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The Transformative Power of Daily Meditation

By Fleet Maull, Ph.D.


As we step into the uncharted territory of a new year, I invite you to join me on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. Traditionally, the month of January is an opportunity for a fresh start. However, instead of framing our resolutions within the context of perceived shortcomings or an inherent need for self-fixing, I would suggest that a more useful approach to setting our intentions is to start from a foundation of self-compassion. We could open to the possibility of our own innate goodness and unconditional worthiness and, from that basis, invite a spirit of growth and mastery. This shift in perspective lays the groundwork for intentions that resonate with authenticity and kindness, setting the stage for a truly transformative and empowering year ahead.


For 2024, I would like to focus on one particular thing we could commit to explore and deepen.  It is one of the most foundationally beneficial things we can do for ourselves and our lives—establishing a consistent daily meditation practice. In this blog,  I'll share my insights and reflections from five decades of regular meditation practice and frequent meditation retreats, urging you to consider the profound impact a dedicated meditation practice can have on your overall well-being and personal growth. Of course, many of you may already have a daily meditation practice, but I invite you to consider deepening that practice with cutting-edge, deeply embodied, and trauma-informed techniques grounded in both ancient wisdom and current science.  We will also explore new ways to deepen our practice by fully integrating the meditative mind with the activities and challenges of our daily lives.



A Lifelong Journey of Growth:

As human beings, we are life forms designed for continuous change and growth. We are on a perpetual journey of evolution and learning. Embracing this path is not about fundamentally needing to fix or improve ourselves, but rather removing the obstacles to our natural impulse and destiny to evolve and thrive. To navigate this journey successfully, it is helpful to cultivate a capacity for self-reflective awareness—paying attention to the intricate moments that shape our lives and becoming aware of the multitude of choices we face daily that will eventually shape our future experiences. The more we pay attention to our moment-to-moment experience with self-compassionate awareness, the more we will learn from our life’s daily circumstances and challenges, increasing our capacity to make wise choices.  Meditation serves as a powerful tool for developing this self-compassionate awareness, providing a gateway to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.


The Foundation of Health and Well-being:

Physical health is undeniably a cornerstone of a fulfilling life, and a consistent meditation practice can significantly contribute to our overall physical health and well-being. Supported by compelling neuroscientific research, meditation has emerged as a fundamental practice, proven to alleviate stress-related health issues – a prevalent concern in our fast-paced, modern world. Even though stress is normal and unavoidable, and can even be, when kept in a manageable range, conducive to growth, many of us are chronically addicted to living in a stress zone, which is actually detrimental to our health.  In fact, chronic stress is a primary cause of systemic inflammation in the body, which is the root cause of most chronic ailments and serious diseases.  By cultivating a restful state and spacious mind through meditation, we create opportunities for healing, allowing our bodies and minds to thrive.


Meditation as a Fundamental Health Regimen:

Let's broaden our perspective and view meditation as more than a spiritual practice. Instead, let us recognize it as a fundamental health regimen alongside practices like a balanced diet and regular exercise. By addressing stress at its core, meditation catalyzes positive lifestyle choices.  If we're in a more present, contemplative state, we're much less likely to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors. Developing positive habits like eating well, exercising, breathing correctly, and giving attention to the quality of our relationships will come more easily. Meditation invites a mental landscape where individuals are more likely to engage in behaviors promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being.




Deepening and Refining Our Practice

Practicing meditation more consistently and deepening our understanding of this ancient art will positively transform our mindset, give more meaning and direction to our lives, and support our path to greater well-being,  resilience, longevity, and happiness.


1. Frequency and Duration:

If you're currently practicing once a day, consider incorporating a second session into your routine. This could be a shorter, focused practice to reset your physiological, mental, and emotional state during the day.  For those practicing for a specific duration, such as 15 minutes, contemplate extending your sessions to 30 or even 45 minutes. The depth of your meditation often unfolds with time, so as you settle into your practice, you have more opportunities to explore new facets of your inner world. In addition, you could also consider attending weekend or week-long meditation programs or group retreats, which will catapult your practice to an entirely new level.  At some point, I would suggest you even try a solitary retreat, but only with the support and guidance of a teacher or experienced mentor, which will allow you to really get a taste of your own mind, heal more deeply embedded wounds and traumas, and stabilize your practice to a potentially profound degree.


2. Learning from Diverse Traditions:

The world we live in today offers an abundance of resources from various meditation traditions. Books, podcasts, and YouTube videos serve as universal gateways to teachings from Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Abrahamic, and secular traditions. I would invite you to embrace the wealth of knowledge available, exploring different perspectives to enrich and refine your meditation practice. This exploration allows for a more comprehensive understanding of meditation's diverse approaches and benefits.  To this end, you can register for our next summit, "The Art of Meditation," which offers a wealth of insights and practices for both beginners and seasoned practitioners, and an opportunity to hear wisdom teachings from amazing masters of diverse traditions.


3. Developing of Self-Compassion:

A crucial aspect of meditation is the development of self-compassion, self-acceptance, and non-judgmental awareness. This includes traditional Buddhist practices like metta (loving-kindness) and tonglen, as well as secular approaches like Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) or the RAIN technique. The combination of insight and self-compassion fosters a gentle and nurturing yet precise environment for self-study. It allows you to approach your inner experiences with kindness, understanding, and clarity.


4. Healing Through Awareness:

Meditation is not only an awareness practice; it is also a healing practice. By diving into the body with non-judgmental awareness, you create a space for rejuvenation and relaxation of both the body and the mind. By allowing thoughts, sensations, and emotions to arise and fall away without resistance or clinging, you can gradually let go and release accumulated tension, stress, and trauma, and eventually access an inner, abiding presence that has never been wounded or damaged.


5. Navigating Life with Wisdom:

As meditation brings awareness to the forefront, it equips you with the ability to navigate life with heightened intelligence and wisdom. The practice fosters a continual learning mode, allowing you to adapt and grow through life's experiences. In this way, the benefits of embracing meditation not just as a daily routine but as a lifelong journey of self-discovery and personal evolution are invaluable.


2024 Challenge:

At the start of this new year, I would like to challenge you: Why not make 2024 the year you either establish a consistent daily meditation practice or take your existing practice to the next level? Consider participating in retreats, immersing yourself in teacher-led experiences that can enrich your understanding and deepen your commitment to practice. Read books on meditation and biographies of great meditation masters. Listen to podcasts and YouTube videos or connect with a meditation app.


Another way to deepen our path of meditation and leverage its real-time benefits is to commit to integrating practice into our daily life, really making the effort to have it permeate our days. Meditation is not confined to the meditation cushion or formal practice; it's a practice that extends into every aspect of our lives. Of course, a strong foundation of formal sitting meditation is crucial, and will help us remember to be mindful during our daily activities and foster spontaneous wakeful moments. We can also come up with strategies to continually remind ourselves to come back to the mind of practice. It could be a sign on your wall,  periodic alarms to prompt moments of mindfulness,  a quick pause to briefly scan your body or the room you are in,  or even an intention to take a deep breath and look at the sky once every hour. You can be creative!




Common daily activities like bathing, brushing our teeth, shaving, dishwashing, laundry, cooking, or going for a walk can become opportunities for practicing mindfulness, coming back to the moment, and being present. Integrating mindfulness, awareness, and presence into our daily lives in this way requires strong intention, creative strategies, and a foundation of formal practice time; but it is completely possible and becomes easier the more we do it.  By infusing our daily routine with awareness, we create a seamless bridge between formal practice and everyday life. This integration facilitates a more continuous state of presence, where we can consciously engage with the richness of each moment with openness and curiosity, setting the stage for profoundly liberating insights into the nature of mind and reality. 


"Stop, Feel, and Be"

I would now like to leave you with a brief “micro-practice,” which you can do anytime, anywhere– the "Stop, Feel, and Be" technique – a tool to re-ground and liberate yourself in moments of stress or distraction, fostering a deeper connection with the present moment, beingness, and flow.


It can be especially helpful when you catch yourself stirred up in a lot of discursive thinking or getting emotionally triggered. As soon as you notice it, you can just internally say to yourself, silently, “Stop.” And that's not aggressive, It's just a pattern interrupt. For a brief moment, you simply stop moving, stop talking, stop thinking. And then, internally, say to yourself, “Feel.” Simply allowing yourself to feel whatever is going on, with an emphasis on feeling your body, as well as any emotions present in your body, deeply tasting your experience. And then the third step is to silently say, “Be” “and simply let yourself be, just relaxing into or opening into pure being and presence.  It can be very helpful to practice this outdoors and, on the 3rd step, to raise your gaze and expand your awareness out into the natural world, the horizon, and sky… appreciating the vast openness of our natural state of being and unconditioned mind of pure awareness.



Conclusion:

In closing, I really want to invite all of us to launch this new year with a collective commitment to meditation practice—recognizing its profound impact on both our individual and collective physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Join me in embracing this transformative practice as the compass guiding us toward a more mindful and fulfilling life and a more mindful, peaceful, and sustainable society. As we navigate the complexities of life, let meditation be the anchor that grounds us in the present moment, allowing us to unfold into the best versions of ourselves. Here's to a year of mindful transformation and the exploration of the boundless possibilities of this human journey we all share.

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