The Benefits of Meditation | Living in the Present
What is Meditation?
When someone mentions meditation we generally picture a Buddhist monk sitting under a tree cross legged doing nothing. This to most of us seems like a colossal waste of time, we think to ourselves ‘don’t they have something more productive to do?‘. Images also pop up about; spiritual mambojambo , mind reading, and ancient Chinese martial arts secrets. Before we can pass judgement on meditation we must first understand what it is!
The Art Of Living
I like to think of meditation as the art of living, as it ultimately teaches you how to bring your awareness into the present moment. How much of your day is actually spent in the present moment? If you are like most people not very much at all. Thoughts about future events, and vivid memories cloud your mind to the extent that you barley pay attention to what you are doing now.
‘The human mind is a sublime creation of nature, but when left to its own devices tends to gravitate towards negativity.’
I am sure you have noticed this before, negative emotions are far more powerful than positive ones. We tend to remember those who have wronged us over those who have been benevolent. We tend to think about problems ahead instead of what is good right now. This is the reason the news chooses to show all the bad things that happen in the world over the good, and is the reasoning behind the tabloid idiom ‘If it bleeds it leads‘.
Consciousness and the Subconscious
Do you remember the first time you drove a car? You were probably terrified, one mistake could have gotten you or somebody else killed. During those moments you were very conscious about everything you were doing, your full attention was in the now, to life in the present moment. You were not thinking about your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, and you were not thinking about your financial situation. Once you improved your driving skills, driving became second nature. You were now able to have deep conversations, and sing along to Justin Timberlake with no problems. Your mind assigned driving as a faculty of the subconscious allowing you to relax while it took control.
While the subconscious mind is clearly a very powerful tool, people fall in to the trap of letting it take control of their lives. These people go day to day living in automation ( due to the subconscious ) while thinking about yesterday and imagining tomorrow. As we noted before the mind tends towards negativity, so this mode of living is inimical to happiness. Being stuck in your head is barley ever a good thing, it generally adds fuel to; anxiety, fear, jealousy, and other unfavourable emotions. Meditation trains the mind to come back to the present, and escape the dream world created by thoughts.
Sitting Silently | Meditation in a nutshell
There are many forms of meditation but for this post I will just explain how to meditate is a nutshell. Meditation generally requires a focal point ( something to focus on ), this can be, however is not limited to:
- Your breath
- A object
- A mantra
- Your Body
You can sit or stand in any position while meditating, it does not matter. The process of meditation requires you to bring your conscious awareness to the focal point, and just observe it. You will notice that this is a difficult practice to keep up, as your mind will distract you with thoughts. When you get distracted do not get frustrated , acknowledge it and just go back to your focus. You will notice that you get distracted constantly, this is normal. Through analysing your thought patterns and going back to your focus, you are training your conscious mind to wake up and pay attention to reality as it is, and not dwell in thoughts. Use a timer when you do this and make it a daily ritual, I recommend meditating for a minimum of twenty minutes. Work your way up to this number before you start meditating habitually.
Benefits Of Meditation
There are many benefits that stem from meditation, some are more obvious than others. These benefits only become evident after you have made meditation a daily practice in your life, just like in the gym you can not expect to see a huge transformation in one week. I will post an article going into more detail about these benefits and the scientific evidence, but for now here is a list:
- Reduces anxiety and makes you more calm
- Increased ability to focus
- Increases emotional stability
- Reduces Stress
- Increases Grey Matter in the brain
But isn’t meditation just for Buddhist?
A lot of people are discouraged from meditation because they believe it is only for Buddhists, or hippies, or religious people. Nothing can be further from the truth, meditation is an ancient practice that does not belong to any one group of people. Many successful people have been known to meditate including:
- Russell Brand
- Russell Simmons
- David Lynch
- Hugh Jackman
- Clint Eastwood
and many more, do a google search and check for yourself. Meditation is used by the successful because it helps them operate at their peak performance giving them a HUGE advantage over the layman.
The following two books are very beneficial if you want to dig deeper into mediation. Russell Simmons book ‘ Success through Stillness’ gives a guide on Transcendental meditation and shows how the practice has helped him create his success. Sam Harris ‘Waking up‘ deals more with consciousness, and is a practical book for those that are not concerned with the spiritual mambo-jumbo of meditation, and wish to reap very practical benefits.I strongly suggest you give meditation a try everyday for one month, you will receive immense value from it.