Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Meditation & You

   When somebody says to you “I enjoy meditation” what do you think? Some might think of esoteric yogis sitting atop majestic mountains, where-as others might think of hippies chanting in a coffee house. While both of these are not false ideas about what meditation is, they are but one face in the many-sided jewel of meditation.

    Meditation is something that can mean many thing for many people, from business men and women to school teachers. What meditation is, really, is learning how to control your brain like a muscle, ie: how you learn to strengthen your arms by doing particular exercises. You learn to analyze what comes into your mind and, if you need to, learn to keep some things out.

   Meditation is not something that is easy. It is something that you work at. There is an old joke where somebody says, “Hey, don’t think about Zebras” and, BAM, you’re thinking about Zebras. Meditation can help your involuntary thoughts stop going “HEY, DON’T THINK ABOUT FAILURE, DON”T THINK ABOUT PAIN … HAHA, YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT!”

   Meditation is also not a complete means of feeling good. What meditation IS, really, is a means of helping you learn to put things in their place.

   Allow me to give you an example, one pulled from my own life.

   I suffer from very oddly timed bouts of insecurity. Regardless of what I accomplish, or who I know, or what I overcome, or how I dress/look, I sometimes have had very severe bouts of something akin to anxiety. I can’t explain it in better terms because, really, it makes no sense. I learned to (slowly) overcome these issues through a series of things including having more open communication with people I trust, being more sociable, and meditation.

   How did the meditation help?

   I suffer from a very acute sense of impatience and sometimes anxiety. If I feel bad, I want to feel better right now! When I write something I want it to be finished right now, no time for read-throughs! My mind ( and my mouth ) tend to get very fast.

   Meditation for me is learning to fall into a safe rhythm, a state where I can slow down, BREATHE, and un-hook myself from the hustle and bustle of … well … my rather selfish self. Things I want must be put into perspective when I calm down. It helps me confront things I normally RUSH RUSH RUSH past in my thoughts, ie: I WANT A NEW [whatever].

   When I am in a meditative state, if a thought about my desire for this X comes up, I need to ask ‘why did I think about that? Is it important? Why? Do I need it? Why do I think this? Is this thought mine or is it just my childish need for objects popping up again?’ Meditation is learning to look at myself from the inside-out and just … push certain thoughts away. Not to ignore them, but to give them a place to be.

   I must also do this for my fears. My mind says “Nobody likes you, not like you deserve! You are alone” to which I use logic to overcome this thought. “That thought isn't true, it isn't real ~ I have [person X, Y, Z] and I have evidence I am loved because of [ X, Y, Z ]. I might not have X kind of love, but I DO have Y and Z kinds of Love. Why is X kind of love more important than those, etc…”

   Meditation can have an aim to get your mind into a state where you can overcome stress in your own mind, the SOURCE of the stress.

   Meditation does not have to be something linked to spirituality, even if it does have spiritual applications. I myself use meditation as something for both self-beneficial introspection before prayer, but this is a way I have adapted it for my private goals. Spirituality is linked to self-improvement, but each does not depend on the other.

   Some people refer to ‘energy’ when they discuss meditation hence, it can be viewed as ‘mystical’ or ‘esoteric’ to some.  In my opinion this is a means of helping you ‘see’ your thoughts so you might better understand how to exercise your mind-muscle. After all, your eyes are closed when you meditation ( for some, anyway ) so you need a way to think without visual cues. Batteries and circuits use energy flow, hence modern meditators might think of meditation as a way of ‘re-wiring’ your feeling.

   Again, this does not imply you get rid of these feeling, nor can you make it where you can shut out your feeling. Meditation simply helps you learn how to adjust the flow of your feelings/energy to where. In the middle of a panic attack, you can calm down and learn to re-focus so you can be OK.

   So, some might ask, “Ok, I am sure this is useful but I can’t just sit down and learn to meditate! That sounds very complex!”

   In a sense, you are right, however here some things to try and a resource for your campus-life.

1. Just try sitting for 15 minutes without doing anything. Don’t worry about where you need to be, the time, tiVo, anything.  Try this again later with your eyes closed.

2. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in as softly as you can. Don’t take in breath too fast, just … breathe.

3. When you have a thought think about it but try and focus on pushing it out when you’re done with the thought. If you think about, say, Waffles, go “Huh, I must be hungry. Am I hungry? No, ok, goodbye thought” and try to think of something else.

   These are in no way the final steps, but they are good baby steps just to give you a sense of the ‘feel’ of meditation. For more in-depth examples and analysis I suggest Meditation for Dummies and visiting our own University of Texas at Tyler Mindful Society.

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