Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, but for those of us in the US, it is still something relatively new. Yet, due to all the recent research & scientific evidence, meditation has quickly gone from a “New Age Fad” to a legitimate tool for better physical health, mental/emotional well-being, and spiritual growth & development.
However, even with the increased number of people looking into the practice, there are many people who still don’t know, or understand, what meditation really is. Many think it’s sitting with our legs twisted like a pretzel trying not to think about anything; others think it has to do with fighting or suppressing any thoughts that arise; some think that it’s just sitting & doing nothing. But, the truth is, meditation is really NONE of these things!
- If we fight & struggle with our thoughts, we are actually doing the opposite of what the practice is hoping to achieve.
- If we try to stop all thought we realize that this is nearly impossible for the mind. In fact, trying not to have any thoughts is like trying to stop the heart from beating.
- Meditation is definitely not sitting and doing nothing. Meditation is actually sitting with attention, alertness, & awareness. Rather than tuning out, meditation is about tuning in. It’s a mind-training exercise which helps us cultivate mental focus, concentration, & present moment awareness.
Therefore, the best definition I can give for meditation is – meditation is a mind training tool or exercise.
And even though the term ‘meditation’ actually refers to a wide variety of practices & techniques, the truth is that they are all striving for the same goal. It doesn’t matter whether you practice a technique which focuses on a mantra; focuses on the awareness of the breath; uses a visualization exercise, or focuses on some object/image such as a candle flame; etc… Ultimately, what any meditation technique is trying to do is retrain & transform the mind – out of its habitual state of being scattered & chaotic – to a new state of being still and single-pointed. All of these meditation techniques, through whatever their anchor may be – mantra, breath, sound, image, etc… – are trying to develop & cultivate concentration. And with regular work & patience, these moments of focus & concentration can develop into deep states of peace, clarity, happiness, & well-being; because keeping our mind totally focused on the anchor helps us transcend normal everyday thinking (conscious thought) and gain access to new & heightened levels of consciousness.
Another reason we want to build concentration is because it’s a very powerful ability to be able to put our mind where we want it, when we want it there, for as long as we want it to be there. You can just imagine how much better things will be if we were completely focused & present to what it is we are doing. For example, our work would get done faster and more efficiently because rather than being scattered our mental energy would be focused on the task at hand.
In addition, the ability to concentrate & focus also helps us connect more fully to the present moment. This is very important because the present moment is the only true reality. The “Now” is all there really is. And it’s only by staying in the present moment that we can gain insight into one’s self, as well as, gain a better understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings & life.
Now all of this does take time, and that is because for too long we have given the mind free-reign. For the majority of our lives, we are either being pulled back to living in thoughts about the past or we are being drawn away by thoughts, hopes, dreams, & worries about the future. Therefore, the mind has really been the master of us. But through the practice of meditation, one regains control of the mind – and becomes the master of it.
And let me just say for those who have tried to meditate & think it is hard or that it didn’t work for you – don’t worry – there’s more than one way to practice. You just have to find the technique & style that resonates with you. I often tell my students that there are as many types of meditations as there are flavors of ice cream – and that’s a good thing! Because we all have different likes & tastes, and just as some of us might prefer chocolate to vanilla, some of us may prefer working with a mantra meditation over a mindfulness technique.
We all have different tastes, we all have different minds, and we all enjoy doing different activities. So, what appeals to one of us might not appeal to someone else. Therefore, I often encourage someone new to meditation to check out of few of the different methods that are out there. But, once you find one you feel comfortable practicing – stick with it! And after a while, you’ll see that meditation is NOT hard. You’ll discover the truth that meditation is very simple; it’s our minds that are not!
But, it will take some time to retrain the mind – especially when it may have had free reign for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years! However, with dedication & continued practice it does get easier. The “Monkey Mind” will eventually get trained. But, for this to happen, to really become good at meditation and bring the benefits to our body, mind & spirit, you must be willing to – practice, practice, practice!
There are no shorts cuts. It’s like anything else – if you want to learn to play an instrument or if you want to become proficient at speaking a new language – you just have to put in the time and make the effort to do the work. But, I promise that if you do, you’ll be amazed how your life will be transformed.
SOME REASON WHY WE SHOULD MEDITATE:
Improves Physical/Mental/Emotional Health & Well-being.
Improves Mental Clarity; Helps Us Concentrate & Focus.
Promotes Body Awareness.
Improves Outlook On life; Increases Our Happiness.
Reduces Anxiety & Stress
Gives Us Access To Different Levels of Consciousness
Connects Us With That Power/Energy Within – Helping Us Discover Our True Self (or what many philosophies call our Soul, Buddha-Nature, God, etc…)
WHO SHOULD MEDITATE?