When I was in my early twenties I had a type of PTS or post traumatic stress. It hadn’t developed into a clinically-defined disorder, so it was classified as PTS instead of the well-known PTSD. However, I still exhibited much of the same symptoms. I was depressed, would get headaches, had trouble focusing, easily fatigued, and crowds, loud music and lights would bother me. During this period of my life, I especially enjoyed going to the local bookstore and reading. There is a particular day that is written in my memory at that bookstore, I saw the cover of Time magazine and it featured an article claiming meditation as the best natural stress reliever that research knows about. At that time, I had an off-and-on meditation practice. I had read a few books, and taught myself how to meditate from those books. When I first began meditation, most of the time I had thoughts like, am I doing this right? Am I getting any benefit from this? How long does this take? I later learned that many people have these thoughts when they begin their practice. However, after I read the article, I was convinced meditation was what I needed, so I made a pact that I would dedicate at least an hour a day to the practice for three months. If there wasn’t any benefit after that, I could move on to something else.
After I had committed to three months, I remember someone asking me if I felt any better. I did feel better, all my symptoms weren’t gone, but I could tell subtle changes were happening. And it wasn’t like there were one or two subtle changes, but more like 20 or more. I could also feel the subtlety of these changes adding up into bigger changes. For example, I had a friend come visit that I hadn’t seen in awhile. We went out to dinner, but before we even got to dinner she had changed her mind about where she wanted us to eat at least three times. When we turned the car around for the third time she looked over at me and said, “I am real surprised you haven’t got mad about this, normally I feel you’d be frustrated with this situation.” Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about being frustrated or mad, but reflecting on my past behaviors, I knew she was right. This was one example of a subtle but nice change that had occurred for me. A change like this seems to support what research indicates about the practice of mindfulness.
Most people meditate for different reasons but I’ve found these 5 main categories:
-Lowering Pain or Health Problems
-Reducing Stress and Building Resilience
-Enhancing Job or Sport Performance
-Cultivating Happiness, Emotional Intelligence and Growing Relationships
-Awakening to Spiritual Growth
I would always tell you that you should practice for spiritual reasons, and let the other benefits come over time and be bonuses to the practice. Many of our problems today stem from the spiritual plane and manifest themselves as pain, or stress, or low performance. However, it’s better to practice for any reason than not practice at all. So I encourage you get started and practice today!