For many of us, when we think of meditation, we picture Tibetan monks, high in the mountains, devoting their entire lives to reaching Nirvana.
Or we picture Buddha in lotus, fat and happy, or young and regal, in deep contemplation, and, once these thoughts are conceived, it becomes difficult for us to visualize where and how meditation can find a place in our busy, fast-paced, modern lives.
The Application of Meditation
The disconnect lies in not knowing the true application of meditation. Meditation is simply a practice, like any other. And what does it mean to “practice” something? It comes down to training your brain processes to perform a specific function. In baseball, you train your brain to send messages to your body to swing a bat, run, etc, in order to hit a home run, which is your ultimate goal.
Only with meditation, the goal is to expand awareness of the present moment. Our brains have two hemispheres, the right and the left, both of which are completely and entirely separate from one another. Information that comes in through our five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell and touch) as well as our sixth sense of intuition, is processed completely in our right brain and then transferred.
Our left side takes that information, processes it and develops analytical solutions. It’s the side that tells us to wear a jacket because it is cold, or to drink water because we are thirsty. It’s also the side that tells us not to enter a new relationship because our heart was broken, or not to trust bankers because once upon a time one was dishonest with you. It’s the side that judges, the side that keeps us from experiencing our real existence.
What is our “real existence”?
What we know to be true is that the only moment of power is in the present moment. We cannot do anything about the past and we certainly cannot do anything about the future. All we have is this very moment in which we can allow ourselves to open up to our six senses, plug ourselves into the world around us and make moment-to-moment decisions that will shape our real existence.
Every moment is an opportunity to approach life with joy, an open heart, wisdom and kindness. Meditation allows one to practice capitalizing on the connection to the present moment and shaping their life and the lives of those around them in a positive and constructive way.
The Practice of Meditation
When one sees meditation as a practice, they can begin to see how it can happen anywhere at anytime. We can “practice” or “meditate” while we walk, while we eat, while we interact with another human being, while we paddle, while we shower, while we surf and while we practice yoga.
It’s as simple as closely paying attention to what we are experiencing through our senses. If we hear a sound, as tempted as we may be to label the sound, allow it to caress our eardrums, giving it our full attention. If we see a beautiful sight, resist the urge to label what we see and simply allow our eyes to feast. If we touch a pleasant material or a soft hand, allow ourselves to experience it fully without the responsibility of creating a story around the experience. If our intuition requests our attention, bestow it. It will rarely steer us wrong.
Practicing in a quiet room, with as little distraction as possible is extremely beneficial, as it grants us a space in which our focus is heightened. Similar to the way we study for an important exam in a quiet room, or set aside a time slot which is fully devoted to practicing the piano, reducing the amount of “things” which request our attention will allow us to work through the challenges of being a beginner meditator.
There are various techniques that are taught to novices, such as breath awareness, mantra chanting and insight meditation. All of them are effective and accessible. The most important tool to remember is that the moment we realize we are no longer in the present moment and have drifted either into our memories or the movies playing in our head about the future, we are aware.
And that is the success we want to experience over and over again, until we find ourselves increasingly in the present moment living awakened, raw, magnificent lives.
Author: Jana Mars
Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s Own