Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Why Meditate?

Do you feel like you want to boost your clarity, concentration and overall resistance to adverse events in your life? Are you feeling down often and you don't seem to have any control over your thoughts and feelings? Or if are you looking for a good activity to add to your morning routine, then please read on...

There are numerous reasons why meditation is a good idea. It's good for about anything you can think of; it boosts concentration, clarity, it helps to calm you down or not get overwhelmed by everyday events and emotions, it's good for your immune system. Before, we thought the brain had a fixed amount of neurons that could only diminish, going from birth to death. Now science has discovered that you create new neurons all the time. The brain changes itself, when used differently. But let us not forget the best reason of all. We don't want to meditate because we want to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. We don't want to meditate JUST because it's good for our brains.  Meditation allows you, through more centeredness, and more awareness of your own thoughts, to better interact with the world. By meditating in the morning, we create a buffer in our minds that allows us to catch ourselves when we get irritated, angry or when we're not in the 'now'.

I'll be the first to say  that meditating is not an easy habit to get into. A habit usually has a 'reward' at the end. For example; you feel like eating a snack, you grab for a piece of chocolate. Walking to the kitchen and grabbing the chocolate is the habit, the sugar high is the reward for your body. Meditation, at first, doesn't feel so rewarding and that may be the reason it's so hard to get into. Meditation isn't instantly gratifying. 

Like Anthony Robbins says, you have to be clear on your "why's". Why am I meditating?
It takes a considerable amount of willpower to overcome the resistance to meditate, so why am I doing it? You do not always have the willpower necessary to sit yourself down and do it. (this goes for a lot of things) So you want to make a habit out of it, and you have to create some kind of reward in your mind. For example: I feel grounded, calm, centered and on-purpose when I meditate and I feel my day isn't as accomplished without it. Also I feel like I'm making progress. 

Meditation is often misunderstood. I used to think it's some esoteric activity only monks can do, or that you need special training. The contrary is true; Meditation can be practiced by everyone and the instructions are remarkably easy. 

When I got into self-development in 2010, I started coming across lots of articles about meditation. The more I read, the more I wanted to find out about it first hand.
Decided, I set out to try and DO IT. I tried to make it into a habit and it did work for some time,  but every time I got thrown off the horse.

The key is to have good reasons to meditate. For me it was a negative "why", or reason. I went into a funk for a couple of weeks because of some troubles of the heart that pulled me strongly off-balance. I couldn't seem to have peace of mind for weeks on end.
Having gone through some rough times emotionally I was slowly climbing out of the pit, but still feeling miserable.
I had pictures and thoughts and desperate questions like "why did  - fill in a negative event -  happen? " (Catch yourself when you ask yourself questions like these)
I didn't understand and my mind was going berserk.

My mind, my mind! I had to do something about that mind of mine, I had to get it under control again. Because that's the mistake we often make, according to Eckart Tolle - we think we're in control of our mind, whereas the mind is usually in control of us. It's like a servant who has forgotten it's place and is ordering around the master. In a moment of clarity I saw that meditation could be the answer to my then very clouded mind.

I started meditating every morning for half an hour. This wasn't the first time I tried it of course. Also, I didn't do it without help;
I have these tapes that put my brain in the right wavelength, generally called "binaural beats", and it also helps to structure my meditation session in nice 30-minute chunks.

What is your reason?

How to:

1. Sit down - with dignity - however you sit, straighten your spine, so you stay alert.
2. Focus your attention on the flow of air in and out of your nose - especially on your nostrils, where you can feel the air flowing in and out. You want to focus, not on thoughts, but on actual physical sensations - in this case the nostrils.
3. When you notice you're thinking about something you let it go and focus back on your breathing/nostrils.

That's it! It's so simple. The hard part is not doing it, it's deciding to do it.

Tips: You can sit in lotus, seiza, on a chair or however you like, but I like to keep my spine straight to stay alert and focused.
Don't get irritated by the incoming thoughts, floating by like clouds (a clouded mind) accept that it's normal. Celebrate the fact that you're aware of your thoughts - you're actually making progress each time you catch yourself. 
You can also put an alarm, although I prefer to listen to my meditation track.
You can start out by doing short sessions and when you can easily do those you  make the sessions longer.
You can count to ten while breathing, counting both when you inhale and exhale. It helps to keep your attention at your airflow.
Another trick is to use guided meditation tapes or binaural beats to stimulate the brain, block out ambient noise and to know when you're done, without worrying about alarms going off or not.

What you'll start to notice is that by observing the thoughts pop up in your head, that in fact there are two minds. The so-called observing mind and the thinking mind.

When you meditate, you create a gap between the two, identifying with the observing mind and in so doing observing the thinking mind. This will allow you to be more aware of what is actually going through you head all day.

With this powerful tool, one of the cornerstones of self-improvement, you can start intercepting thoughts that make you feel bad, and putting in thoughts that reinforce you. (not during meditation but with the gained awareness you can do this throughout your day).
Instead of letting your thoughts get out of hand and have them repeat themselves in your head, have negative feelings occupy your head etc, you can now detach yourself from what you're thinking. You are not your brain and the thoughts that emerge from it. You're the observer now.


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