An examination on the practical value of meditation

The Misconception to Avoid:

There is great deal of distrust towards the idea of meditation in western society, and a great deal of it stems from the “holier than though” attitude of a few people who claim to meditate. Unfortunately, this is in effect throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Meditation does in fact have a great deal of practical value and ignoring it on the basis of a few would be Zenner’s is as wasteful as refusing to eat vegetables after being annoyed by an overly zealous vegan. However, this is not to say that meditation does not have immense spiritual relevance however, for the purposes of this article the focus will remain on the practical use and application of meditation.

How to Meditate:

Firstly, we need to understand what the objective of meditation is. The point of meditation is to silence your internal dialogue. Your internal dialogue is any thought that can be put into words, i.e. “I wonder what I should have for lunch” or “I hope no one can see this pimple on my nose” or any other conscious thoughts such images, memories or auditory sounds. You certainly should not be meditating in the hope of having some grand epiphany or vision of the future.

There are many different ways to meditate and they can all be effective as long as they achieve the result of keeping your internal dialogue quiet. The easiest one to master is basic mindfulness. This requires you to find a nice comfortable place to sit with a straight back, a comfy chair will work. Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and listen to an ambient noise. Whilst doing this it is likely that your mind will begin to wander, and you will start thinking random thoughts. When you notice this happening relax and bring your attention back to the noise. Once you are comfortable that you have given enough attention to the noise rest your attention on your breathing. It is important that you don’t try altering your breathing. Simply give attention to your breadth without interfering with it. Again, if your mind wanders simply bring your attention back to your breadth. Try maintaining this state for as long as you can. Once you end your meditation don’t rush and try bringing yourself out of it as slowly and relaxed as you can.

It is likely that your mind will wander a great deal the first few times that you try, and you should not be discouraged by this. You may also find that your neck or shoulders will tense up, this is a common occurrence and indicates bad posture so give attention to making sure that you are relaxed in a comfortable position.

Why We Should Meditate:

To understand why we need to silence our internal dialogue we need to understand the concept of flow. Flow is a state of pure focus on a given task. Chances are you have experienced flow without even realising it. Another term for the experience of flow is “getting in the zone”. If you have ever been any good at a task requiring some kind of skill you have more than likely had an experience where you achieved flow. To experience flow is to be completely absorbed in the task at hand without interference from conscious thought, and what you achieve in that is typically above your regular skill level. Unfortunately, it is hard to describe how you achieved that level seen as you did not have a functioning internal dialogue and so all you can say is “man I was in the zone”. Being adept at quietening down your internal dialogue makes it easier to achieve flow no matter what task it is that you are performing.

A quiet internal dialogue is also very helpful in maximising your situational awareness. All to often we are overlaying conscious judgments and assumptions on the world we perceive. Rather than allowing the situation to inform us what is going on, we allow what we think about the situation to tell us what we believe is going on. Surely you have had an experience where your presumptions about what is happening in a situation or about what someone is saying has left you being horribly misinformed and as a result has led to you making a terrible mistake. This is something that we all do on regular basis however it is something we can be sure to do less of.

Finally, meditation is great at helping to keep you relaxed and happy. As a species we do have a nasty habit of tormenting ourselves with our regrets and resentments. We hold on to our troubles well past their expiration dates and letting those thoughts go is extremely important. By its nature your internal dialogue is almost always focused on the future or the past, yet not on the present. And thinking about the future or the past is almost always the source of your torment. Certainly, it is important to plan for the future and learn from the past, but we don’t exist there. We exist in the present and that is where our attention needs to spend most of its time. If your attention is not focused on the present, you fail at what you are doing in the present. If you fail at what you are doing in the present it becomes a regret of the past and also causes you to worry about the future.

Ultimately, meditation is an exercise of the mind that trains you to be present and achieve flow. By doing this it is both a prevention and cure for many of the troubles that face you in the world.

Thanks for reading

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