Meditation is a gateway into a deeper level of understanding of not only ourselves, but the whole world around us. The more we can intuitively pick up on the subtle energies generated in our minds and bodies, the more we can become aware of the subconscious mental blockages that we’re probably not aware of that hinder our personal growth.
I always like to say that good meditation is about two things. Good communication, and time control. Yes, time control. Pretty badass right?
Practicing mindfulness can have significant effects on our well-being. Mindfulness meditation can help naturally decrease stress levels and help us feel more relaxed. By engaging in certain techniques, such as focusing on our breathing, our brains can quickly enter the “recharge process” through increasing oxygen to our brain, which ultimately allows us to feel more calm and present. However, since we all live in a world where we value being busy, it can be very difficult to enter this state of awareness. Sometimes we choose to focus on what we should be doing instead of what we are doing. This unfortunately pulls our attention away from the present moment and away from our own peace of mind. Meditation can serve as an avenue to help us calm our mind and stay relaxed, but it’s much easier said than done.
When a novice sits and meditates, they’re often underwhelmed because they don’t experience anything special happening. Perhaps only a few seconds after they’ve settled into the meditation session, the “busy” mind intervenes in the following way:
“Hmm. It’s pretty quiet now, but I feel pretty much the same as before. I thought I was supposed to feel more relaxed. I wonder how long I’ll have to sit here before I feel it… I feel like I’m not very good at this. I’m going to do something else”
Here, we are running up against two things:
1. Our own expectations
2. Our addiction to thinking
At first, we expect to feel different when we meditate. We expect to experience all of the amazing benefits of meditation quickly. However, like any other activity, it takes time to learn and it can be frustrating when we don’t see the immediate progress or benefits. Once we fail to notice any immediate results, we may feel disappointed because we falsely conclude that we are terrible at meditation, even though we haven’t practiced for very long.
So how can positive internal communication instill good meditation practices? If a thought like “I feel the same as before” pops into your head, which it inevitably will, the best way to handle it is to accept it. Accept the reality that, yes, you do feel the same as before, and carry on. The mistake is believing that there’s something wrong with the way you currently feel, and that’s ridiculous. You are the most sophisticated organism on the planet. The way you feel is justified by science, and it’s something you can’t control, so why would you punish yourself for it?
Instead, find joy in recognizing emotions when they bubble up, and take some time to really feel them. Where do they manifest within your physical body? If the feeling was a color, what color would it be? Just engage the feeling, and it’ll pass just like a cloud in the sky.
So good internal communication is paramount, but where does time control come into play?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor E. Frankl
Meditation affords a unique opportunity for us to step outside normal patterns of thought. When you first begin to meditate, you’re bombarded by a constant stream of thoughts. But eventually, maybe even after months of practicing, you’ll have a moment. A brief pause in which all thoughts are suspended. The mental stasis might only last a fraction of a second, but you notice it. Because it’s so fundamentally different from what you’re used to experiencing.
Months go by, and you continue to have those brief pauses. Maybe they’ll last one second, then two, then three. These “gaps” are a form of time control. During those fleeting moments, you wield incredible power over your perception of reality.
Here’s what I mean. Your normal thinking process looks something like this.
Thought ----> Emotional Reaction ----> Related Thought
This happens unbelievably quickly. And for those who don’t practice mindfulness, this can be a vicious cycle leading to some undesirable outcomes for you as well as those around you.
What meditation allows us to do is take that equation and modify it:
Thought ---> Observation of Thought ---> Chosen Reaction
Meditation gives us the opportunity to pause and choose how to respond emotionally, whereas in the previous example, we had no choice. I cannot overstate the importance of this pause. Being able to passively and objectively view your own thoughts (also called metacognition) is the key to greater self-awareness and effective decision-making.
As we leave you with this reflection, we want to emphasize that we are not attempting to convince you to start meditating. Meditation has been a transformative experience for many and we believe that anyone can benefit from it. If you’re someone who believes they could benefit from a meditation routine, I encourage you to do so. However, remember that this is your meditation practice, no one else’s.
It’s important to learn the basics of meditation, and use them in a way that suits you best. For some, they find seated meditation works best for them. For others, they prefer a walking meditation. Some people love Yoga, but struggle with sitting still. Understand that while a seated meditation might be effective in many cases, it is by no means the only way to meditate and it isn’t the best way for everyone. To learn more about how to cultivate a meditation practice, shoot us a message on our contact page on our website or the facebook page. If you’re interested in a short free guided meditation, click here. And as always, subscribe to the newsletter for more thought-provoking content every week.