Before I began practicing meditation, I read a couple of books, psychology research papers, blogs, articles and a religion based book to try and understand meditation from a spiritual perspective. One foundational concept constantly reappearing during my reading was consciousness (addressed in another article), although meditation was often interpreted differently. Some people believe deeply thinking/contemplating about something is meditation or rather daydreaming and fantasizing which is inherently wrong. In the article I best tried to phrase the concept of meditation how I understand it.
Meditation (dhyana) is the technique through which one rests the mind, attaining high-level consciousness that is completely different from the normal “wake” state. According to Yoga International, meditation is a science, therefore has definite principles with verifiable results. During dhyana, the mind is relaxed, clear of negative feelings and emotions to achieve an inward focus. To simplify this I’d say “One meditates whenever they are fully awake and alert with the mind unfocused on the external factors or events around you”. Meditation requires a silent mind hence calmness and stillness are vital elements during practice.
Why meditate, you wonder??
Just as sports train and shape our bodies, meditation shapes our minds. When you meditate, you observe your brain patterns and get a third persons perspective of how our brains actually work. In so doing, you are able to connect with the “self” the so-called “gut feeling” or the “kitu ikanionyesha” bit in ourselves. Attaining that oneness enables us to be “present” focusing on the “now” moment, by moment. To put this into perspective, think about a time when one of your most brilliant thoughts kicked in. It was a time when you rarely focused on something! Brain research indicates that we focus about the past 12% of the time, (too little I think considering we often blame the past). We focus on the present 28% of the time (often when we think about how to delicately phrase something, or when we face an unexpected challenge) even though the present is a more productive place to focus on. Interestingly we focus on the future 42% of the time (more than the past and present combined), that’s why we will plan an entire day, week or month in advance.
When we focus on the present, we attend to the very moments of “now” freeing our mind from the worry and fear held by the future. Being present protects us from dwelling on our unchangeable pasts. Now imagine a day where you don’t have to worry about the past/future and all you’ve got to decide is what you are facing in the very moment, and that only. That’s the power of meditation. Meditation enables us to appreciate the mundane things in life, and more often than not, they are the very things that give us joy, happiness, peace, and bliss.