Meditation: how to do it? Why do it?

Meditation: the concept is not that strange in the western world any more. The question is no longer ’What the hell is it?’ or ’Does it have any benefits? ’. There are articles all over the internet on its long-term benefits, or on the role meditation plays in the life of  public figures from celebrities to politicians.

The basic instructions on how to meditate are very simple. But when it comes to realization, to spending some quiet time with our mind, the list of excuses can be end-less.

Before addressing five relatively common excuses, and also listing five reasons to give mediation a try anyway, let us see what three points should be kept in mind if you are about to meditate.

THREE BASIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR MEDITATORS

  1. As the mind and body are connected, make sure to take a posture in which your body is relaxed yet alert. Both relaxed and alert at the same time. Your position can be sitting, standing or lying but the spine should be erect.
  2. Choose an object, usually your breathing, to be your focal point. Attend to your focus with ’open and permissive’ attention. Permissive meaning ’not having any anticipations’. While this may be easy to understand, putting it into practice can be difficult.
  3. Notice any lapses of attention. Every time you catch your mind stray off, make sure to bring it back to your anchor point or chosen focus. This is called meta awareness. Do this gently, without feeling bad about yourself.

Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finaly, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now, would you take it? The pill exist. It is meditation. Jonathan Haidt

FIVE COMMON EXCUSES

I have no time

We are all busy. It is a fast world we live in. Yet, we usually find the time for whatever we consider important. What might be difficult here is not the allocation of time but the commitment to make meditation a regular part of our daily schedule. And taking a pause from the daily rush may just help manage your schedule better.

I can’t get my mind stop

Mind-wondering is completely normal: this is your mind’s default mode. Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts or emptying your mind altogether. Much rather about getting familiar with the nature of your thoughts (and feelings, emotions, sensations) while observing them from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Meditation sounds boring

For those who are used to being busy all the time, having nothing to do will be boring, at the beginning. Try changing your perspective and look at meditation differently: this is the time when you are not obliged to play your usual roles. Nor does anyone expect from you to do anything.

I cannot sit still

As a beginner, and also later on certain instances, it is fine to fidget. Meditation is a process that develops over time. No one starts out sitting like a rock statue.

I have bad feelings about my experiences

Observing and defining our thoughts, emotions and sensations might not be a good experience. But meditation is not about evoking good feelings only. Meditation can help get a more realistic view of your true self.

FIVE STRONG REASONS FOR MEDITATION

Lowers the stress level

Stress, under certain conditions and for a certain time, can be stimulating but excessive and prolonged stress is clearly bad. No doubt about that.  The number of articles, academic and for-the-general-public, on the stress-reducing effects of meditation is countless.

Improves focus

Attention deficit is far too common these days and not just among kids. Often times we are not even aware of the fact that we are not there – mentally. We are there physically but not with our full attention. Overriding habits takes time. Meditation is a powerful tool to strengthen the habit of putting your full attention to the here and now.

Strengthens self-awareness

Our culture has devalued taking time for solitude and self-awareness. Examining your mental patterns, habitual thoughts and emotions can be a valuable part of your self-discovery leading to a better understanding of your innermost goals and motivations.

Helps connect better

By improving one’s level of emotional intelligence aka as EQ or emotional quotient, mindfulness helps feel empathy towards others and deal sensitively with them. Our ability to read other people’s body language and react to them appropriately has a lot to do with our success as individuals and employees. More on EQ: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-emotional-intelligence-eq/

Relaxes body and mind

Even though it is not its ultimate goal, meditation usually brings both the body and the mind into a relaxed state. Not always, and not in every situation but chances are pretty high.

Meditation is an activity in which one learns (and practices) to concentrate on one single focal point; therefore meditation is a truly mindful act. By meditating on a regular basis one trains their mind to be attentive – also in other situations. The various meditation techniques differ from each other in the way one reaches this goal. Meditation is not synonymous with relaxation, this is just the proceeds it yields, a pleasant byproduct so-to-say, as one usually feels more relaxed, refreshed and alive after having meditated for a while. But meditation is a more complex psychological process the essence of which is mindfulness.