When we are agitated and have lost our calm, the experts advice us to meditate. However, asking someone to calm down and then meditate seems a bit like putting the cart in front of the horse. Many may understand meditation to be the way in which we can calm ourselves, so by what means can we calm ourselves before embarking on meditation?
I would hazard a guess that there are two assumptions being made here. One is that we must be calm before we can meditate. The second assumption is that meditation is an end in itself, it is the goal.
Let us explore the first assumption. What method or means should we use to calm ourselves? Often, when we have lost our calm, we are told to take a deep breath, several deep breaths in fact. We are told to pull the breath 'down to our belly' (basically filling the lungs so that the diaphragm is pushed down therby distending the belly). The increase in oxygen triggers many chemical reactions in the body, resulting in a calming effect.
Interestingly enough, when we sit to meditate, taking deep breaths is the first thing that is done. Not only are we increasing the oxygen intake, but we are now giving the breath some attention. We are told to listen to the breath as we inhale, and as we exhale. This life giving and life sustains breath, filled with prana is so often taken for granted. A big reason why we lose our calm in the first place. So yoga tells us to be aware of our breath at all times. Take stock of how you are breathing in times of stress. It will be short and shallow breaths. When one is in this state, it is imperative to pull oneself into a practice of meditation starting with the deep and measured inhales and exhales followed by listening to the sound of the breath as it is being inhaled and released. This is the practice of refocusing your attention.
It is therefore clear that when we are in a state of distress and anxiety, then practicing meditation is the best way to bring onself back to the center. It is understanding we are not our anger, we are not our anxiety, we are not our stress; we are something far greater.
The second assumption that meditation is an end in itself, is shortsighted. We use a hammer to hit the nails into the wood in order to build something. Likewise, meditation is a tool which we use to build something. It builds awareness of the self and can bring us profound transformation. Many go through life thinking we are just a body, unaware that a greater consciousness exists within this body. Those who have tapped into this consciousness, experience life quite differently. Yes, all of the mundane but necessary things in life must still be done. The dog has to be walked, dinner has to be cooked, the kids taken to school, the daily grind of work, etc. But all of this is done in a state of well being, with an understanding that you have the tools to deal with whatever comes your way.
Meditation is that tool which gives us the experience of transformation through the awareness of our higher consciousness. We are who we are, but most of us are definitely not aware of who we are. We often hear that we are divine beings having a human experience, but somehow we have lost the memory of being divine beings. Meditation will bring back that memory.
The various techniques that fall under the label of meditation is basically the process that must be practiced. When we want to build our muscles, we must lift weights. Similarly, when we want to reach a higher state of consciousness, then we must meditate, and it is through this process that the goal will be achieved.
Calm down and meditate? No. Meditate to know the wonder of who you are and then there will be no need to calm down. You will always be in a state of equanimity.