Meditation - Are You Doing It Right?
Meditation has become a popular word in pop culture and it's sparking many people's interest but its meaning is blurry especially for westerners. Meditation is an eastern practice deeply interconnected with philosophy and religion although it's is sometimes promoted as a separate, stand-alone idea and a way of practicing that supposedly has many health and lifestyle benefits. Are we looking at meditation in the right way? What's it all about?
Meditation - It's Not What You Think
The western mindset is accepting the concept of meditation with lots of resistance, it's a struggle for an average westerner to understand it or furthermore to successfully practice meditation. That being said, sometimes people have a strong intuition and they naturally engage in meditative activities without even knowing the word for it, but the names and knowledge are of lesser importance. If your practice is good, you don't really need to understand anything about meditation, just doing it suffices. However, if you are having difficulties meditating than a little help may be very beneficial.
The Benefits of Meditation
Most people start out with "Why should I do it?" and that is quite a reasonable question. There is lots of research about the benefits of meditation although very rarely the research can have some concrete evidence since it's hard to measure if a person is meditating in the first place. However, going hard after the results can be contra productive to the practice. A simple understanding may be more beneficial. Meditation is a way to change awareness, and this is difficult subject to talk about because in science and analysis we're almost all the time examining and studying objects of interests, events that can be observed, but we never question the observer. We rarely think about thinking. Mindfulness meditation practice challenges us to look at a broader way and experience reality in a deeper way in a greater totality.
The nature of the mind is to think and analyze all the time and with lots of stimulation, it can easily do more than necessary and at the same time, it is creating stress chemicals in the body that have all sorts of negative repercussions. At other times, although these analytical behaviors of the mind and patterns of doing or achieving, although not heavily unhealthy can stand in the way of one's creativity and freedom. So, it can be said that the goal of meditation is not to think, at least not with your usual thinking patterns using old conditioning that has programmed the mind to tell you to act in a certain way. Non-thinking is a great relief to the body and the entire system. Your mind is much more complex than you think and turning off some parts of it, can open new doors for you. When you are meditating, the brain is still working, it's controlling breathing, digestion and many other things at an unconscious level, you are just letting it do it's job.
There are many meditation techniques and they are based on certain approaches rooted in different philosophies and it can get confusing. Meditation practice should be simple and useful, meaning it's not much of a thinking exercise but more of an experiencing exercise. The Dalai Lama for example, is proposing Analytical Meditation, awareness meditation observing the breath is also very popular in pop culture, Zen is just sitting meditation and some gurus advice non-dual approach where the meditation practice is canceling all thinking patterns that are based on Ego structures of personality. For the technique of meditation, it's best to choose something that most deeply resonates with you. When you find the appropriate technique, you will know it. For beginners, it's probably best to have more structure, but eventually, you would like to get to a point of no-technique, meditation will be spontanuous and easy wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you can do it while meditating or in other words, being in your natural state. Meditation is nothing other but a deep connectedness to your true identity.
Observe The Breath
This simple method of meditation is so popular because of its simplicity, straightforwardness, and power. When you give yourself the simple task of just observing the breath, this means that you set clear boundaries, you shouldn't use your mind for anything else during the exercise except observing the breath. You don't control or interrupt the breath, you just observe it, sitting in a comfortable position, that doesn't make breathing difficult. What you will soon notice the great tendency of the mind to wander or engage in some analytical story, observe this behavior of the mind, but don't identify with it, it's just a function of the mind. Emotions may come and go, but don't engage, you don't have to provide any solutions or answers during the meditation practice. Just enjoy sitting, and limiting your mind's activity in this way, or it's better to say, not giving value to the activities and thinking patterns, the mind will naturally start to function more freely, eventually forgetting non-useful thoughts, you may notice that there is soo much more to reality, soo much more that can be experienced trough the five senses and beyond them. Meditation leads to freedom and once you have a taste, you will fall in love with it.
Meditation is much more about a state than a process. It's about being in a certain way vs. doing it a measurable appropriate way. Don't worry if you are meditating in the right way, make sure you are meditating in your own way, meaning deeply connected to your true self in a very intimate way dropping everything that you don't need. Observe reality, observe your thoughts and dismiss what you discover to be an illusion. Whenever you have some trouble with the quality of your meditation, try to observe what is causing the problem, but don't identify with it. Who is the one that is observing? The way you describe yourself, is that really you or is it just a pattern of behaviors, a system in your body? Try to understand the totality of your existence trough meditation. You may realize, trough the practice, that you are already free and happy, and that thinking patterns are trying to cloud your mind. Once you awaken to your true identity you will much easily notice the workings of the Ego inside yourself and others, and you will know not to believe it's tricks. Remember that in true meditation, there are no questions, no answers, just joyful experiencing and playful creativity.