People often confuse meditation for being a new person, better person, or an entirely different person. Instead, it is about improving your awareness and having a healthy perspective, among others you will learn in this book. Meditation isn’t about wanting to switch off your feelings or thoughts. Instead, you are observing them without being judgmental, trying to understand such feelings and thoughts better.
Albeit, Meditation refers to techniques intended to encourage focused attention and improved awareness state. It is a set of consciousness-changing approaches aimed to help you enjoy various psychological benefits. As seen in the previous section of this chapter, meditation is an age-long practice, helping you achieve focused attention, compassion, and awareness.
Experts have conclusively agreed that meditation can have several health benefits, including but not limited to:
✔ Improves self-awareness and self-esteem
✔ Reduces stress
✔ Improves concentration and focus
✔ Manages depression and anxiety
✔ Promotes altruistic behaviour
✔ Controls pain and fights addiction.
Because the relative ways of practising meditation cut across different spiritual, religious, and cultural traditions, there are several ways of meditating. I have dedicated a whole chapter to comprehensively discuss the different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation, to practice. Albeit, before then, let us take a quick dive into what mindfulness meditation means.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the seven major types of meditative practices. It plays a significant role in defining how much meditation contributes to personal development and therapeutic growth. While every type of meditative practice demands the ability to manage attention and deploy entire focus, mindfulness meditation primarily requires the ability to build non-judgmental awareness.
According to the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat Zinn, Mindfulness Meditation is the ability to pay attention purposefully without judgment. This type of meditative practice is an intentional swipe at keeping your attention broader without analyzing your thoughts.
Obstacles to Meditation
Engaging in regular meditative practices tap into human hidden expanded consciousness, cultivating an ever-growing field of awareness. The awareness ultimately incorporates into our daily activities even outside our meditative practices. Meditation translates into an increased level of thoughts, actions, speech, choices, sensations, and environmental awareness. Technically, the more meditative practice you engage in, the more your level of mindfulness increases, incorporating into all your life aspects.
However, the rate at which we can meditate isn’t fixed. Different persons encounter various obstacles while meditating, which may reduce their extents of meditative practices or ultimately cause them to stop meditating. Even the best of us experiences mindfulness lapses. There are eight (8) major obstacles to meditation.
⮚ Emotional reactivity
⮚ Restlessness or Rush
⮚ Having a compulsive or addictive behaviour
⮚ Staying absorbed in your narrative.
While these obstacles can sometimes be challenging, recognizing and accepting that they are integral parts of human experiences is a significant step to overcoming them. Knowing what your obstacles are, helps in changing your behaviour and attitude. Staying intentionally aware helps a great deal in creating increased opportunities to incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities.
Myths about Meditative Practices
While meditation offers several benefits cut across various aspects of life, several confusions and misconceptions fly around about the what and what nots of meditation and how it is practised. I have carefully debunked a few of these myths, helping you gain a better insight into the scope of mindfulness meditation and meditating as a whole.
The myths about meditative practices include:
- Meditation is just a means of relaxation
While it may be safe to say mindfulness meditation is central to establishing profound relaxation states and deep well-being feelings, we must also understand that it goes far beyond that. Factually, meditation causes reduced tensions, which is often regarded as relaxation. Therefore, it is safer to say relaxation is a benefit of meditating. Relaxation is a deep insight into experiences, previously unforeseen opportunities, choice-making, etc., which are amazing reasons for meditative practices.
- Meditation is a selfish practice
While the face value of meditation may paint it as a selfish practice, I think it’s a far cry from the truth.
Does concentrating on your life for a period translate to being selfish? Well, I don’t think so!
A perfect analogy to debunk this misconception is during plane emergencies: we are often told to wear our oxygen masks first before attempting to help others. Hence, technically, the central idea of meditation is catering to our well-being and health to serve and help others. Therefore, meditation is better regarded as a selfless practice other than selfishness.
- Meditation isn’t for regular persons but for monks and holy people
Of course, wise and holy men remarkably meditate more, but this doesn’t mean meditation is solely for them. Honestly, these people are seemingly wiser because they meditate and not the other way around – saying they meditate because they’re wise.
Therefore, there is absolutely no need for you, as a “regular” person, to feel you do not have the right to meditate or some similar feelings. People meditate to develop more concentration, calmness, and wisdom so that they can approach life better. Whether you are a newbie at meditating or a veteran, meditation is for anybody, just like you and me!
- Meditation is passive
This is inarguably untrue! Meditation is being present at the moment to address situations appropriately. Therefore, where is “passiveness” originating? Well, I do not know, too! Meditation is central to responding to stressful situations instead of reacting – it is an intentionally consistent practice of trying to get into a habit.
Other myths of meditative practices are:
● The central idea of meditation is “blissing” out.
● The only posture to meditate is sitting cross-legged.
● Meditating involves blanking your mind, escaping reality.
● A few weeks of meditative practices will sort all my problems.
Do you know it is possible to meditate for several weeks, months, and even up to years with just little result or none at all? This is true, particularly for persons who have ignored the fundamentals of meditation, perhaps consciously or ignorantly.
The somewhat most challenging task in meditation is eliminating desires and thoughts in the mind. The two stages of meditation – relaxation and concentration – are equally important; neglecting one of these stages could be consequential and obstructive towards achieving the deepest possible states.
Therefore, as a beginner or veteran at meditative practices, you need to understand the fundamental components of deepening your meditation practices. The four fundamentals are namely: stillness, space, surrender, and silence.
Let’s explore them individually:
Honestly, modern life is fast-paced. Everyone now pays attention to distracting things. Most of us want to end a phase and get started with another. Everything is fast! The central idea of stillness is slowing down. Do not mistake stillness with elimination or suppression of movement. Instead, it is a state of equanimity and equipoise.
Technically, busyness steals us away from our ability to connect with our inner stillness. Embracing stillness in your meditative practice helps in making us glimpse what we seek. We become more conscious, and time ceases to exist, encouraging our transcension of the space-time continuum.
Undoubtedly, you have created a meditation space for yourself. Similarly, some persons are veteran mediators who take pride in their ability to meditate anywhere. Nonetheless, the essence of meditating in more refined and richer spaces cannot be sidelined.
As a mediator, you must become aware of the space around you in all your activities, including how the energy in your immediate environment affects you. Space generally contains self-aware information and energy. Establishing sentiency to the space between images, sensations, thoughts, emotions, and feelings helps such a space to become a matrix for these energies to agree. This lets you cancel the experience and thought as you don’t have space to contain them.
Surrender refers to the willingness to unlearn specific conventional thoughts, particularly about the evolution of proficiency. To surrender is to stay non-judgmental, patient, and gentle. It demands the relinquishment of our attachments to how our encounters unfold and the progress of our experiences. While meditating, surrender helps the mind to escape into deeper conscious states.
To achieve the deepest meditative practice, you need to create room for silence. The importance of recognizing the importance of silence can never be exaggerated. It is somewhat synonymous with how deep your conscious mind can go while meditating. Silence promotes the effectiveness of motivation; silence diffuses nature, establishing a direct connection between you and consciousness.
Therefore, these are the fundamental ways of taking your meditation practice to deeper levels; sitting daily and cultivating the stillness, space, surrender, and silence that encourages your experiences to unfold!
Meditation as a Cognitive Process
Mindfulness meditation improves human health mainly because of its cognitive functions. The ability to ignore – and sometimes eliminate – distraction is a vital part of the working memory capacity and attention. Inarguably, regular meditative practice helps in developing attention control, which can be as fast as possible. Its speed depends on an extensive range of factors, including increased gay matter density in certain brain regions, better brainwave control, improved white matter connectivity, amongst a few others.
A certain study on some students spread over ten (10) weeks showed significant brainwave patterns change during meditation. These changes translated into increased power and coherence in brainwave activities in areas overlapping the brain’s resting state. What does all of these mean? Engaging in long-term meditation showed significant brain control differences, meaning such meditators’ brains could relay electrical signals quicker than they used to.