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Keith Uhlig column: On meditation - It takes a lot of work to do nothing

2:07 PM, Apr. 5, 2013  |  Comments
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It takes a lot of work and plenty of discipline to do nothing.

That's the biggest takeaway I've gleaned so far in more than a month of semi-diligent meditation practice.

It's no secret that I can be a high-strung worrywart. It's also commonly known that meditation is a proven antidote to many of the bad things that can happen to a body under constant worry and stress.

So a few years ago, my wife and I took a meditation class through Continuing Education at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County. The course outlined various techniques for relaxation and clearing the mind. It was interesting, but not enough to spur me into action, er, inaction.

Maybe I was turned off by some of the new-agey, peace-and-love type of language often associated with meditation. It's just a bit pompous and pretentious. Calling meditation a "practice" is an example of that. Football players practice. Doctors practice. Meditation is just sitting there.

Several weeks ago, meditation came up again. This time, I was writing about the effects of stress on the heart, and cardiologists were telling me the same old story about how bad unchecked stress is for the heart and other body parts. One of the docs told me that tests have shown that meditation actually changes the physical makeup of the brain, strengthening the stress relieving part.

I still didn't try it.

But a few weeks ago, I ran across a copy of the magazine Scientific American Mind. "Sharpen Your Focus," the cover headline read, "How the science of mindfulness can improve attention and lift your mood."

The article reiterated the reams of studies that show meditation to be a salve for the crap that seems to seep through all of modern society - pain, anxiety, depression. But what really caught my attention was a description of a study of U.S. Marines who were able to maintain focus and memory under stress through meditation.

That did it. If it is good enough for Marines, then it's good enough for me. So I started the mindfulness - another one of those new-agey words that doesn't really mean anything - exercises, trying to empty my mind of thoughts and focusing on my breath for 10 minutes at a time.

It's hard. Ten minutes can seem like an eternity if there's not a TV blaring, a phone to thumb through or something to read.

But I have persevered. I can't say I meditate every day, or even whether I'm doing it right. (Is there even a wrong way? I don't think so, from my memory of the class.) I look at it as powering down the mind, kind of like what you do to a computer when it gets stuck. Am I happier, calmer and able to focus for longer periods of time? Gosh, I don't know. But I think I am and can. And if you think you're happy, aren't you?

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
575 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1017 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

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