Imagine if there were a remedy for all the world's ills, some elixir that would guarantee unending happiness. A panacea that instantly makes you perfect, fresh, eternally youthful and free. Okay, I've exhausted my repertoire of synonyms for the coveted cure-all. But indeed a miraculous magic bullet does exist. But the wonder drug cannot be found in your medicine cabinet. It can only be accessed through meditation.
The Buddha said: "What we think, we become. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world."
Meditation, or contemplation, or introspection - or as I describe it, closing the eyes, quieting the mind and remaining still - is an end in itself. But meditation can also be used to achieve various worthwhile results. For example, by lying flat on your back and taking ten slow, deep breaths, you are instantly made calmer. In today's harried age, unflappable composure is at such a premium that we pay hundreds of dollars per ticket to watch athletes perform feats while in the zone - and while we stuff ourselves with soft pretzels and soda. Evidence of the de-stressing effects of meditation can be measured even in the layperson. You'll have to look beyond free throw percentage and wins over replacement and other sabermetrics to the indicators used not by sports analysts but by scientists. You will observe a slower heart rate and breathing rate, as well as lower blood pressure. All three are indicators of inner peace, and bode well for a lifetime of good health.
Meditation can be used to cure addiction. If, like Pavlov's dogs, you begin salivating for that martini or cold beer when cocktail hour comes around - or like me, who just got finished draining the old lady's liquor cabinet - try this: instead of reaching for that gin, find yourself a quiet place to recline in solitude and withdraw into yourself. The craving for a "tasty beverage" is really just a desire to relax. But alcohol, a potent hepatotoxin and central nervous system stimulant, is not the proper prescription in this case. What you need is to power down, even to unplug, and there is no better way to do this than by simply being still. This practice also works for food cravings and hypersexuality. Just be sure to keep your hands by your side.
Meditation allows one to live more consciously and love more fully. The goal of meditation is the thoughtless state, where you as pure consciousness enjoy your true and perfect nature, which is spaceless and timeless and eminently free. But going beyond mind takes a while to achieve, and on the road to an empty head you will observe your thoughts and learn to detach yourself from them. Then, in quietude, you will find that your senses become more acute. You notice sounds and sensations more fully. Your taste buds are awakened, as is your sense of touch. Life takes on a new meaning and you are more able to enjoy the perfect nature of someone else.
You will also be inspired in meditation. The mind is like a radio, and the thought frequencies are different stations. If as you commune with your deeper nature you don't like a particular thought stream, simply tune it out! Depression may surface, or anxiety, or worry. Catch yourself in these thoughts and feelings and instantly they disappear.
Through meditation you become more creative. As you reduce mental static and weed out upsetting thoughts, you open yourself up to inspiration. The voice of God, which is your conscience, always gives the right answer. All you have to do is open up and listen. By tuning into the Self you can solve pressing or tricky problems, create a beautiful work of art or simply delight in the presence of a higher power, which is the Real You.
You can then take this mental quietude, this clarity and acuteness, with you into your daily activities. You are instantly a better friend and relative, a more efficient employee or employer, a more conscientious citizen and an all-around more useful human being. The purpose of life is Self realization, and it is through meditation that you can achieve this lofty aim and so much more besides. Five minutes is enough, or twenty, or five hours. There is no end to the riches that will pour forth from the stillness. It is like deep sea diving. What exquisite treasures await your discovery in the calm depths of the heart!
Perhaps the grandest boon of all is that meditation provides one with a socially- acceptable excuse to sleep in an extra hour, or to take a much deserved nap. It is like the cigarette break back in the days before smoking became a stigma. And in this sleep-starved modern society, you can't put a high enough price on some good ole shut-eye.
If you desire a more detailed approach to the hallowed art of meditation than the one I have provided in this post - which to reiterate consists simply in lying on your back, closing your eyes, taking ten deep breaths and letting come what may - then check out this book. I haven't read it yet. Afterwards maybe we can get together and compare notes. Ponder the Buddha's words and ask ourselves what the world is like in the absence of thought. Or, as the artist says, "see what silence looks like."
There are, of course, issues that meditation alone cannot adequately address, despite my assiduous attempts. Like the pain of an aching tooth. Regrettably, the exercise resulted in emergency medical intervention. The Self may be the source of all, but in case of a root canal, visit a dentist.