Have you ever been sitting cross-legged (or in the â€œlotus positionâ€) 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, â€œWho am I living with? A Buddhist monk?â€
Itâ€™s safe to say this isnâ€™t a common occurrence for most of us (unless you really do happen to live with a monk). Â And youâ€™re probably scoffing at the scenario, deeming it â€œhippie nonsense.â€
But for me, itâ€™s a dream â€“â€“ a vision of what Oprah would call the â€œideal self.â€ Itâ€™s an idea (albeit exaggerated) of something I hope to one day have the courage to do daily.
And itâ€™s something I hope, one day, wonâ€™t be considered taboo and reserved for your â€œeccentricâ€ Aunt Lily Flower who carries around Tibetan peace flags and insists Tofurky be served at Thanksgiving dinner.
Someday, I hope meditation â€“â€“ and Eastern medicine as a whole â€“â€“ will be a more prevalent and socially acceptable part of our daily lives.
And I know, I know. Thatâ€™s still probably not enough to convince you. When we hear the word â€œmeditation,â€ we think â€œcrazy,â€ or â€œweirdoâ€ or â€œMadonna, after she took up Kabbalah.â€
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 werenâ€™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, Iâ€™ve sort of given it up. Mostly, because I didnâ€™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 â€œEat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope,â€ and it cited several recently validated studies (even from Harvard and Yale!) that showed a correlation between excessive â€œmind-chatterâ€ and unhappiness. The consensus of the studies confirmed: The less time you spend unconsciously worrying, the happier and more mentally content you are.
Thatâ€™s not to say, of course, meditation urges you not to think â€“â€“ it just recognizes the difference between constructive thought process and destructive, stress-inducing thoughts.
The article also cites different studies done on the â€œmeâ€ centers of the brain. Essentially, theyâ€™re parts of the brain that are, according to the article, â€˜â€™not active when weâ€™re doing high-level processing, but when weâ€™re drifting about in â€˜self-referentialâ€™ thoughts (read: when our brain is flitting from one life-worry to the next).â€
So it seems that when our brainâ€™s â€œmeâ€ center is active, despite what the name may imply, we arenâ€™t helping ourselves out at all. In fact, weâ€™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 â€œmeâ€ center, and rather, learn to think clearly, in the moment and without the distractions of mind wandering and self-doubt.
And really, who wouldnâ€™t want that?
Obviously, Iâ€™m far from an expert on meditation, and thereâ€™s still a lot Iâ€™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 itâ€™s not a common practice, and a lot of people think itâ€™s pointless, thereâ€™s a chance it could do some good.
Next time youâ€™re feeling stressed, donâ€™t be ashamed to dim the lights, turn on your fave Hare Krishna jam, and attempt to think about absolutely nothing.
Donâ€™t even think â€“â€“ just be. Your roommates may think youâ€™re crazy, but Gandhi will think youâ€™re the beesâ€™ knees.
_Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Anyone else who thinks meditating is the â€˜beesâ€™ kneesâ€™ can send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. _