We have all heard about the great phenomenon that meditation is. In fact, Google searches for words like meditation, mindfulness, yoga is consistently on the rise since 2012. So as someone who has never actually done yoga, or practiced meditation, allow me to guide you more on the complex subject as the rest of the world finally catches on to what the East has been doing since centuries.
Today after I was done with my classes at college, I, along with a few friends was ushered into probably the only decent looking room in the college, named the Seminar Room. We were told to sit and listen to a guy, representing Art of Living.
All of us collectively groaned at the thought of listening to a guy ramble about the various benefits that meditation offers and how we must practice it each day to gain higher consciousness and the highest level of success, but since trying out meditation was one of my new year goals, I really wanted to give this a shot.
Our teacher began telling us about his journey as an Art of Living student to a person who now travels the world, apparently giving classes at MIT and Stanford. He clearly expressed that he had the same skepticism as we, as students have right now, but he was determined to change our minds.
He, through simple examples, made us realize that while we may have forgotten the subject matter of what we studied the last semester but we clearly remember the plots of movies watched years ago, in crystal clear detail this difference was due to the presence of a calm and focused mind.
A calm mind was something that none of us are guaranteed. Happiness is a task we have to work for it like we have to for anything else, which was contrary to my belief; that happiness was innate and we would just have it. I didn’t see a reason as to why we need work for a calm mind. If our mind wasn’t calm- we could just try to work on the cause of our distress.
However, he made us realize that a lot of times, things are beyond our control. Beyond individual control, to be exact. So what should a person do then? Just accept his/her fate and move on perhaps? Or try to train our mind to see the best in the situation? And what is the mind anyway? Is it a creation of the brain to give us a leeway to do stupid things? Just because we felt like doing so?
So according to these arguments, meditating seems to make a lot of sense. So I got to thinking maybe this guy was lying to get us to come to his 5-day workshop. So I came home to check for myself which lead me to a huge list of studies backing the claims and proving its various benefits, which are given below for anyone who is as doubtful as I:
- Meditation Improves Your Ability to Be Introspective (see here)
- Meditation Decreases Depression (see here)
- Meditation Decreases Anxiety (see here, here, and here)
- Meditation Decreases Stress (see here)
- Meditation Increases Compassion (see here)
- Meditation Increases Immune System Function (see here)
- Meditation Improves Your Ability to Regulate Your Emotions (see here)
- Meditation Increases Grey Matter (see here)
- Meditation Increases Brain Size In Areas Related to Emotional Regulation (see here)
- Meditation Increases Positive Emotions (see here)
So while I didn’t bother to fully go through all of these, You’d think I would be convinced by now. But how could I be convinced without trying to meditate for myself?
So I downloaded one of the many meditation apps and set myself up for 10 minutes( knowing fully well that I won’t notice any of the long-term benefits mentioned above, but at least it could calm me down for a few minutes. Right? Wrong.)
HOW I ( AND PROBABLY YOU HAVE BEEN MEDITATING THE WRONG WAY)
- The belief that meditation requires an elaborate set up with idols, incense, sitting on the floor cross-legged
- Meditation actually requires us to sit in silence and just register our thoughts. I don’t see how to silence those thoughts.
- Sitting in silence and doing nothing leads to over thinking
- The state of mind we’re constantly chasing via meditation ie mindfulness is actually anxiety-inducing.
- Being incredibly sleepy and light-headed during the whole process. Maybe this is the state of calm we’re chasing?
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Many a time we are meditating without being aware of it. In simple words, being in the zone is the ideal state we want to be in at that moment we are at our calmest and our concentration is razor-sharp. We’re just killing the game and getting it all done. And that’s where you’ve hit the sweet spot.
Activities which don’t require much usage of the brain but the consistent movement of hands, say like playing the guitar or gardening have a tendency to put you in a focused and calm state of mind. This is why adult coloring books have flooded the market and fidget spinners were believed to reduce anxiety.
This is an idea that actually popped into my mind while reading The Witch of Portobello By Paulo Coelho- in which the protagonist reaches a higher state of consciousness by dancing and practicing calligraphy.
The whole point of meditation is to remain present in the moment and while the benefits of seated meditation are immense and backed up by a lot of evidence, this is something that works for me. And who knows, it might benefit you too?
What are your views on meditation? Tell me in the comments down below!
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