Maybe you're tired of someone or people in general speaking of meditation and it just seems like an absurd waste of time to just sit there, doing nothing. Of course, if this sounds agreeable, then you might not understand what meditation is about and you may simply feel you don't have time to meditate. To not have time to meditate is like saying you don't have time to sleep or to eat or to use the bathroom. Meditation is self-care and you can be of just about any religion and meditate without having to change any of your beliefs. If you want to become a better you, there are many forms of self-improvement, such as martial arts as were written about in our last blog. The point, however, is that you find something that works which you can do regularly, every day if it isn't going to injure you. Should I meditate? Should I run? Should I join a group of fellow photography enthusiasts or computer geeks or political activists? It doesn't matter what you do so long as it is helping you feel contentment in being alive.
But if you think meditation is silly and pointless, I will contend that jogging or any sport you can think of can be seen just as easily to be silly. Am I trying to convert you into a religion or cult? No. As I said, meditation is not exclusive to any particular religion. Am I trying to open your mind to the idea that meditation has great value to those that practice it? Yes, most definitely.
Ok, so let's pretend we're talking to one another right now. You've conceded meditation seems no more silly than jogging in circles. Why meditate? What is meditation? How do you do it? How do you benefit from it? Lots of questions immediately arise. Let me take these questions one at a time, in my own order.
Meditation isn't a thing like a rock or a dollar bill or fame. Meditation is a state of being. Think about your cell phone or laptop. It serves a central role in your life and while you can usually count on it to do what you need it to do, it needs down-time to recharge its batteries. Now think of your body, spirit and mind. They don't run on electricity but rather proteins, minerals, your brain, sugar, positive energy. You body and mind need down time too. Sleep is essential, but so is conscious relaxation or re-centering. Of course, if you simply plug your phone into its charger for the hour before you leave for work rather than giving it plenty of time to recharge, its batteries will not become fully recharged and it will become less reliable.
Human beings are famous for adaptation, determination and perseverance. It's why we dominate the planet and the food chain, most of the time. Millions if not billions of people throughout the last thousand or so years have found meditation beneficial enough to keep its practice alive and to pass it down generation to generation. Yet many, especially Americans, consider it silly, absurd, pointless. Scientific studies have shown otherwise, as the Washington Post and the BBC had to say (see end of article.)
So now you may do your own investigating and say, ok, so maybe there is something to meditation based on all the scientific evidence. So what? It still feels silly to sit down and stare at the wall or close my eyes sitting still. I bet it also felt very silly to be standing at a chalk board trying to learn your capital and lower-case 'Q' 's, but if you never did anything you thought was silly, you might not be able to read this.
You can think something is silly and not for you, but if you don't try it first and then conclude it's silly based on your experiences, rather than your gut feeling or accepted ways of thinking you will have given up without trying.
Now maybe you are willing to try, seeing there are plenty of 'why's.'
What is Meditation?
First, I am no expert but I've practiced meditation, particularly walking meditation, hence my feeling comfortable to write this blog about it. That cleared, meditation can be described in many ways, such as clearing the mind of any issues, recharging the mind / body's batteries, enhancing focus, reconnecting with the physical body, and on and on and on. But the best way to tackle the 'what' question is to try meditation for yourself.
We know better than to be unhealthy. We know we won't be able to call anyone, to be of help to them tomorrow if we don't recharge our own batteries today. Nature themes tend to dominate most attempts to explain what meditation is like– because, as we said, it's not a thing but an experience, similar to an environment except, being a state of mind, it is with you no matter what environment you enter. Imagine a still pond versus the open ocean with 15-ft. swells. In this case, the pond is your mind on meditation– clear, serene, focused. The 15 ft. swells are thought-emotions which threaten to capsize you if they are capable of overtaking your calmness and determination. The meditative state is the cure for those states in which you let your emotions overcome you and you say hurtful things to people. Meditation isn't about giddiness or numbness. Meditation is a state of being that is still you, only without waves, calm, serene, centered, focused and aware of everything, ignoring nothing, accepting everything and finally, knowing that in accepting everything we also accept that everything changes and so acceptance must be flexible to follow life's natural course.
How Do I Meditate?
If we accept meditation like we accept jogging and we feel passionate about becoming a better person– physically healthy, mentally solid and spiritually strong– we must learn how to engage in exercise and meditation.
In order to learn enough to get something worthwhile of, say, twenty minutes of meditation a day, I regret to inform you that good meditation practice and form cannot be taught from a book, much less a blog.
I don't mean to infer that you can't teach yourself how to meditate, only that books and blogs set themselves up as authorities on the matter of meditation. And really, if meditation is anything, it is unique to the individual, as an experience, a spiritual one for many. How to go about learning what constitutes meditation and actually doing it properly involves practice and guidance. The mere physical presence of someone in a serene state of mind tends to calm us if only somewhat. Meditation is not the denial of all thought, it is the embracing of all thought without attaching to it. Think of a healthy relationship versus a co-dependent relationship. In a healthy relationship, as in healthy thinking, there is no over-attachment. While a loved one is anticipated positively and there is a healthy connection, unlike co-dependence, there is no need. Each party to the relationship can and does regularly function autonomously from the other. In meditation, we are seeking to separate and decompress our thoughts and feelings, with a healthy connection but without being overly attached. As one of my teachers once said, think of your mind like a mountain– solid, sturdy– and your thoughts / feelings like clouds. Sure the clouds obscure the mountain view from time to time, but they must go around the mountain and pass on, into the past, like thoughts / feelings, particularly the stormy ones that cause us such anxiety, fear and other negative emotions.
One last thought I will leave you with as to the 'how' of it is that if you are trying, if you are not centered and calm, if you feel you are doing it wrong, if you are trying to meditate then you are not meditating. Picture the formation of a healthy connection between what's inside you and what's outside, in the world, without effort because this is a natural state, and you can be said to be meditating because you simply are being– no more, no less.