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Meditation - Terms of Use

TLDR: Getting Started with a Meditation & Mindfulness Practice

  • A general understanding about what meditation is and what meditation is not

  • The benefits of meditation and some possible ways of approaching setting up practice

  • Becoming aware of what thoughts roll though your mind throughout the day is extremely beneficial

  • Find a technique that resonates with you

 

5W's and How:

In these posts I'm going to do my very best to represent why I feel meditation and mindfulness are so incredibly important in one's life and offer some, hopefully helpful, pointers along the way. I don't consider myself an 'expert' but as I called out in my introductory post, I've been doing this quite awhile and been told I'm capable of sharing some helpful pointers.

People look to meditation and mindfulness practices for a myriad of reasons. Most often you'll hear they are looking at it to help with stress, anxiety, overall mental health, or as part of their spiritual practice. In my opinion, there's no wrong reason for investigating these practices. And luckily there's no need to "ask your doctor if meditation is right for you". If you're curious, then try it out. Only you'll know if it provides benefit.

I believe what's important however, is to be very clear with yourself about why you're interested in pursuing these practices. For example, are you are looking to meditation to solve all your problems, provide you instant clarity, or to give you a direct line to Thanos from the Marvel Comics Avengers to give him the names of people you'd like added to his 'snap' list? It is incredibly important when starting something new to check in and be aware of any expectations you may have about the outcome of an activity. I've written extensively about expectations, and will continue to do so as I believe forming them is like throwing landmines out into the darkness if front of you and then moving forward with a burnt out flashlight. (And yes, I am all about the drama.)



The Struggle is Real:

I find defining meditation to be a challenge because meditation is a very personal experience and is centered around quieting the mind or letting go of thought… and yet, to describe it, one must invoke thought and engage the mind to comprehend it. And no matter how I decide to move forward with a description, I’m sure the definition will continue to evolve.

To that end, there are many flowery or mystical descriptions of meditation, as well very technical descriptions, and they're all equally beautiful. It can be amazing and motivating to read about meditation from evolved teachers or even from people who have just adopted a daily practice. I've heard it said that astronauts go up into space as scientists and come back as poets. I'd say the same for anyone who has been profoundly transformed by meditation.

Valid Attempt:

Meditation is the practice of making an effort to quiet down the mind and to remain in that quiet as best you can. It’s a letting go of our habits of thought (and yes, in the future, we’ll spend a good amount of time examining these ‘habits’). Essentially, it's formally taking time and effort to settle into the quiet and stillness that already exists within us.

And at this point, it may be difficult for you to believe that quiet and stillness exist within you, as we are so accustomed to the seemingly constant drone of chatter in our mind driving us forward and in circles. But with practice and patience, and maybe as sense of adventure, one can arrive there.

I do find it’s helpful to make a distinction between the words ’mind’ and ’thought’. In my approach, I sometimes will use the words interchangeably. At a high level, thought can be one, or many, ideas or ’thought streams’. Whereas mind is the collection of thoughts which, in a way, creates an identity or story about who we are and our place in the world.

Clarity is Key:

I do understand that this concept of ‘quieting the mind’ can be a radical idea for some people. Some don't believe that the mind is capable of being quieted or that thoughts can cease. It can seem as if our minds have a 'mind of their own' and we're incapable of ascertaining any level of control around it.

While it’s healthy to be skeptical about things, the only way you’ll know is to try and explore. You'll never know if you don't try. If you are truly interested, then I recommend you do sufficient research and practice earnestly without passing judgment, setting expectations, or considering something impossible, and then see what happens.

Habit Forming:

I can say from years of work and practice, that we do have complete control over our thoughts. Thoughts are habits of ideas and stories. Itches just begging to be scratched and wounds looking to be nursed. When we pay attention to what, when and how we think, we can come to understand we have trends and patterns to the way our mind operates. We have a lifetime of these formed habits of a particular nature and any habit can be broken; granted some are more difficult to let go of than others.

Arguably, some of these habits may take significant work to address there’s no denying that. Some may even involve the need of professional assistance to work through. Other thoughts and beliefs, once looked at, can be released quite easily when questioned and examined.

It's important to become aware of what you are thinking throughout the day. In a way, you need to separate a part of your mind to objectively become aware of the thoughts that tumble around in your head all day. The more you do this, the faster you will come to better understand how you view yourself and operate in the world. I see this as one of the most fundamental elements to a mediation and mindfulness practice.

It can be quite simple to do this. Just periodically stop and check in with yourself and reflect on what you have been thinking since the last time you checked in. If it helps, you can set an alarm to go off periodically throughout the day and take a few moments of reflection.

As you start to pay attention to these thoughts, you can also come to understand what actions may trigger some certain thought patterns. When recognized, this knowledge can help aid you in managing or eliminating them.

I’ve Got the Power:

Thought is so powerful. We just follow thought, it drives us, it defines us, it creates stories, it rules our moods and emotions, it pulls out out of the present moment and into a world of dream and fantasy.

Just imagine what it would be like if the mind was not driving you forward in every moment… what would be the opposite of all of that feel like?

The Now of How:

So how does one meditate? I said Meditation is an active effort to quiet the mind. So to engage that effort, it’s important to utilize a meditation technique. The intent of a technique is to give your mind something to focus on and stop being involved in following thought. Having something to put your attention on will help you stay quiet. It's the continual holding on to the technique while practicing that can be challenging when getting started.

Here’s where I want to be extremely clear. Focus and concentration are critical in using a meditation technique. But here’s the truth, we as a society in general are horrible with focus and concentration. Our attention spans are alarmingly low. And it’s understandable given the number of distractions that are thrown at us or available to us in every moment. From checking apps on your phone, to choosing from a infinite number of shows against a myriad of TV channels and streaming services. We are inundated with information input. In fact, a recent study found the average attention span for an adult in 2000 was 12 seconds, in 2021 it was down to 8 seconds.

So if you start a technique and find it difficult, you are NOT alone! You are not broken, it’s not that you can’t do it, its maybe that you’re coming to understand how distracted or loud your mind is on a daily, hourly, and minute to minute basis. This observation can be quite shocking. But, like building muscle at the gym, if you exercise once a week, it's going to take some time to see results. If you go a couple of times a week, you see results faster, if you go daily, even more so.

 

Takeaways:

  • Meditation can have profound effect on your overall understanding of who you are and how you are approaching finding peace in your life

  • Understand that it’s a practice and that like anything new, it’s going to take time

  • Research and look at various sources about meditation so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations.

 

Have a specific meditation or mindfulness questions you'd like to discuss? Feel free to drop me a note on my website.

I wish you peace on your journey.



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