As a man born into American culture, you would think I'd know a thing or two about preventative healthcare. But there was a time when I rarely visited the doctor and I didn't care much about being active, nor was I the least bit concerned about diet and nutrition.
I was overworked, exceedingly malnourished, and severely stressed. But I didn't seem to know it at the time. I was smoking close to a pack of cigarettes daily and could easily lose myself in a six-pack of hefeweizen to close out my work week.
As I was progressing in my career, my health was beginning to deteriorate. I was eventually diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder. Not long after my diagnosis, I developed an addiction to my anxiety medication, subsequently resulting in an accidental overdose of anxiety pills and painkillers.
In my quest to achieve the American Dream, I was thrown off course into a world of self-discovery.
What I had been running from all those years was the very thing I needed in order to save my life — clarity of thought.
Through my journey toward health and healing, I was reintroduced to a practice that I had wrongfully misjudged for years.
Meditation not only assisted me in overcoming my addictions, but also made me acutely aware of the emotional and psychological obstacles I was so desperately trying to avoid. It helped me to transition my pain into progress, and for the first time in my life I was able to accept myself for who I truly was — flaws and all.
For other men out there who may have been just as skeptical as I was, I have compiled a list of three reasons why you should mediate. It's important to take at least 15 minutes every day to slow down, calm your thoughts and appreciate yourself. You'll thank me later, I promise!
1. Meditation allows us to explore possibility.
As men, we tend to be very rational thinkers. We pride ourselves on logic and practicality. If there is a problem, we will work tirelessly to find a solution.
Most of us won't admit it, but also we have a natural tendency to feel the need to control the outcome of any given situation. Because we are instinctively pragmatic, we find it difficult to relinquish the control of an outcome we feel we have the ability to manipulate. It's often the fear of an unwarranted or unfavorable result, that creates this determination.
However, by maintaining the need for control we are essentially blocking a fundamental aspect of life — possibility.
Meditation is said to be the gateway to all possibilities. By quieting the mind, we're actually expanding our awareness, which directly assists with problem solving. This provides us an opportunity to let go of the psychological restriction of control, and let the universe conspire on our behalf.
You'll be surprised when you realize that life becomes a bit easier when you allow things to work the way they were naturally designed to.
2. Meditation helps us to feel our feelings.
Many of us were raised to protect our emotions, especially men. Some of us were taught to never expose our weaknesses or vulnerabilities. We were told to be strong leaders, and in order to be a leader we had to be tough.
But tough in what way?
Often this vague expectation resulted in many of us experiencing difficulty with understanding our emotions or accepting them altogether. Some of us began to only express the feelings tied to positive experiences, while keeping hidden the adverse feelings connected with hardship. Either that, or we'd express them through inappropriate acts of rebellion.
For me growing up, I had a difficult time separating my emotions. No matter the circumstance, anger was usually my immediate response.
Anger is the weakest emotion of all. It's the easiest to access, yet never provides a rational solution. But because of the discomfort and vulnerability associated with other emotions like sadness, fear or disappointment, we try to avoid them altogether.
Meditation allows us to connect with our subconscious mind — the place where many of our suppressed emotions reside. By uncovering the false interpretations of these emotions, we learn to resist the inclination to judge these feelings as either good or bad. By doing so, we are able to experience them with no discrimination or division.
It's important to stop avoiding the things that make us feel uncomfortable and start understanding so we can learn from them.
3. Meditation introduces us to our authentic selves.
Imagine a world with no judgement — a society with no racism, classism or prejudice. Now, picture living with no self-hate or low self-esteem. What would that world look like?
The truth is, you have the ability to travel to that place whenever you want. You don't need any frequent flyer miles or travel agents. All you need is you.
Many of us invest so much of ourselves into trying to find happiness through accomplishments and possessions, that we lose sight of our truth. We stop chasing our dreams and end up working for the people who never stopped chasing theirs. We wind up stuck doing something that we don't like in order to maintain a lifestyle that we didn't want.
Meditation brings you back to yourself. It increases your awareness, creativity and mental fortitude. During meditation you are not bound by the shallow trappings of worldly success. You are not focused on accomplishments or tangible possessions. You are not anxious or fearful. In those moments you are brought back to your intention.
With guys like Dan Harris, Russell Simmons and Hugh Jackman publicly advocating meditation, it seems as though more men are beginning to accept it as a lifestyle. But it's still not enough! It saddens me to see so many men out there who are still missing out on the benefits of this incredible practice.
Men, we need to take care of ourselves, too — mind, body and spirit. I see men my age already battling heart disease. I work with guys 20 years my senior who are still working through addiction. I know people with substantial wealth who still fight to overcome depression. We need change! Possessions don't secure happiness, it only provides a temporary distraction.
As humans we are emotionally triggered when our ideas about how things are supposed to be, conflict with how things actually are. But how amazing would life be if we could all come to the realization that our dreams will never be as big as the infinite possibilities?
Photo courtesy of Taylor Images