Sep 262011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

Have you ever been sitting cross-legged (or in the “lotus position”) in your living room, humming a single note to yourself, with incense smoldering and a vision of the Dalai Lama floating in your head … only to have your roommate walk in and say, “Who am I living with? A Buddhist monk?”

It’s safe to say this isn’t a common occurrence for most of us (unless you really do happen to live with a monk).  And you’re probably scoffing at the scenario, deeming it “hippie nonsense.”

But for me, it’s a dream –– a vision of what Oprah would call the “ideal self.” It’s an idea (albeit exaggerated) of something I hope to one day have the courage to do daily.

And it’s something I hope, one day, won’t be considered taboo and reserved for your “eccentric” Aunt Lily Flower who carries around Tibetan peace flags and insists Tofurky be served at Thanksgiving dinner.

Someday, I hope meditation –– and Eastern medicine as a whole –– will be a more prevalent and socially acceptable part of our daily lives.

And I know, I know. That’s still probably not enough to convince you. When we hear the word “meditation,” we think “crazy,” or “weirdo” or “Madonna, after she took up Kabbalah.”

Because really, who sits around for an extended period of time with the sole intent of literally doing, and thinking, nothing.

I mean, I would still be skeptical too if it weren’t for one unusually progressive high school psychology teacher who taught me, years ago, just how beneficial the act of meditation can be to our well-being.

But, since high school, I’ve sort of given it up. Mostly, because I didn’t want my freshman year roommate thinking I was certifiably insane. Sitting on your lofted bed and drinking out of a handle of vodka is completely socially acceptable in college. But meditating?

Once again: Madonna crazy.

A few days ago, however, I stumbled across a Forbes article that rekindled my interest in the Eastern art of meditation.

The article was called “Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope,” and it cited several recently validated studies (even from Harvard and Yale!) that showed a correlation between excessive “mind-chatter” and unhappiness. The consensus of the studies confirmed: The less time you spend unconsciously worrying, the happier and more mentally content you are.

That’s not to say, of course, meditation urges you not to think –– it just recognizes the difference between constructive thought process and destructive, stress-inducing thoughts.

The article also cites different studies done on the “me” centers of the brain. Essentially, they’re parts of the brain that are, according to the article, ‘’not active when we’re doing high-level processing, but when we’re drifting about in ‘self-referential’ thoughts (read: when our brain is flitting from one life-worry to the next).”

So it seems that when our brain’s “me” center is active, despite what the name may imply, we aren’t helping ourselves out at all. In fact, we’re causing negative, stress hormones to be released.

But when we meditate, or consciously spend a short amount of time focusing on nothing, we train our minds to stop relying on the “me” center, and rather, learn to think clearly, in the moment and without the distractions of mind wandering and self-doubt.

And really, who wouldn’t want that?

Obviously, I’m far from an expert on meditation, and there’s still a lot I’d like to learn about it. But I hope others can look past the stigma associated with it (at least slightly) and realize that just because it’s not a common practice, and a lot of people think it’s pointless, there’s a chance it could do some good.

Next time you’re feeling stressed, don’t be ashamed to dim the lights, turn on your fave Hare Krishna jam, and attempt to think about absolutely nothing.

Don’t even think –– just be. Your roommates may think you’re crazy, but Gandhi will think you’re the bees’ knees.

_Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Anyone else who thinks meditating is the ‘bees’ knees’ can send feedback to _

 Posted by at 3:44 pm

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