Some of you may never have tried meditating, which is not unusual in the western world. This is really a shame, because I find that we need it more than anyone. It doesn’t have to be religious, it doesn’t have to be sitting down in one position for several hours. You don’t have to be under a tree on a mountaintop in India or in a forest far from civilisation to be able to meditate. The main thing I find important with meditation or ‘mindfulness’ is the ability to just turn off all thoughts that run through your mind.
To have a moment of complete stillness and quietness in the midst of our hectic lives. I find that the constant flow of thoughts in my mind is a big part of what makes me stressed and miserable. It’s like being in a big messy room, and meditation is what cleans everything up a bit and puts everything in to order. Some might not think it’s enjoyable to clean up a messy room, but it’s still highly necessary for your well being.
Meditating might seem like something distant. Like something that only certain people do. “Peace comes from within, do not seek without. Becoming one with the universe. Rule your mind or it will rule you”. But what does that actually mean? The thing is, you won’t find out. Not until you’re sitting there, looking inside and experiencing it yourself. You will never know completely what chocolate tastes like when someone else describes what it tastes like to them. In the same way, no one can tell you what meditation will be like for you. However, it doesn’t hurt to do some research about the basics and to listen to other people talk about the general idea and purpose of meditation. I’m always discovering new things and talks that inspire me, like David Lynch changing lives with help of transcendental meditation (link here) or S.N Goenka about Vipassana (link here), or listening to the ever so brilliant Alan Watts on youtube (link here).
Some time during my teenage years I started trying out the technique of mindfulness. You could probably say that mindfulness is like a simplified version of mediation, where the main focus is on the breath. “Attention is put on the movement of the stomach when breathing in and out, or on the awareness of the breath as it goes in and out the nostrils. If one becomes distracted from the breath, one passively notices one’s mind has wandered, but in an accepting, non-judgmental way and one returns to focusing on breathing.”
I started using this technique, only a little bit here and there in random situations, and it had such an effect. I noticed how I calmed down in an instant, how it relieved some of my anxiety, and how my mind collected itself from being totally chaotic. Sometimes after meditation, I get this incredible sensation of being completely aware. It’s like nothing exists except for this very moment. I open my eyes and I see everything around me so much more clearly, as if I’ve suddenly woken up from a hazy dream. This is of course especially intensified when I meditate in the nature, where everything is just as still and harmonious as my mind in that moment.
But what you need to accept is that meditation can be very hard. There are times when you can’t do it properly and it just makes you more frustrated and stressed than before. That’s just how it is. It takes patient and practice, but it’s worth it in the long run. I’ve had times where I’ve been able to meditate twice a day without difficulties, and times where I struggle and just stop doing it completely. Lately I haven’t been very disciplined with my practice at all, but the thing is, it’s still there. I still have those moments when I know I need to sit down for at least ten minutes and just focus on my breathing. And I keep getting surprised every time. Surprised at how it just collects my thoughts a little bit, slows down my heartbeat and brings me back to the now.
Being the type of person who’s head is almost constantly up in the clouds, I’m really amazed that there is a way for me to reach another level of awareness. Sometimes I feel like my life is just passing me by, without the time to reflect on who I am or what I’m experiencing at this very moment. But somehow, meditation gives me that time. And the great thing is, meditation and mindfulness comes in so many different shapes depending on who we are as individuals. Of course, the proper ways and teachings of meditation are probably the most effective and can bring you to something beyond just quieting the mind. But I still believe that to become open to go further in your awareness, you have to take baby steps.
I started by asking myself if I ever felt the need to still my own thoughts or to get a relief from stress. The answer was obviously yes. Then I thought about what I already do in my life to get that effect. I knew that things like cooking, spending time in the nature or listening to certain music has a calming effect on me. This in itself made me very open to the idea that there are ways for us humans to disconnect with the outer world and reconnect with ourselves. After realising that, I thought about the fact that I can actually make a habit of this, but it needs to be something that I always have with me, in any place or any type of situation.
What can I do when I don’t have my earphones with me, when I’m not in a kitchen, or close to nature? The fact is – As long as I’m living, no matter what I’m doing or where I am, I will always have my breath. It will always be there with me. If it stops, then so do I. That’s what I find so beautiful about meditation and mindfulness. You allow yourself to fully focus on the most underestimated part of yourself. The breath is one of the keys to life, and by paying attention to it properly, you can become completely aware of yourself, both your body and soul.
Meditation is not about doing, which can be really hard for most of us since we are taught that the more you do, the better you are. We build our days around what we do, and therefore it a bit tricky to suddenly sit down and “do nothing”. This “nothing” is actually to look inwards, which in itself is one of the hardest things you can do. It takes focus, determination and patience. I myself don’t like when other people think they know what’s best for me, or claim that they have found ‘the only right way’. I find it very hard to trust, even when it comes to spirituality. I won’t believe that there is one way to the so called ‘enlightenment’, since it could be just another concept that someone is trying to sell to me. I will only trust what feels right in me, because only I know what truly makes me happy in life. No one else should ever tell me what I’m supposed to do or who I should be, in the same way that I can’t tell any of you that by practicing yoga and meditation you will reach happiness. It’s just not as simple as that.
The most important thing for me is that I have a space where I can collect my thoughts, clear my mind and connect with myself. As corny as it sounds, if you truly understand the meaning of those words, it can be such a big help. In the same way as you would get to know another person properly when you focus beyond the superficial aspects, that’s the moment when you really get to know yourself.