People from all faiths and practices have widely varying belief systems, and yet those who practice meditation — whatever their faith — are consistently serene, warm, and open-hearted.
Maybe the belief system is of only minor importance. Maybe meditation is what makes most of the difference. It's the deep calm. It's the constant clearing out of cortisol and lactate that transforms a person's personality.
The book, The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration and Meditation, Revised: Ancient Skills for Modern Minds, has a huge number of exercises. The end result of all of them is greater calm. They all result in a more profound sense of relaxation and contentment. The right meditation technique to use is whatever you want to use. They all produce peace, calm, tranquillity, serenity, contentment, and bliss.
You'll be different with people when you feel calm. You'll have more empathy. You'll be a better listener. More patient. More forgiving. More open and comfortable with people. Other people will feel more comfortable around you, and uplifted in your presence. You will emanate love, goodwill, and contentment.
Are you meditating correctly? The litmus test is to check right after meditating. Do you feel calm? At peace? Then that technique is working for you. There are probably hundreds that will work for you.
Mantra meditation two times a day for twenty minutes each is the basic practice that most researchers have found has a good effect (when you experience extra stress, you can do a third 20-minute meditation that day and it will help).
Your state or mind and body is the context in which everything else occurs. When you are in a calm state, everything occurs within your calm state, and you'll respond calmly, you'll think about it calmly. When you think about skipping meditation, it is helpful to remember this. Your state is the context in which everything else occurs. So put meditation first. When you don't put it first, it becomes inconvenient one day, and then you're too busy the next day and pretty soon you don't do it any more. Put meditation first and it'll make everything better. Literally. Your connections with people will be better. Your health will be better. Your ability to handle stress and conflict will be better.
When you first start to meditate, you'll notice how different your daily life is. Then you'll get used to it, and that's just the way it is, and it doesn't seem remarkable that you are calm and peaceful. When you stop meditating, however, there is a residual effect from the meditation you've already done, and the changes of mental habits your calmer state has created. So the calm goes away too slowly to notice. If you want to stay motivated to meditate, remember the changes that happened when you first started.
Meditation practice is not everything. But it is the core. It is the foundation out of which even greater sources of growth can spring. And when there is time for nothing else, meditation is enough.
Meditation calms your body and steadies your mind. It creates an effective physiology. A base. A foundation. The rest of your waking hours, if you want more improvement, use the principles of personal growth.
Being calm is a good thing to be in most circumstances. Noncalm leads to unwholesome actions far more often than calm does.
So what cultivates calmness? And how can calmness be restored when it is lost? Meditation is the answer.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.