What is Meditation?
Meditation. An ancient practice that is becoming trendy in the twenty-first century. It is receiving much endorsement from power figures such as media mogul and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey, CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, and even singer, songwriter, Paul McCartney.
Meditation is a practice the intrigues many because of its mystical potential, yet the same word will induce just as much resistance because it seems like ‘Mission Impossible’ to sit-still-and-stay-silent in this world of hustle and bustle.
For starters, meditation is not as complex as some made it out to be. It can be as simple as sitting still on your own for five minutes every morning, or that short walk from the bus stop to your office. Yes, it can be that simple.
“The mind is like water. When it is turbulent, it is difficult to see.
When it is calm, everything becomes clearer”
Meditation is about developing our awareness through mindful practice. It is about finding stillness that leads to mental clarity, calmness, and physical healing. It allows us to experience all our faculties as a whole person.
In life, most things are beyond our control. The only domain that we have influence over, is ourselves, our reaction and action. The world becomes a better place when we can react to it with more self-awareness. For this to happen, we must first cultivate ourselves, and there is no better way to do this than with meditation.
Through meditation, we experience the here and now, without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. We learned to be contented in the current moment despite our external conditions or material status. It is from this place of balance that we can access the wisdom, creativity, and potential that already exist within us.
Meditation trains the mind to prolong its state of peace and non-judgement. By constantly bringing our wandering mind back into focus during meditation, we are training our mind to stay still and enjoy the moment. Over time, it will get easier and easier to remain present without struggling. It is a practice that requires consistency and persistency.
Do not mistake meditation as a form of mind control. The intention is to train the mind to work through our lifetime of experiences, knowledge, pain, happiness, memories, love, hate, joy and anger, and still be at peace with them.
While meditation is a common practice in ancient religions, modern day experts have very quickly developed a variety of meditation styles to suit current lifestyle, needs, and requirements. The variety suggests that there is a form of meditation to suit most people, regardless of personality or lifestyle.
The Science Behind Meditation
“Meditation is the dimension of science that which focuses on the right kind of interior so that you can live a peaceful and joyous life.”
There are countless benefits for practising meditation, and in recent years, science has begun to prove that these ancient benefits are much more than a myth.
A study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has shown that mindful meditation can, in fact, influence brain mechanism and changes in a positive way. In particular, the study highlighted a significant increase in the cortical thickness amongst meditation practitioners. To put this into context, cortical thickness in our brain is an indicator of our cognitive abilities. If Alzheimer's disease is a result of thinning cortical, then thickening of the cortical during meditation is clearly a positive impact on our brain function.
In another study commissioned by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it was discovered that meditation can reduce psychological conditions that relate to stress, anxiety, and depression. It was also observed that the same practice can treat addictions because meditation boosts mental resilience and performance under stress. Practitioners are more likely to stay calm and maintain their composure that positively impact their choices over time.
Benefits at the Physical, Emotional and Mental Level
“Come from the space of peace and you will find that you can deal with anything.”
Mind over matters. If we can all grasp the truth behind this statement, we can turn most things around in our favour. Meditation is about training the mind. It is through such training of the mind that we can live mindfully and proactively, without reacting to every and any random situations that take us out of our routine. Similarly, a well-trained mind can help us overcome our incessant need to worry and ruminate, all of which contributes to the detriment of our body, mind, and soul.
In true essence, meditation brings the mind to a balance and peaceful state, allowing us to reduce fixation on negative emotions, improve focus and memory. This state of peace will then cascade to our emotion and action and finally the choices that we make in our lives. We tend to see less impulsive behaviour and improved emotional control that result in improved relationships. We may even experience greater health, productivity, and success because we are running our lives from a place of positivity and awareness.
Basic Tips for Meditation
While there are many different meditation postures, the most recommended is the cross-legged, lotus position, with spine straight and chin slightly dipped. If you are unable to do the full lotus position, try the quarter lotus or another variation that suits you.
This posture allows us to feel the flow of energy that comes through the top of our crown, and to the base of the spine. By lifting the body up and lengthening the spine, we allow the energy to flow through the main energy centers that are lined up along our spine.
These days we see other variations such as lying down, standing, walking and sitting on chairs. If you think the lotus position is too hardcore for your liking, find a posture that you are most comfortable with. Be aware of how you feel and what are your intentions for practising, from there, you will be able to find a position that suits you.
So, where are your hands suppose to go? Again, there are no fixed rules. For beginners, you may place your hands on your lap in a way that is most comfortable for you. Whichever way you place your hands and legs, try to create a closed circuit so that energy can flow through you without disruption.
Space & Environment
While there is no specific setting that is required for meditating, finding the right spot can certainly improve the experience. Some practitioners will go to great lengths to create a “sacred place” for their daily practice. This can mean clearing out a part of your room and dedicating it as your quiet corner for meditation.
If you are new to meditation, you may start your practice in a quiet and uncluttered place that ensures undisrupted comfort. It should be a place where you can spend 5 to 15 minutes on your own without being disrupted by ringing phone calls or busy human traffic.
It is inevitable to drift into random thoughts during meditation. Do not beat yourself up because of that. This happens even to the most experienced practitioners.
Remember that your thoughts are not your enemies, do not get annoyed when they show up during your meditation. The trick here is to acknowledge their existence and let them go. Once you acknowledge that they are there, then shift your attention back to your breath. After enough practise, you will discover that it will get easier to stay focus without ruminating on your thought. Remember, practise makes perfect.
There is no fast track to successful meditation. The only way you can derive benefits is consistent practice. Start with short practices that last 5 to 15 minutes and increase the duration over time.
Some practitioners schedule their meditation on a specific time slot every day and at the same place. Much like cultivating a workout routine or eating habit, setting a daily schedule for meditation can help to ensure consistency and longevity of the practice.
Step by Step to Get Started
Keen to get started? Follow the simple step-by-step guide that will ease you into the practice.
Step 1 Select a time and quiet location that are suitable for the practice.
Step 2 Find a comfortable sitting position.
Use a chair if you prefer.
Step 3 Close your eyes and take your time to ease into your seat.
Step 4 Start by taking a few long and deep breath in and out.
Step 5 Slowly begin to trace your inhale breath and exhale breath.
Do this for the entire duration of your meditation.
Step 6 When random thoughts arise, acknowledge it,
then go back to your breath.
You may have to repeat this throughout the meditation.
Step 7 At the end of the meditation,
thank yourself for making the effort.
Step 8 Observe how you feel and