I’ve dabbled with this a few times but not seriously, I always ended up giving after a few days.
Anyhow as I understand it the point is (I think) to try and calm your mind by focusing (on for example your breath) and disregard all external influences and internal thoughts
When you ‘sit’ like this after just a few seconds you find your mind wandering all over the place and it’s really really hard to not think of anything and re-focus your attention solely on your breath. The meditation advocates say this is because your mind is ‘undisciplined’ and if you can discipline it you won’t be ruled so much by your emotions, probably a good thing for most of us.
But I’m sceptical, I think your mind (brain) wanders because it’s evolved to and because it’s so complex and powerful that it always needs stimulating and there’s no benefit in trying to stop it, apart from the benefit of taking time out and sitting quitely.
I wonder if it’s a bit like dreaming, in that you shouldn’t really analyse your dreams because they contain no important messages for you and it’s just your brain looking after your emotional health. I’m pretty sure my cat (and best buddy) Harry dreams, he often twitches when in a deep sleep.
Anyway what I your thoughts, I’d be really interested to know?
I have my own form of meditation and know nothing of other methods. I find myself in an extremely good state after 20 min or so of meditiation. I find if I imagine something like a tunnel, or a tube int space for instance that it is easier for me to simply erase outside thoughts than trying not to have any. Tunnels my have streaks of color or have a background color but otherwide are devoid of anything else. Try finding the entrance to the tunnel, then entering and then traveling through not knowing where it is taking you. Think of it in a trusting fashion with no fear.
There are different forms of meditation and has a wide range of effects. Some like to be able to quite their mind, others try to open it up to as much as possible, and many flavors inbetween. Some things you already do may be forms of meditation already that you don’t realize as such. Meditation can be explored (tried out) out of curiosity, which may or may not give any deep insite, or may be something that is just a desire, in which case you already know some forms of it.
Yeah, there’s a zero chance that I will be able to calm my mind and eliminate all thought. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.
What I have learned and been able to do is this.
Don’t hold any thought. Consider them as little birds, flitting by. Let them come, look at them, release them. Don’t try to hold onto them, if you find yourself thinking about them let them go and go back to quiescence where other thoughts are free to come floating by. Remember, you’re not looking for thoughts and anticipating them, but neither are you trying to chase them away.
I’ve dabbled with meditation, using the simple method of relaxing my body, focusing on my breathing and letting any thoughts just fly by. Results vary, but I’ve reached a true meditative state a couple of times, where all my senses are extremely open, my body is weightless and truly not a single thought enters my mind, I just am. It’s one of the most fantastic feelings there is, and more than enough reason to keep on dabbling.
It goes both ways: physical relaxation brings mental relaxation and mental relaxation creates physical relaxation. Even the lesser, half-assed meditation sessions leave me feeling calm, relaxed and energised, a bit like a really good nap would, in less time and without actually sleeping. It’s a boon to a fretful, anxious worrier like me.
I’m a sceptical atheist, meditation to me is simply a form of exercise bringing real results. It took probably close to a hundred attempts before my mind really stopped wandering and I got anywhere.
There’s a lot of different types of meditation, each with their own goal and technique or skill to master. One of my favorites allows you to essentially enter close to the dream state while still alert. It’s a sort of best of both worlds, relaxing and refreshing you more efficiently and without some of the downsides of conventional sleep.
But there are other types such as focus, body scan, unattachment, being present in the moment, etc.
I would say it’s one of the most rewarding things I do, and while it may be associated with certain cultures, it’s not what I would call religious or supernatural. It’s a fairly straight forward mind body exercise with science to back it up.
I’m not sure “discipline” is the right term. Rather than fighting your thoughts or controlling them, it’s more like letting go of your attachment to them.
It’s more like patience or at most commitment than hard work.
In addition to being a way of calming your body and your mind I believe with meditation we can train ourselves to be more present in the moment and more focused on the task at hand.
For example, yesterday I had a senior moment…I was tidying up the house and I accidentally put the pot holders in my desk drawer. Now, I know that the pot holders don’t go in the desk drawer but I was putting things away while my mind was engaged elsewhere. My mind was on my “to do” list for the day and so I thoughtlessly put the pot holders where they didn’t belong. I believe that through the regular practice of meditation I can train myself to be more focused on the present moment and less prone to disconnect between my thoughts and my actions.
For me, meditation is all about being here now. Our thoughts and emotions are often not in the same place or time as our physical body and I think meditation can help us bring our thoughts back to now. Being mentally and emotionally present in the moment and accepting the reality of the moment helps to eliminate personal suffering.
as a side note my fingers keep typing medication instead of meditation which strikes me as extremely funny
If you do things that “get you in the zone” - going for a great long run, getting into an interesting activity like writing a computer program or doing a crossword - you are feeling the effects of meditation. For me, it happens when I play guitar and really get inside it on a good day.
So you have to start there - that In the Zone feeling - what Zen folks call Being in the Moment and being fully aware and in the moment.
Meditation strips away the activities that can get you in the zone and focuses purely on getting in moment. As a beginner, IMHO, it is harder to do that vs slip into the moment doing something you love.
So - start with that feeling. How do you get into it otherwise?
Years ago I did some work for the Sidja Yogo temple, I believe they were an off shoot of the Howi Krishna sect. They were a cult to be sure. I could not help but notice how young looking the long term members were. People in their 50’s looked like early 30’s. Meditation was a huge part of their daily activity and they had sessions every couple of hours where they chanted. They appeared drugged after a chanting session but it was nothing but their own brain chemicals working.
YMMV, of course, but the people I know who practice meditation, while less susceptible to being rattled and more calm than other people, seem to have lost their edge: they’re not as quick on the uptake, need to have things explained to them (although they’re much more patient while receiving information), and don’t see the subtle nuances or connections as readily; and are less likely to “riff” on new ideas. It’s like the parable of tube fox and the hedgehog: the fox knows many little tricks to catch the hedgehog before he gets back in his hole; the hedgehog only knows one trick: get back into the hole.
Of course, it may be that people who are like this are the ones who are predisposed to take up meditation.
Honestly what you perceive as being slow on the uptake might just be introversion, and I’m guessing introverted people are more likely to meditate. I don’t react to things right away, but I don’t think it’s a result of meditation. It’s just my style of thinking. (However, I also get rattled very easily - I just don’t get too attached to the being rattled.)
I personally love meditation, particularly shikantaza, which is ‘‘just sitting.’’ I think a lot of people get into meditation thinking it is supposed to make them feel more calm and they are supposed to be completely devoid of thoughts or feelings. I find that the opposite is true. When I sit down on the cushion, all that painful stuff comes bubbling to the surface. My job is to be aware of it and watch it come and go like clouds drifting through the sky. The idea is to see it as a passing phenomenon, not some embodiment of the ultimate truth.
Awareness of the physical moment, however, is really the key for me. So if I feel anxiety, I pay close attention to what that feels like in my chest, my throat, my hands. I also consider that the experience I’m having is universal. I think of the suffering of others and my heart goes out to them, and allows me to extend compassion toward myself as just another suffering human.
I have a hard time sustaining formal meditation, to be perfectly honest. It’s a hard practice to maintain because IME it often results in either extreme emotional discomfort or extreme boredom. The entire point of meditation, from my perspective, is to be aware and accepting as you go through the rest of your life. It’s just practice for the real deal. For this reason I tend to do mini-meditations throughout the day. Five minutes while driving, two minutes sitting in my chair at work, thirty seconds when I stub my toe. The breath is a good focal point for the simple reason that it is always there. As long as you are alive, you breathe, so you can be assured that you can practice no matter what your circumstance. I have trained my body to calm itself whenever I focus on deep breathing. It’s great for anxiety. But if some other part of my body is feeling something interesting, I focus my attention there.
The biggest thing I have noticed with meditation is that I tend to be a lot more tolerant of discomfort. Extremes of temperature, small injuries, waiting in a long line at the DMV… I can use those things as opportunities for awareness, and when you’re focused on being aware, you’re not focusing so much on the part of your brain that says, I should not be uncomfortable right now this is terrible blah blah blah… I just don’t freak out as much about inconveniences.
As for the science on meditation, it’s just about as good for your mental health as exercise. Long-term meditation has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, and, astonishingly, cause neurogenesis. Over a period of time most meditators will have a calmer and more optimistic ‘‘default’’ state.