What is Meditation? Why should I bother?
“Meditation? Sitting in that corner, chanting….. I am not religious, not me.”
“I tried it, but couldn’t get hold of it.”
“Am keen, but heard from ones who are doing it, even they dont know what it is.”
These are the expressions of people when I ask if they know what meditation is and if have tried it. Unfortunately such an essential skill of life is not understood by most. In this post, we will simplify what meditation is and what it is not.
Meditation is a technique of making the mind quieter, clearer & calmer. Meditation is a highly alert state of mind where you acknowledge and accept the present moment as it is. There are hundreds of ways one can start to meditate. Easiest meditation method is to sit with straight back and closed eyes. Then allow your mind to just follow your breath. Notice the inhale and exhale. You let go of anything and everything other than your breath. Easier said than done 🙂
Meditation is an intensely personal experience and difficult to quantify. It might sound vague for first timers. And many people leave the practice as they don’t find any results in a few sessions. Some people become scared on seeing the reality of their complex minds. I know its still not clear to you. Keep reading 🙂
For a beginner, meditation can help in reducing stress and increasing joy. And if you continue to go deeper into your practice, you can become an enlightened soul. Buddha, Krishna, Jesus…… They all walked this path all the way.
What Meditation is NOT?
May be what it is not will give you a clearer picture of what it is. Here are some myths about meditation
Meditation is NOT Concentration – Concentration creates tiredness whereas meditation rejuvenates. Your concentration abilities will definitely increase as you practice more, but meditation is not just about concentration. Depending on the type of meditation you choose to practice, you are just following your breath or your mantra or are simply aware of the present moment. No need to force yourself to concentrate upon something. If you lose track of your topic of meditation, you gently come back to it. You dont have to feel bad about losing the topic, our minds have been conditioned over time to behave like that. Thats your mind, dont get angry with it. You have to accept the present moment and state of mind as it is.
Meditation is NOT a zero state thought – How I wish it was 🙂 In the beginning mind is a messy jumble of thoughts. And slowly with practice it starts to become quiet. Zero state thought is never the objective of meditation. And I dont know of even the highest saints who have gotten into that state. One needs to be aware of ones thoughts during practice, rather than trying to arrive at this elusive zero thought state.
Meditation does NOT initiate you into religion – Meditation is a scientifically proven technique that has enormous benefits on mind and body. While meditation has been part of almost all religions, bur practicing it does not call you to become religious. Its not a worship, its not a prayer. No Hinduism, Buddhism or Sufism practice required. Only meditation practice required.
Meditation is NOT just a relaxation technique – Relaxation is the first benefit you notice as you start practicing meditation. But eventually Meditation opens your heart and mind to accept reality. And you see myriad more benefits. Be open to receive more 🙂
Meditation is NOT sitting in the lotus position – Meditation postures also differ depending on the cultural background or physical fitness of the person. As a beginner, it is sufficient to sit on a chair with legs touching ground and back straight. You may slowly choose to sit on ground with crossed legs. For fit people sitting in Lotus or Half Lotus posture is good, as its a very stable posture. You can even do walking meditation. You dont need to learn to practice only the lotus position to start meditating.
Meditation is NOT a ritual in a dark room – While a silent room certainly helps but you can practice meditation even while commuting in a train. There are various kinds of meditation that you can start practicing. You can start walking meditation. Or start with a guided meditation on an app. Or group meditation in your neighbourhood. You can go to a reatreat where you practice beside the ocean or forest or a river. Even listening to music or playing in the field can be a practice if done with awareness. We’ll cover more of this in mindfulness post.
Meditation is NOT Self Hypnosis – In hypnosis you enter a semi conscious state of mind where you are unaware of the present moment. Whereas in meditation you are totally aware of here and now. You are not in hypnotic state at all, you are just relaxed in your own reality. Thats the gist of meditation. In the initial stages you might be required to follow your breath or your mantra, but you follow it with total awareness.
Steps of Meditation
Steps of Meditation will be discussed in a separate post on How to Meditate, but to give a quick synopsis you start by sitting in a quiet place. Start noticing the sounds and feeling and rhythms of inhalation and exhalation. Start with just 4-5 minutes of sitting to begin with. Slowly you can increase it to 20 minutes. Gradually you start getting a regulated breathing pattern. This starts to bring you more in the present moment, more in here and now. You become less judgemental and more accepting. Your consciousness starts expanding to accept reality that way it is, not the way our perceptions make it to be.
Benefits of Meditation
Whichever method you follow, eventually the goal is to make mind calm and focussed. With regular practice of meditation one becomes more peaceful & mindful in daily life. Read more on specific benefits of meditation here.
Types of Meditation
Meditation techniques are wide and varied. Vedic times in India is where it is supposed to have started and then slowly spread across Asia. Dhyana is the word in Sanskrit (ancient Indian language) and it was adopted as Chan in China. Zen in Japan. Essence of meditation remains same, but the method of practice kept adapting to different cultures and times. Various types of popular meditation techniques are – Mantra, Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana, Zazen, Mindfulness Meditation, Third eye Meditation, Daoist, Qigong, Guided Meditations thru apps. We are covering few topics here, for a greater understanding read Types of Meditation.
What is Meditation in Buddhism
Meditation is an essential part in Buddhism on the path towards Nirvana or enlightenment. There are various types of Buddhist meditations in India, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam. Lets quickly discuss the prominent ones here –
Samatha Meditation – Samatha means calm abiding. It leads to calm and blissful living and cessation of suffering. One starts Samatha meditation with focus on one single object or a concept. And develops higher concentration of mind.
Vipassana Meditation – Vipassna means insight. One starts Vipassana meditation with being silent and getting into deep contemplation. One gets deeper into the mind and its patterns to get liberated from all suffering.
Zazen – Sitting cross legged on a mat or cushion is the starting point of Zazen. Then you bring all your attention on the movement of breath in your body. Just focus on the inhalation and exhalation process deeply. If you lose track of breath, gently come back to it with no anger that you lost its track.
What is Meditation in Hinduism
While most forms of meditation has its origins in Hinduism, you need not practice Hinduism to start these techniques. Listed below are some techniques that originated out of India, but may not be religious. Here we are not going into the theory of Hindu forms of meditation (Japa, Mantra etc). Just listing some prominent non religious ones relevant for urban people.
TM – Started by Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation is more popular in the West than in India. Its one of the simplest and easiest meditation techniques leading to its huge popularity with time constrained urban people.
Osho – Followers of Osho practice various forms of meditations including Osho Dynamic Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Mandala & Chakra Meditations. Osho is widely followed across the globe. You have to join a centre for 3 days to begin this form of meditation.
Art of Living – Founded by Sri Sri Ravishankar, Art of Living initiates you with a 4 day Happiness Program. You can do various Advanced level courses or attend various follow up meets.
Isha Foundation – Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering Program can be learnt online
What is Meditation in Psychology
Increasingly doctors and scientists are recommending meditation to de-stress and even cure some of the diseases. Primarily because meditation asks you to get detached from the issue and look at reality as it is. To be non judgemental and more self accepting. To slowly get above the chatter of mind and various preoccupied thoughts that are of hardly any significance in real world. Find more about the benefits of meditation in this post.
Meditation helps in letting go of historical patterns of the mind. And it lays a solid foundation for cultivating new habits. Meditation makes you amenable for change and is an excellent habit if you are looking at personal transformation.
Just like any other skill, meditation also demands practice for it to reap benefits. If regular jogging makes your leg muscles strong for marathons, regular meditation makes your mind stronger.
Meditation can bring rest to mind and body which is much deeper than even sleep.
There is no thermometer unfortunately to measure if you are doing it correctly. But if you’re feeling good at the end of the daily practice, you are probably doing it correctly.
I will keep on updating this post as and when my idea of meditation becomes clearer.
But why don’t you share YOUR IDEA of meditation in the COMMENTS SECTION BELOW !!!
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