Anxiety is the watchword of our times. Whether it is a question of global politics or the more intimate and personal matter of our appearance, the demands of 21st century life are precisely that - demanding. Meditation can help with that.
Leaving aside the sense of pervasive menace that spills out of every news bulletin, there is a more pointedly personal sting fired at us in every ad break. Are your abs up to scratch? Is your hair too grey/too thin? Is your belly out of control? Is your cholesterol too high, or your bank balance too small?
All too easily it can seem as though anxiety marks almost every aspect of our contemporary first world sense of self. Being asked to measure ourselves against the impossible ideals of Hollywood and all those airbrushed ads over and over again is a sure fire way to leave you feeling just that little bit less than up to the mark.
Living the bad dream
It’s a complaint that feminist campaigners against the ad industry have been making for generations, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. But against a backdrop of ever growing anxiety over our professional lives - micro management, shrinking budgets and the sense of flying without a safety net that government cutbacks have accentuated - all those minor and not so minor anxieties can build up to the point where life can feel like it is one of those bad dreams where no matter how hard you try you can never quite shake off the nameless threat is pursuing you.
Anxiety is widely recognised as the most prevalent form of mental illness in the UK today. But whilst women are one and a half times more likely to be treated for a mental illness than men, it is males who overwhelmingly dominate the suicide figures. Whilst women are more likely to ask for help, it seems, the tendency is for men to soldier on - self medicating with alcohol or some other potential addiction, rather than turn to their GP.
Rather than medical intervention, meditation is increasingly acknowledged as a successful means of corralling those swirling anxieties, learning to relax and taking control of our emotional reactions to the incessant demands of modern day living.
Amidst the incessant clamour of our busy lives the quiet still space that meditation affords is not only immediately stress-relieving in itself, it is also well-recognised as leading to better decision-making and a more evolved and a more robust sense of self.
If anxiety is the watchword of our times, a robust psychological self-reliance is its antidote. For most of us that strength of personality is not something that comes as standard. Or if it does, it can be worn down or buried beneath the spoil heap of those minor day-to-day vexations.
But taking the time to consciously relax, to put yourself on good terms with your thoughts and emotions is easily achieved. Help and guidance for beginners is readily available and increasingly popular. All it takes is a few quiet moments and a desire to live a better life. No drugs, no public performance, no fuss and no stress - really, what is there to worry about?
Image courtesy: Hernan PiÃ±era