Meditation and a Formula for Well-being
I came across a “formula” for well-being a while ago that I’d like to share. Formulas don’t always work well with human beings, but this one is actually very practical and versatile. It’s a way to understand well-being and to explain why the same experience affects people differently–or even affects us differently from one day to the next.
Its real strength is you can use it to step back and discover ways to improve your well-being, especially around a difficult situation or “challenge.” When I first saw this formula, I thought, “Meditation can help with all of these!” I’d like to share the basics of the formula with you and how meditation can expand well-being.
The Well-Being Formula is:
Well-being = Resources – (Challenges x Vulnerabilities)
An example is the best way for you to get an idea of how these three relate to each other. Here is one specific challenge, and what the related resources and vulnerabilities might be.
CHALLENGE | External
- You lost your job.
VULNERABILITIES | Internal
- You grew up in a low-income family where money caused a lot of tension and arguments. As an adult, managing money still causes you a lot of anxiety.
- You have a tendency toward feeling depressed and overwhelmed.
RESOURCES | Internal and External
- You’re young and have a lot of ideas about finding a new career.
- You learned quite a few skills in your old job.
- You have savings that will give you some breathing room while you’re looking for a new job.
Your resources and vulnerabilities also aren’t static. You might be stressed because a family member has become ill, so you might feel more anxious and less creative about job hunting. Or, if you make a new friend who’s a good listener and they become a new resource to support you while you find your way.
HOW CAN I ACTUALLY USE THE FORMULA?
So, why would you want to look at a situation in this way? It can seem sort of simplistic to break down something as organic and alive as well-being into a formula. But, for myself and people I teach, there’s a tendency to think well-being “just happens.” We either feel content and capable or we don’t. But we all want to know we can change our inner and outer worlds, rather than being an effect of causes we can’t even see.
The ultimate purpose of this formula is to help you see a situation more fully and find ways to increase your well-being around it–to feel more content, strong and resilient. You have the most power and possibility to do this by decreasing your vulnerabilities and/or increasing your resources. When you do this, your well-being will grow and deepen, as will your confidence and ability to respond well to the challenge. For example:
- Your vulnerability around family money issues could be lessened by talking to a friend or counsellor.
- Learning a relaxation technique would help to reduce your vulnerability around anxiety and money.
- If you joined a job-seeking group that could be a good external resource to help find a new job.
- You can make a pact with yourself to reach out to people if you start feeling depressed.
THE FORMULA AND MEDITATION
One of the main reasons I love to teach meditation is it’s like medicine for whatever ails you. Meditation is a tonic that can balance your body, mind and spirit. It helps you build inner resources you can bring to any situation or challenge, or goal or aspiration.
Here are just some of the ways I’ve seen regular meditation practice strengthen people’s inner resources and reduce their vulnerabilities.
- Breathing practices are proven anxiety-busting tools, without any negative side effects.
- The practice of observing thoughts without judgement helps you to have more objectivity about worrisome and circular thoughts about “what might happen.”
- The attitude of “beginner’s mind” helps you to see every situation with fresh eyes. You see unexpected solutions or next steps to take.
- Just sitting in silence can help you feel renewed and give you more perspective.
- Practices that help you manage emotions with compassion and equanimity bring down the heat and help you problem-solve more creatively.
A SHORT THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
- Is there a situation you’re facing right now that’s challenging you? If you can, choose something around a 5 out of 10 in intensity.
- Try to see it through this lens to identify the challenge, your vulnerabilities and your resources. Take your time and try to go a bit beneath the surface of the situation.
- Can you think of two actions you could take or inner skills you could strengthen to reduce your vulnerabilities? Or, increase your resources?
- Are there any meditation skills or benefits from the list above that would help you to cope better with this situation and feel more at ease while you are resolving it?
Meditation is like watering the roots, so the whole tree remains vibrant and healthy. There’s a real synergy where your vulnerabilities are lightened, resources strengthened and challenges are seen more clearly–so your well-being has a chance to flourish.
About the Author-
Ann Vrlak is Founder of OneSelf Meditation and a meditation practitioner for over 25 years. She’s a Certified Meditation Teacher for adults and for children (the best job ever!). She loves to share how the perspective and practice of meditation can support people with their everyday stresses, as well as places of deep dissatisfaction and disconnection.