced, let it go and try again tomorrow. If you’re not sure you are getting there, don’t worry. Try again tomorrow. Have a sneezing fit, don’t worry. Try again tomorrow.
Meditation is not about staying in a clear state of mind. It’s about returning to it, over and over and over. Mind wander? Return to focus. Good meditation? Return tomorrow. Bad meditation? Try again tomorrow. The trick to get the most out of meditation is to return. Return to focus, return tomorrow, and return to yourself.
Crisis or not, midlife is the perfect time to begin, or return to a meditation practice. Starting (or ending, it’s your choice) your day with fifteen minutes of meditation can lower stress, help you find balance and bring about the clarity you need in your life during this time. This may become a habit that you wish to continue long past your midlife. There are many different meditation poses, mudras (hand positions), and practices to discover or you may stick to your original method. It’s all good soup.
Do you have a meditation habit? What kind of focal point helps you the best? I’d love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below.