Cultivating a meditation practice is one of the most important things we can do for our brains. Neuroscientists at Harvard have been studying the benefits since the 1970s. Some benefits include; decrease in stress, increase in happiness, higher quality of life, lower blood pressure and better memory-just to name a few.
Still the actual practice of meditation can be uncomfortable, anxiety provoking, and chaotic.
My husband has taken up a daily seated practice over the past several months and he mentioned to us that lately it has been much more challenging, and that he would like a Ganesh for the alter.
Ganesh has roots in the Hindu religion and his image is found throughout India as the bestower of good fortune and new beginnings. He is also known around yoga circles as the remover of obstacles both material and spiritual. I have always looked at this symbol as a reminder to welcome the obstacles rather than resist them, reminding me that obstacles can be teachings and they will eventually pass.
My daughter has a mini figure of Ganesh that I picked up for her on one of my travels. The kids love the playful looking elephant from India, but when she heard that her dad wanted a Ganesh, we made a plan for her to bring it in to him the next day for his morning sit.
The next morning came and I reminded her of “our plan”. I had expected that she would place the mini elephant on the alter, it would bring such happiness to my husband and would give him the most joyful meditation experience, and my daughter would return snuggled in her bed, feeling satisfied by her contribution.
This was not the case…
She placed the small gold figurine in his hand, and then, not wanting to leave her murthi, she proceeded to scramble around the dark room preparing a space for herself. Over the next several minutes were sounds of her collecting blankets, bolsters and meditation shawls for her bed. As she settled into her yoga-propped nest she suckled her thumb, let out a moan, and just then the meditation timer ding-ed, a signal that our 20 minutes was up.
My plan to create a peaceful meditation for my husband failed, but while it was failing I had such profound love for the welcome distraction that was scurrying around the room. I wept with joy, because I realized it is not the distractions in the world that are our problems, it is how we receive them.
It is through our own expectations that we close our hearts-even out of the expectation of what a mediation practice should look like. If we welcome the distractions with an open heart we transform them. Through all-the noise, the sorrow, the anger, the sunrise, the happiness. As St Francis of Assisi said, “What you are looking for is what is looking.”
The most important benefit science is showing regarding meditation is an increase in gray matter in the brain, causing us to be less “self-centered” and more compassionate.
We are the ones that can close the door or let it fly open to greet the world. It is all God when you look with an open heart. Meditation has many amazing benefits of the mind, but the most important reason for this practice is so the mind may be equally yoked with the heart.