What is meditation? Relax, sit in a comfortable posture, and observe your breath. Sounds familiar? During my several years of living a yogic lifestyle, I met meditation practitioners who shared their experiences. Most of them took up practices to improve their well-being. A few of them (including myself) were also willing to discover their deep layer of mind and spirit, but they struggled to maintain consistency.
Despite witnessing the people integrating meditation practices in their lifestyle, I feel concerned with the limited perception and misconception about meditation. I will share my insights and knowledge to embrace meditation with the right understanding and attitude.
Think Beyond Relaxation
You take a break from a busy work schedule, listen to a piece of relaxing music, and read a book to rejuvenate your life. These activities can increase your vitality for a specific duration and help you cope with the lifestyle. However, Does it empower you to gain clarity of thoughts and purify your emotions? The scope of relaxation is beyond physical comfort and mental stimulation. To understand ease, we need to know where tension builds up.
Consider you meet two young people. One of them has a gloomy look while the other’s has a bright face. It is no brainer for you to figure out who is stressed. The muscular tension occurs at the physical level, which most likely highlights the state of mind. Similarly, a person obsessed with thoughts of the future may develop habitual thinking patterns such as worry. Here the tension occurs at the mental level.
The past emotional pain that we might have experienced during childhood or adulthood remain in the layers of the subconscious and unconscious mind. These experiences create tension. Thus, stress can be physical, mental, and emotional.
We may practice different relaxation techniques; however, any relaxation techniques must reduce stress at all three levels. If you gain clarity of thoughts, experience inner joy, and learn to be kind to yourself, you move towards relaxing the mind.
Meditation is not only a process of attaining relaxation. Instead, relaxation techniques prepare the appropriate inner environment for meditation. Just as we need fertile soil for the seed to grow into a plant, we need a less distracted mind to be effective during meditation.
Witness the Thoughts
I remember my initial days of practice! I used to sit for meditation and juggled with thoughts, either avoiding or getting engaged with them. As a result, I struggled to keep myself motivated to practice every day. Eventually, I discovered that witnessing the rise and fall of thoughts without judgment and conclusion is the key to effective practice.
Just as we watch movies on screen, we can observe our thought waves. If you devote a particular space and time for practice, you must commit yourself to the process. Gradually, this process shall allow your deep thoughts and emotions to surface to the conscious mind. Worry not. The practice is an opportunity to heal your mind and heart. Suppressing or controlling the rise and fall of thoughts worsens the state of mind.
If I crave chocolate cake and force myself not to think of cake, I will empower craving. However, If I stay aware of my reactions and witness thoughts, I can lessen the grip of desire over my mind and body. Nevertheless, this practice requires the willingness to change and patience. Thus, we must not force or suppress the thoughts that arise during meditation practices.
Quality not Quantity
Longer the meditation duration, the better the well-being. However, this is not the case. Fixing our mind on the expected outcomes, intellectualizing the matter, and stretching the practice duration will not be helpful. Meditation allows you to distance yourself from intellectualization and be sensitive to your unconscious thoughts and emotions. The practice empowers you to be more responsive and comfortable with yourself.
If we commit to the process and gradually become aware of our root cause of inner conflicts, we shall move progressively away from a distracted mind towards a calm mind. Our experiences may be subjective, but the process remains the same. The intent for practice, attention, awareness, and sincerity plays a vital role in meditation’s success.
According to yogic psychology, we can categorize the mind into three layers: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Our awareness of conscious mind: thoughts and feelings revolve around our personal, social, and professional life in our daily lives. However, fears, limiting beliefs, and instinctive urges remain unlocked in the mind’s subconscious and unconscious layers.
Only if we allow deep layers of the mind to open up we can heal heart and mind. Thoughts and emotions do not own our life. Instead, we can define our world with the conscious choice of thoughts and feelings. We hold power to change our perception.
The purpose of meditation is to allow awareness to move through the deep layers of mind, gain insights from our past, learn life lessons, and expand our consciousness for an authentic and joyful life.