These are unprecedented times.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching and complex, and no matter what your personal circumstances may be, it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all.
As always, but especially now, we encourage you to treat yourself with gentleness, compassion, and care. Take time to rest in simple silence, and consider the idea that any answers you seek are already inside you.
This resting in silence and finding the wisdom within is the foundation of Buddhist meditation.
If you would like to learn more about this timeless practice, then our new title, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane, is a perfect place to begin this work. Backed by years of experience as a mindfulness and meditation instructor, Kane has crafted the ultimate beginner’s guide to Buddhist meditation. Straightforward and easy to read, this powerful book answers many common questions from first-time meditators, and offers clear instructions on how to begin a regular, lasting practice.
An excerpt from How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane:
Maybe you believe, like I do, that some opportunity, a signal flag marking a new path, will often appear in your life when you need it most. Mine came in the form of a note from a friend…when she forwarded me an email about a writing and meditation workshop at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York. I had never been to the place, or even heard of it. But the idea of writing about my loss coupled with the meditation benefits they described felt like it might be a port in the storm for my hurricane mind.
That very first night at the Shambhala Center I began a meditation practice that, over time, would change my life. Today, I’m happy to report that I spend the vast majority of my days away from the path of the hurricane mind. I am calm, present, relaxed, joyful, and connected in a way I could only dream of before. And while I still have anxious and stressful moments, they are moments instead of days—and, most importantly, these feelings no longer paralyze or derail me. If you had told me eight years ago that I would find peace in my life, form deep connections with others, see beauty in the world, stop judging and evaluating myself constantly, and change my relationship to fear, death, stress, and anxiety, I would never have believed you. Yet, here I sit, writing this book to let you know that this is exactly what happened, and that beginning a meditation practice was the cornerstone to this new way of life.
The impact on me was so profound that in no time I became a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor. And for those I work with, meditation has had similar benefits, helping ease their social anxiety, insomnia, and stress. I’ve seen meditation help people tap into their creativity, be more productive at work, and find overall well-being greater than they have ever felt before. I’ve seen marriages grow more intimate and loving, and parents connect with their children and grow more peaceful within their families. I’ve seen people accomplish more with less effort, reduce their blood pressure, start sleeping better at night, and reset their relationship with food. Many say that they’ve started taking the worrisome thoughts that occur in their minds less seriously, which has created more joy, laughter, and adventure in their lives. Just imagine for a moment what any one of these benefits could mean for your life.
In addition to my own experience and that of my students, countless studies have measured the benefits of meditation on the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to find a scientific study that hasn’t concluded that meditation is good for you. A cursory internet search will deliver a variety of peer-reviewed studies showing physical, psychological, and spiritual results.
On a physical level, meditation can make you healthier:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Lowers heart rate
- Lowers cholesterol
- Normalizes blood sugar
- Increases fertility
- Reduces insomnia
- Decreases chronic pain
- Improves circulation
- Optimizes the immune system
- Increases the youth hormone DHEA
On a psychological level, meditation can change the brain:
- Alleviates depression
- Increases contentment
- Boosts self-confidence/self-esteem
- Reduces reactionary behavior
- Improves decision-making skills
- Enhances concentration
- Reduces test performance anxiety
- Reduces compulsive behavior
- Reduces ADHD and ADD symptoms
And finally, on a spiritual level, meditation can enrich your practice:
- Deepens sense of faith
- Increases feeling of connectedness with life
- Increases feeling of safety
- Increases intuition
In addition to all of the above, there are some key benefits to meditation from a Buddhist perspective. We will go deeper into these in the chapters that follow, but for now I’d like to start with the idea that meditation helps you to rediscover the quietness that lies inside you, and provides access to an awareness and presence that is not affected by your past or the uncertainty of the future. Through meditation, you begin to connect with the inherent goodness within, or what Buddhism refers to as your Buddha nature. While you may be accustomed to looking outside yourself for answers from others, Buddhism contains the radical idea that you already have the answers you seek, and meditation is a tool by which you can access your own truth.
Buddhism also teaches that each of us has the power to relieve our own suffering. We are our own healers, and we have everything we need within ourselves. Suffering in this context refers to anxiety, discomfort, pain, embarrassment, shame, and/or self-loathing. Meditation is a way to change your relationship to this suffering, because it changes your relationship to your thoughts and your emotions. By practicing meditation you become a witness to whatever is happening, no longer attaching yourself to it or resisting it, but simply observing it. You are able to observe difficult thoughts and emotions and allow the sensations to be there, without letting them lead you. The more you observe and the less you judge, the more you heal.
Meditation invites you to find out who you are, and to be who you are, exactly as you are, without judgment. In my experience, meditation can help restore what stress, anxiety, and overwhelm has taken from you, by bringing back peace, tranquility, and meaningful connection with others, as well as ease, energy, and joyful living. During meditation, we learn to be with ourselves in the best and worst of times. We accept ourselves as perfectly imperfect, dynamic, and ever-changing. This in turn allows us to see others in the same way, bringing a sense of compassion and connectedness into the world.
You may not believe that the practice I will teach you in the following pages can bring the same to you. But if you’re willing to commit to it and stick with it, meditating like a Buddhist will change your life.