How can meditation ease stress?

A calm lake is able to mirror its surroundings in serene tribute.

But toss in some pebbles, and the scene is suddenly roiled by the ripples. Meditation expert Umesh Bhatia believes our spirits are likewise too often unsettled by incoming concerns.

"The average human has 30,000 to 50,000 thoughts in a day," he said. "The reason why we don't experiment the inner light is because of the rain of thoughts that are coming into our minds."

Connecting and cultivating that "inner light" is the goal of Bhatia's program, Meditation for Holiday Stress, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at the Hinsdale Public Library (see Page 34 for details).

"It's about recognizing that fact that we are something that is beyond the body and the mind," Bhatia said. "There is spiritual component to our existence."

A meditation practitioner for more than 25 years, Bhatia said he teaches others as a community service. He remarked how at this time of year people are drawn toward giving and fellowship.

"People tend to be living in the moment more so than any other time of the year," Bhatia said.

At the same time, we have trouble making room for the joy-illuminating stillness amidst all the activity and to-do lists crowding our vision.

"Meditation is focused on silence - silencing the body and silencing the mind," Bhatia said. "The light is the powerhouse, which is our soul. If we can learn a technique by which we can focus within and stay inside ourselves and have no thoughts, the darkness begins to crack."

Clearing away our thoughts helps extinguish our fears and open us to our innate wisdom, he explained, promoting the three "Cs."

"We become fully conscious, connected and caring. All three happen together," Bhatia said. "Meditation is all about being in the present moment."

As a corporate executive, Bhatia has regular contact with people from all over the globe. Those interactions have revealed to him the universal nature of the human condition and need for self-care.

"There is unity in all of us," he said, underscoring how meditation can break down cultural barriers. "We become one. We are the same."

Leaning into gratitude is a profound way to keep trained on the here and now, he said, citing Thanksgiving as a wonderful portal to the ethos of giving, forgiving and gratefulness.

Meditation promotes gratitude and a simpler approach to life by staying in the moment and reprogramming the mind from its unhelpful tendencies to constantly analyze, advocate or judge. Bhatia said he's seen a shift post-COVID in his students' attraction to meditation.

"Most people used to tell me they wanted to reduce stress and improve physical health," he said.

But people have since voiced more of an emphasis on soul care.

"They talk about their connection to the inner self. Nowadays 70 to 80 percent of people give me that answer," Bhatia said. "When they actually can silence their mind and experience the inner light, they say, 'This is actually what I was looking for.' "

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean