What is meditation?
Why do we meditate?
Many people feel confused when it comes to meditation. Images of cross-legged Tibetian monks sitting on a rock for hours in silence usually come to mind. Or trying to force yourself to ‘not think’ is another common assumption. Or you just associate it with hippie nonsense.
The truth is meditation goes far far beyond what most people assume or even know. I have met meditation teachers who have completely missed the mark when it comes to meditation.
Many illnesses, one cure – Osho
The reason so many people misunderstand meditation is that it is really difficult to define. The dictionary definition of the word means to contemplate something. So by definition, it is already incorrect. You can not meditate by thinking, nor can you meditate by not thinking. The easiest way to express it is, cultivating awareness or mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with whatever we’re doing in the moment.
The mind is an incredible tool, constantly receiving and processing information. Like a sponge, it soaks up all external stimulus, building and connecting bits of information. I think everyone has experienced the feeling of over-thinking. When you are so tired of the mental loops you are stuck in that it actually exhausts you or in more extreme cases causes depression and anxiety. This is the result of an untrained mind (this is a hyperbolic statement), a mind that has been left to its own tuition for too long.
Each thought has tremendous power, it is constantly sending signals to the body and the external world. We can think ourselves into depression and we can think ourselves into liberation. Everything that exists in the world today once began as a thought in someone’s mind. Some even say the universe is more like a great thought than a great machine. Learning to understand and manage this incredible facility is the key to a healthy, happy and enjoyable life.
When we spend too much time thinking, exposing ourselves to too much external stimulus the mind becomes noisy and full of thoughts. This can create dissonance in our lives. When you understand that everything you see, everything you do, everything you experience, gets stored in your mind you begin to realise why some days you feel like a mess. Too much input. This is why we need meditation, it allows us to start sorting through the noise. To start creating space, to allow the intuition that flows through us, a moment to speak.
Through meditation, we learn how to disassociate from thought. How to manage our emotions, to think clearly, to become clear on our goals and understandings, to think critically. Find the answers to some of our most challenging questions, to be present in the moment, to be present with others, to express more kindness, patience and love with others and ourself. It can teach us how to cultivate stillness and peace of mind, how to give our body the space and energy it needs to heal, how to connect with something deeper and greater than ourselves, how to self actualise, how to return home. It gives us a chance to learn who we truly are.
To me, meditation is just as important as nutrition, as important as sleep, as important as exercise. To be whole, to live a holistic life, you need integration. To integrate means to bring all the parts that makeup you into union. A Synchronicity of mind, body and soul. Meditation is a key component in this process. The psyche is the chief and commander of all, without careful training it will lead its troops astray. This is no easy task though, it requires patience, practice, understanding, commitment and openness. Meditation will start to show you deeper sides to life, deeper sides to yourself, you may not like what you start to see…
Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see – John Lennon
To be still in silence yields tremendous strength and power. To reach atonement, at-one-ment. To understand this human experience, you must go within. When you go within, you never go without. You start living life through true eyes. The mind and ego cloud our vision. Perspective is everything, when we don’t meditate our perspective becomes murky or worse, offers us a perspective of lack and fear. Every action proceeds from either fear or love. The more we meditate, the more we move from a fear-based reality to an abundance-based reality.
This does not mean that you must sit for hours on end with lit incense sticks chanting Hari-om (although that might just do the trick). The idea is to start grounding yourself in awareness, to start cultivating mindfulness, to start observing the mind, and then carry that with you the rest of the day. What good is meditating for 1 hour when the other 23 hours are spent not meditative. Every action can be marinated in meditation. You can meditate while you walk, you can meditate while you wash the dishes, while you work, while you exercise, while you make love.
Start incorporating mindfulness more and more each day. Bring awareness to your actions. When you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes, don’t be thinking about dinner or that email you have to send. When we start to focus the mind on the task at hand, we become less fragmented, it uses less mental energy, we start to feel more whole. When you eat, be present with the food, taste it, recognise it was once alive and now lives on inside of you. In our modern lives its easy to always live in the future, anticipating that next hit of synthetic stimuli. Be here, be now.
We are human beings, not human doings. Be still, be with yourself, become familiar with silence, befriend your inner voice and let your intuition guide you.
Everyone should meditate for 20 minutes every day and if you don’t have time, one hour – Zen Proverb
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