Start by sitting 10 minutes each day to make major changes in your overall state of wellbeing
Everybody talks about it nowadays, meditation: but what is it that you do? And how will you benefit from it? Well it’s hard to put this in words, but I can tell you some basic concepts and of course what it does to me. With a big disclaimer that if you really want to know how it works it’s better to start meditating yourself instead of reading too much about it.
Still some guidance and background can be helpful if you would like to start your practice. For this you need to let go the idea to achieve something. The only thing you need to do to calm the mind is to sit back and relax. The less effort, the better it works.
The less effort, the better it works
When it comes to meditation there are only three simple steps involved. Derived from the classic teachings, here’s how it works:
The first step in meditation is when we start to focus our attention in one direction (in Sanskrit this is called Dharana). The moment we start to encourage our mind to focus on one particular object or activity (for example the breath, an image or sound or your bodily sensations) all the other activities of the mind slowly start to fade away.
From this strong concentration we dive into the second stage in which the mind starts to connect with the object or activity and in which this link maintains. This communication or interaction between them is what we actually call meditation or Dhyana. You see the difference with step one? The first step was active as we started to concentrate on one thing. This second step is not active at all but happens as a result of the connection.
Okay, reading this back I realize it is really hard to explain this kind of things. So when you feel ready to try it: sit back and relax and start to focus on your breath. Keep on focussing on the breath until the other activities on the mind slowly fade away (step 1). This can take a while. Whenever thoughts arise let them be and try to go back to your breath. At first you will need to repeat this a lot. But sometimes, even people who try it for the first time, feel that from this concentration meditation arises (step 2). But again, don’t let yourself be tricked by your mind, there is no way thinking yourself into mediation. Even if nothing happens. That is the practice.
There is no way thinking yourself into mediation
The last ultimate stage the classics talk about happens when the mind starts to blend with the object of meditation. It is in this moment (which we call Samadhi) you start to see clearly because there are no more thoughts. And what happens when there are no thoughts jumping around in your mind? Exactly we become calm and reach a state of contentment. Or in other words: freedom.
Although this sounds very easy. It’s harder than you can image, because your mind will find tricks to not do it or to stop while doing it. Especially when you feel tired or restless it’s hard to just sit and focus. Even sitting down and training your mind to focus on the breath is a good way to practice mediation.
I have experienced that the benefits of this simple practice are tremendous. Actually it changed my whole life. Over the years I started to connect more and more with my own feelings and thoughts and also learned how to handle them better. Of course there are still emotions and thoughts when I sit down for my daily meditation, but over time I became better in not being owned by them. As a result I feel more relax and experience less stress. Especially the latter helps me to stay healthy and at ease.
I learned to process my thoughts and emotions better
It is scientifically proven that meditation reduces stress and improves your focus and concentration. Personally, it helps me also to stay more calm. Focus is a very practical benefit for when I need to make important decisions. But calmness also helps a lot when living in a city like Amsterdam. When I am on the street and somebody cuts me off instead of going into a shouting reaction immediately (your default fight or flight mode) it becomes so much easier for me to stay calm. Or at least most of the time, which is exactly why I keep practicing. As it’s mainly helping me to stay in my seat and not let my day get ruined by such a meaningless interaction, it is also a benefit for the other person that doesn’t get shouted at today.
So when you are stressed out, can’t sleep or feel overwhelmed the best thing to do is to start meditating. But even better is to make meditation a habit, so you build up a level of contentment for whenever you might need it the most.
Not convinced yet? Start by sitting for 10 minutes a day for at least one week and see what it brings you.