“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed”. – Saint Francis de Sales
If you’re new to meditation then you probably have a lot of misconceptions about it.
Some confuse meditation with contemplation, where others assume it’s a tool for airy fairy New Age types that has no grounding in reality.
Make no mistake; meditation is a legitimate, scientific tool that can completely change your life. But like most things, what you get out of it is completely up to you.
I’m just here to describe what in the heck meditation actually is and to give you a handle on it so you can do it yourself.
What Does Meditation Do? Why Meditate?
Meditation is essentially a technique that allows you to get access to your mind. Most of us don’t realize just how much garbage we have floating around up there.
If you have lots of anxiety, stress, or depression, then your mind is probably the psychic equivalent of a landfill, with your thoughts being the shattered bottles and old trash bags. Pretty gross.
The only difference between thought-trash and real trash is the method by which you clean it up. Obviously you can’t just go in with tweezers and take out thoughts.
Just as our external reality has certain rules, so does our internal reality. You could say that meditation is to the mind as a pooper-scooper is to a dog park.
Now that you have an idea of what meditation does, let’s get into the specifics of how it works.
What is Meditation? (It’s Not What You Think)
Meditation isn’t actually the right word for what we’re doing here, it’s just the closest English equivalent.
If you look up meditation in the dictionary, it will have some mumbo jumbo about extended thought or reflection – that’s not it. When you’re meditating for inner peace you’re doing something entirely different.
The Buddhist word dhyāna works a lot better here.
It simply entails profound stillness. That means no thinking, pondering, or wondering.
When your mind is quiet to the point of utter silence, and when you feel immense joy from the simple act of existing, you have achieved a state of dhyāna.
The trick is to first manifest that state in meditation. That’s hard enough.
But the real magic occurs when you can carry that feeling of stillness and bliss over to your entire life.
That’s what enlightenment is all about. But that’s way off in the horizon, this is still a beginners guide right?
How to Meditate (It’s Simpler Than You Think)
There have been a ton of different techniques created throughout the ages, but I prefer the simplest method: mindfulness meditation.
All you’re doing in mindfulness meditation is, well, becoming mindful.
That means that you’re becoming more aware of your breathing and body, as well as the present moment. You don’t have to sit in any fancy postures or chant esoteric ancient mantras to have it work.
Learning how to meditate:
First find somewhere comfortable that you won’t be interrupted.
Make it as noise free as possible. If you can find a place near nature with lots of aesthetic beauty, that’s a plus.
Next, close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing.
Notice the flow of breath going in and out. Pay as much attention as possible to this.
If you have any distracting thoughts, that’s okay. Simply return to your breathing and the present moment when possible.
And about those thoughts – this is actually one of the most important parts of meditation – you are to become the “watcher of your thoughts”.
To become the watcher means that you don’t get wrapped up in your thinking.
If you happen to have a negative or distracting thought, simply witness it.
Watch the thought come, watch the emotion come as well, and then watch it all disappear.
That’s the beauty of meditation.
You learn that your mind is nothing more than a conditioned organ, and that your true identity resides elsewhere.
Now, as for where that is, I’ll leave that for you to discover for yourself. 🙂
But to sum up the process:
Find a secluded place and get comfortable, pay attention to your breathing to remain present, and then witness all the junk that comes up from your personal landfill.
You can have a lot of weird stuff come up sometimes. Sometimes it can even be uncomfortable.
The point is, by bringing those thoughts and layers of conditioning up to the conscious part of your mind, and then by paying attention to them without reacting, you’re processing all the bad data you’ve accumulated over the years and allowing it to rest.
You’re finally becoming free of that conditioning, and ultimately free of your mind.
This is happiness.
How Often Should I Meditate?
How often you do it depends on what you want from it.
Spiritual types who are actively seeking enlightenment can meditate for hours a day.
People like me who are just looking for some inner peace can do it for a matter of minutes and get great results.
Personally, I go for ten minutes twice a day, when I wake up and just before bed.
Find something that fits your goals and works for you and stick to it.
This post was written by Fred Tracy.