Meditation is one of those cloudy areas of personal development that people shy away from because the conception (or misconception) is that meditation is spooky or weird. That is far from the truth though. There are many levels of meditation, just like there are many levels of one’s individual thought process.
In ancient times, meditation was a daily part of life for many cultures. Now in Western cultures, meditation is a hot topic among those who have heard of its benefits toward prosperity in mostly health and wealth. But meditating to gain something can be a misleading practice for those who are just starting out in meditation. For myself and others who practice meditation, we have found that to begin meditation for goal setting is least important. What is most important in starting meditation is to understand meditation and why it works.
People do not agree on the definition of meditation. One theory is that meditation is a religion. Another theory is that meditation is a science. My theory: meditation is a practice – a practice of stillness. That is the definition that works for me. For those who need to understand meditation more and its origins, you won’t find it within this article. I would encourage you to continue your research on Google, at your local library, or even finding a meditation group on Meetup that is open to join. The fact that you are curious means there are probably more resources that can give you the answers you need.
This article is written from my experience with meditation. I am a thinker and I love knowledge. There is so much on the subject of meditation, from which great thinkers practiced to meditation, to meditation yoga poses, to meditation for children, to meditation for CEO’s, you name it and there is something somewhere that is written about meditation. I am not open to criticizing one teaching of meditation over another. I learned from an elder a long time ago:
In life, you need to lean how to eat the chicken and throw out the bones.
So I take the definition that what works for me from meditation, and leave alone that which doesn’t. From all the information I have read about meditation, one of the more consistent themes I have read is that mediation involves being still. That still definition is also called being silent or silencing the mind. So how does one silence the mind?
One silences the mind by slowing down their thoughts. Sounds simple, right? Well it is not that simple. If you think of the comparison theory that the mind is more powerful than a computer, having billions of neurons that analyze and process information, then you know the challenge in doing something to halt all of that processing – as best you can. So how does one slow down their thoughts?
Probably the most popular method to slowing down one’s thoughts is to focus on something else, like breathing or anything else that doesn’t require any physical action. For example, some people focus on the waves of the ocean, the hum of the air conditioner, or the sound of the wind. I guess this focus can be on just about anything that is steady and continuous. This leads to the next point that this practice of stillness for longer periods of time is the catalyst for steady meditation.
In my study of mediation, I learned that if I am going to get the benefit of meditation (which for me is to be still and calm my mind), then I need to earnestly give myself the room and the opportunity to meditate. For those I know who practice meditation, meditation is a part of their life. They know that at some point during their day, they are going to meditate. One of my friends meditates twice a day because they have figured out that works best for them.
Does it matter what time of the day one meditates? This can be tricky because if the point is to be calm, for some that means to take advantage of calmness when it is present – and that is close to the time when one arises. Some people meditate while laying in the bed and others meditate shortly after waking up. I think it is best to meditate before the wheels of daily life start turning. How much easier is it to stop a train that’s just starting to gain momentum than one that is moving full steam ahead?
Getting into the habit of meditation also gives rise to the question of the length of time of a meditation session. Honestly, this is personal preference. Some people meditate for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or even for hour (there are monks in India who meditate this long!). As long as there is a benefit gained from meditation that does not interfere with one’s responsibilities, then in my unprofessional opinion, one can meditate for as long as it is beneficial.
What are those meditation benefits I mentioned? I have heard people tell stories that meditation has helped them physically, spiritually, and mentally. I personally know people who through meditation have overcome anxiety, reduced stress, calmed their fears, gained self-confidence, sharpened their focus, practiced self-love, gotten closer to their spiritual guides, stopped addictive behaviors, and even found their should mate. That seems like a lot of positive outcomes to attribute to meditation, but if it works, it works. Now those benefits came after practicing meditation for more than a week. So I stress again that for beginners new to meditation, it is important to get into the habit of meditation and understand why it works.
Why Meditation Works
I believe meditation works because rather than being prone to the magnet of the physical life that pulls images and experiences into one’s mind and thoughts that require notice or action, meditation slows down the thoughts from external influences. Once the mind is slow in one area, we can pay attention to another area.
It is no coincidence that is how we plan and live our lives for the most part. Here is what we say, “After I get through this busy period at work, I am going to take a vacation.” We learn that busy, busy takes up its own space and we live with it. While meditation does not render external influences powerless, I think meditation does provide a stable conscious atmosphere for one’s internal thoughts to surface and gain momentum.
Richard (his name for the purpose of this article) is a friend of my family who took a trip to India to learn more about meditation. He was shocked he could not meditate for longer than 30 minutes after practicing for a few weeks. Meditation takes time.
Because meditation involves slowing down one’s thought process (mainly influenced by external topics), I am not convinced those new at meditation should fill their meditation time with an abundance of desires and personal goals. Just relax instead and revel in the stillness. We all need that stillness in order to birth those desires and goals in a unique-to-me way. Do you agree? In what ways do you practice meditation? If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment below or send me an Email.