Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Meditation is the practice of training yourself in constant observation of your mind. You practice being aware of your emotions, sensations, and thoughts without jumping into judging, ignoring, or indulging them. Increased self-knowledge is the goal of meditation. With self-knowledge, you are better able to be fully conscious and present in all aspects of your life. One of the best benefits of increased self-awareness is the ability to work with your conditioned reactions to stressful stimuli. In meditation, you learn to see yourself more and more clearly by exercising your internal observer muscle. When the internal observer gains strength, you can begin to make more frequent conscious choices, so that while your history always informs you, it no longer always leads you.
There are many types of meditation and varying techniques, but there are basic principles that are the foundation of most meditation practices. These essential components are:
1) Learning to focus your mind on a chosen point, for example observing your breath, and then bringing your wandering mind back to that focus whenever you catch yourself (which you will) following something else and
2) Simply observing everything that you are thinking and feeling. Notice everything happening through your senses, as well as the accompanying thoughts and emotions.
Basic meditation is not about quieting or stilling the mind, and is not all mysterious. Meditation is quite simple, but is not a natural activity. We operate on autopilot most of the time, so it is challenging to learn to exercise conscious awareness. It takes consistent practice to cultivate and maintain this ability. Most people experience discomfort, boredom, restlessness and internal chatter when first begin to meditate. They think that because their mind and body are moving all around it means they are a failure, so they quit meditating. This is too bad because being able to observe all your internal activity is a good thing and means you are succeeding in increasing your awareness! Brains think, bodies feel, and nervous systems relay messages. All that natural activity is always happening, but with meditation you learn to be aware of it. What you are aware of, you can intentionally direct and use for positive purposes. What you are not aware of operates without your intention. In meditation, you are training yourself to pay attention differently than you ever have before. Instead of life happening “to” you, you start to see your life happening “because” of and “with” you.
I highly recommend at least 15 minutes a day of meditation with a breath focus alternating with meditation with a simple observation focus. Even a few minutes at a time is helpful throughout your day. Meditation is an amazing tool for self-growth and improved health.