You made it! The final post introducing the upcoming Mind, Body, Breath series. I hope you have learned a few things along the way, and are teaming with questions for the series. Today we are diving into the last of our three focuses, the mind, and Meditation. More specifically, since Meditation is a very large topic, we will talk about how Meditation will be approached in the series.
We’ll start with why you should try meditating… In recent years there have been countless studies into the benefits of meditation, and we now have data on how powerful meditation can be. The list is long but includes: helping reduce stress, improve sleep, enhance personal awareness, improve attention span, increase productivity, improve quality of life and generate greater self-compassion. Preliminary findings are also indicating it may decrease anxiety and aid in relieving depression. The benefits are potent and plentiful, the practice itself requires no special tools, and in the grand scheme of things isn’t that complicated. So why not give it a try?
What is meditation? Meditation is often associated with this idea of silencing the mind and eliminating all thoughts. While there are some schools of meditation where that is the case, that will not be our goal. Instead, the goal is to allow the thoughts to happen but to learn not to let those thoughts take hold or impact you. A good analogy, which is used by the meditation app Headspace, is to treat meditation like sitting on the side of the road watching cars come and go. Somedays the road is quiet, other days it is busy with lots of cars coming and going, but the goal remains the same, to simply watch the cars come and go without judgment. Some days you might feel the urge to chase a specific car as it passes, or to judge a car for its speed or appearance, and in those instances, the challenge is to remain an unbiased observer, not letting the cars affect you as they pass. In this analogy, the cars are our thoughts and meditation is the act of simply observing, of letting those cars drive by without chasing after them, without judging. For me, this approach to meditation makes it much less intimidating. Deepak Chopra summarizes it nicely as well when he says “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” The quieting of the mind that people associate with meditation is then done not by eliminating the presence of thoughts, but by letting the thoughts drift quietly, harmlessly by. You can give this a try right now if you’d like… Take a few deep breaths, and when you’re ready (and after you’ve finished this paragraph), let your eyes gently fall closed. For a couple of minutes (moments), however long feels appropriate, watch your breath. If thoughts arise, which they more than likely will, acknowledge their presence and simply let them pass not giving them much attention or chasing after them. Somedays this is harder than others, but the concept is relatively simple.
This is really just a basic tenant of meditation that we will be sticking to. There are countless Meditation techniques and tools that we will explore beyond focusing on the breath. You can use your meditation practice as a tool to check in with yourself, to visualize goals, to evoke specific feelings or emotions, and to slow things down and just turn inward. Just like with Asana and Pranayama, there is an aspect of mediation that deals with being present in the moment, with not letting our minds drag us into the future or the past. In finding that sense of presence, of loosening the grip our 50,000 thoughts a day have on the mind we can start to work toward that goal being more aware of ourselves, and of being steadier in our lives.