Image from the website of Dr. Heather Salazar
“The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or see anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotion, or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You’re only here now; you’re only alive in this moment.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing about who that is. It is about coming to realize that you are on a path whether you like it or not, namely the path that is your life.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
For the past couple of years I have been interested in learning meditation. For me, learning to calm the mind and focus on the present has been something that I have been keen on implementing into my life. At first I downloaded a couple podcasts and audio books from iTunes to introduce me to some basic meditations, but recently I actually took the initiative to sign up for a 6-hour Meditation Workshop. They always say the best way to learn is by doing, and this case was no different. It also didn’t hurt to be guided by a teacher who is passionate about the study of meditation and implements it into their daily life. Below I break down 6 lessons that I was able to take away from the workshop and that I would like to share with you:
It Is Harder Than It Looks
When was the last time you paid attention to something on purpose? Not to something or someone who was demanding your attention, but to something that surrounds you every day. This could be your breath, or the sensations in your body at any given moment, a tree, a blade of grass, a sound….Things that are there whether you pay attention to them or not. When a person is meditating, from the outside it might appear as though that person is just sitting there, really doing nothing. What you don’t know until you try it, however, is that sitting and being still is really hard work. Society has been trained to be distracted. Distracted by television, music, and the internet. Distracted by things that happened to us in the past. Distracted by everything we want to achieve or obtain in the future. Focusing on the present moment means forgetting about reliving the past or planning the future. It means focusing on the here and now. This very moment. The only moment we really have.
There Is A Lot To Learn
The first thing you need to do when meditating is unlearn the need to always be in motion and learn to be still. I’m certainly not saying be still for 6 hours. Start with 5 minutes, then 10, then 30. Learn to focus on your breath and feel the life inside of you at that moment. Learn how to recognize thoughts as merely thoughts and let them pass through your mind without dwelling on them. Teachers who can help you learn more about meditation include Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Try to get your hands on resources offered by these teachers and you will be well on your way to becoming a student of meditation.
The Body Scan is Amazing
The body scan begins with the yoga pose known as the corpse pose. Although this may sound disturbing, this pose is nothing but. I believe in yoga there is a lot more to this pose, but for meditation purposes, all that’s asked of you is to lie flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out from the body and totally relaxed, allowing the feet fall to the sides and the palms of your hands to face up. The purpose of this meditation is to completely relax the body by focusing on one body part at a time. You start with the tips of your toes, feeling the tingling as the blood circulates, and slowly move up body part by body part (ankles, knees, thighs, etc.) until you reach the very top of your head. This meditation brings such relaxation that someone in our workshop actually fell asleep and was snoring. The funny thing about that, though, is that I was so relaxed I had to open my eyes a couple of times to confirm that it wasn’t me that was snoring. I have never been hypnotized before, but this level of relaxation I think comes very close to that.
It is Exhausting
When was the last time you spent six hours sitting still? When was the last time you spent six hours focusing on your breath? If you find this difficult to do for 30 seconds I challenge you to do it for six hours. Actually, no, I challenge you to do it for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes of this experience will help you gain appreciation for those meditation masters who meditate for hours on end. In learning meditation the thoughts that flow through your mind are likened to a waterfall (thousands of thoughts fall over the falls at a constant pace), a pot of boiling water (hundreds of thoughts percolating at the surface), or my own analogy which is a conveyer belt (dozens of thoughts filing through my mind, some passing by without a second thought, but some stopping and distracting my focus for minutes at a time). All you can do is say ‘thank you for sharing’ and focus back on your breath. Thoughts will come and go, there’s no question about that, but noticing them and coming back to the present moment is what meditation is all about.
There are probably hundreds of benefits to meditation, but I am only going to list some of them:
♦ Enjoying this very moment – this is truly the only moment we have
♦ Calming the mind – enjoy the peace that comes with stopping thoughts, if only for a moment
♦ Patience (non-striving) – meditation is not a competition
♦ Peace (non-judgment) – do what you can and don’t expect anything more from yourself
♦ Acceptance – you may not like what is happening in your life or where you are, but by accepting the situation you let the resistance to it fade away and a calm can enter your life, which will lead to clarity of thought
♦ Experiencing things in a new light – look at things with a child’s eye, experience things as though for the first time
♦ Increased Concentration
♦ Decreased Anxiety
♦ A General Feeling of Happiness – isn’t that what we are all looking for?
How many of you have tried meditation? Please share your meditation experiences, or if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I will respond with any information I can find for you. Thank you for visiting.
♦ Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind
♦ The Corpse Pose
♦ Jon Kabat-Zinn
♦ Sharon Salzberg