When we look at the peaceful monks sitting in meditation we likely have some interesting opinions about what it is that they are actually doing. We might even go as far to think, wow they are very lazy – after all they are sitting around all day doing nothing!
Despite all it’s popularity most people don’t actually know what meditation is.
1. Meditation is not sitting and listening to relaxation tapes.
You might envision meditation to be someone sitting peacefully while imagining the rhythmic waves on a beach. Although that does sound quite lovely and it is a great meditation technique, a technique is only a method to try to quiet the mind; it isn’t meditation.
2. Meditation is not a special activity or hobby that you designate to do once a week.
Scheduling a time to meditate can help form and develop the habit, but meditating is essentially a way of being; you can be in meditation no matter where you are. You can make everyday activities into a moving meditation; everything from walking, eating and household chores.
3. Meditation will not solve all your problems.
When you begin meditating you will not see vibrant colours, connect with life from other planets, have outer body experiences or solve all your human problems.
It seeps into your life, it will never gush in and it’s not instant. Meditation has a seducing effect that leaves you curious for more. There are no short cuts to get to the sweet spot and much like dieting you won’t see results over night. But with focus, concentration and practice it will happen.
Meditation won’t solve all your outer problems and it won’t prevent future problems either. But what it will do is give you the clarity and calmness to deal with your problems.
4. Meditation isn’t relaxation.
Huh? I know you’re thinking what could be more relaxing than sitting silently amongst nature sounds? Meditation is not doing nothing. Meditation actually takes a lot of mental focus and energy.
Yes you are very relaxed while meditating, but not so relaxed that your mind slips into sluggishness.
5. Meditation is not positive thinking.
Positive thinking is just more thinking and it’s all that thinking that gets us into trouble in the first place. Meditation is actually watching your thinking; without reaction and with acceptance.
So now onto the good stuff, we’ve talked about what meditation isn’t, lets look at what this life changing, awe inspiring habit really is:
“When we speak of meditation, it is important for you to know that this is not some weird cryptic activity, as our popular culture might have it. It does not involve becoming some kind of zombie, vegetable, self absorbed narcissist, navel gazer, “space cadet,” cultist, devotee, mystic, or Easter philosopher. Meditation is simply about being yourself and knowing something 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. Meditation may help us see that this path we call our life has direction; that it is always unfolding, moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens next.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn – Wherever You Go There You Are
What a near perfect description of the true essence of meditation from the master himself.
Meditation is a practice for observing thoughts and for being more mindful of them throughout the day.
We often think we are powerless to all the outer problems occurring around us. This is a mistaken belief. Our problems don’t lie outside of our control, they are outer problems, that’s all. We don’t have to make them inner problems, we can have a lot of turmoil on the surface but still be calm and peaceful at the core.
Through meditation we will become the watcher of our minds and we can begin to understand that we are not powerless to all the outer turmoil.
We are responsible for the state of our inner being.
With practice you will also begin to notice gaps between your thoughts – moments in which there are no thoughts or feelings, just peace. Our aim is to make these gaps longer and then we can begin to rest within them.
When we rest in these gaps our usual cloudy view of the self, others and objects change, we begin to see the delusions our mind is constantly feeding us. Once we begin to see these tricks our mind is playing, we then have the power to rewire our entire lives. Our relationships, happiness, hobbies, careers and inner peace will undergo enormous transformations.
And if all this isn’t enough, meditation is also a doorway into the mysteries of the universe. It can help us get a sense of the miracles of life.
Feelings of awe, love and gratitude for life itself will begin to grow within you. Meditation is the number one life changing habit; I encourage you to get started right away; all you need is a quiet spot to sit and 2 minutes a day.
Tina is a student of Buddhism, meditation and yoga. She writes about cultivating happiness through mindfulness at her own blog: Barefoot Beginnings.
Tina lives near cottage country in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two dogs. Also a vegetarian and animal lover she enjoys photography, travel and nature. But mostly she’s just a free spirit trying to follow the path.